Does Hairball Control Food Help Cats Avoid Hairballs?

Photo of Professional Groomer Combing Cat
Professional Groomer Combing Cat. Getty / Rich Legg

A Reader Asks:

Does Hairball Control Food Change Cats' Eating and Elimination Habits?

I was wondering if you have any info on hairball control food? I have been using it on my five cats with good results as far as the elimination of hair balls - I only get a few now and then compared to A LOT before.

But what I would like to know is: does this food increase their elimination in the litter box more and does it make them eat more?

I ran out of the hair ball food one day and used regular food on them and I noticed a little bit of a difference - is it my imagination?  Please let me know what you think.

Thank you for listening

Franny's Reply

I can understand your concern as, though we sometimes joke about hairballs, they are not a laughing matter. Swallowed hair can eventually cause compactions in the intestines, which might have to be surgically removed (a veterinary emergency).

I do not personally have any experience with hairball control food as I have found that routine brushing or combing my cats' coats with the Furminator deShedding tool protects my cats from the dangers of hairballs. I keep Furminators handy in my bedroom, the living room, and in my office. Whenever I see a cat engaging in some self-grooming, I grab the Furminator and give the kitty several long strokes with it, until I see no more loose hairs clinging.

 

Once you've brushed out all the excess hair, it only needs a couple of minutes a day, and it's a great opportunity to get in some "bonding time."

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But What About Hairball Food?

I personally don't feed hairball food as I have two cats with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and they are fed a special diet.

I've read both good and bad about the hairball food as far as its nutritional value. Basically, they just add fiber to a basic food formula, so, yes, it would tend to increase elimination. If your cats are eating more of it than they would their regular food, it may be that the particular brand you're using doesn't have the same nutritional makeup. Let's take a look at a hairball food and another "anti-hairball" product:

Hill's Science Diet Adult Light Hairball Control Dry Cat Food

I won't even go into the ingredients here, because the point is whether or not this food really controls hairballs. Of 436 reviews at the time of this writing, the product had an average of 70% 5 Star and 14% 4 Star ratings. Here are some of the buyers' reviews:

Our cat was a stray that showed up at a friend's farm. He was in very bad shape...very skinny, lethargic, and his fur was very wiry! We got him on the mend with a visit to the vet and some antibiotics. But it wasn't until we started feeding him Science Diet that we noticed the change in his fur. It made such a vast difference! He has the softest fur I have ever felt on a cat! The Science Diet seems to help with the hairballs, too. It is a bit expensive, but it's worth every penny to me. (5 Stars)

My cat is on Science Diet at my veterinarian's suggestion and has been for 10 years. She is thriving and has less hacking with hairballs than on her previous cat food. Ordering it online avoids having the long trip to town to the only store in my area that carries it and it even costs less online delivered to my door. (5 Stars)

My 1 year old cat was really struggling with discomfort from ingested hair. I bought a furminater and switched her to this formula of cat food. No more hairballs and my baby feels so much better. Definitely worth the money! (5 Stars)

My male cat is a 10 year old Himalayan and the food is so large and hard. He can't even get it in his mouth. I wish they made the pellets smaller and a bit softer. I have to grind this food in my food processor. I was really excited about this food due to his hairballs. (2 Stars)

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Pet Naturals Hairball (Chews)

This product is recommended for hairballs, excessive shedding, dry, cracked or itchy skin, and dull or thin coat. Ingredients include lecithin, biotin, zinc, Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids to support skin and hair health, cranberry powder and Psyllium to support urinary tract and G. I. health. According to Amazon, it is the  #1 Seller in the Cat Hairball Remedy Pastes & Gels category.

Note: This product can be ordered in various sizes of packages. The 45 Count package is an "add-on" and requires additional products purchased to order.

Of 455 reviews at time of this writing, Pet Naturals Hairhall scores 3.8 out of 5 stars. A few recent reviews:

The only hairball preventative treat my "girls" will eat. That says a lot. They get one a day and as long as I remember to give it to them, and brush them every other day, they stay hair ball free. (5 Stars)

One cat loves them, the other doesn't. The good thing is the one wih hairball issues is the one that loves them. (4 stars)

My cats like them, but I break them into smaller pieces as one cat doesn't really like to chew it whole. The package has a long expiration date of 2-17 which is 16 months out. (4 stars)

Our cat will not eat these at all. Every time we offer her any, she rakes over them as if they are a piece of poop. (2 stars)

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Truthfully, in my opinion, the best preventative for hairballs is brushing-- daily, if you can manage it. Even with my six cats, once I've brushed out all the excess hair, it only needs ten or fifteen minutes a day, and it's a great opportunity to get in some "bonding time.