Help for Hairballs

A feline behaviorist explains how hairball remedies help cats deal with hairballs.

By Pam Johnson-Bennett

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Q: How does hairball medicine work? Is a food formulated to help prevent hairballs better? If it is petroleum based, does the hairball medicine work its way through the hairball and break or dissolve it? Or does it just help it pass? Does olive oil work? Why do people suggest butter?

Pam Johnson-Bennett talks about preventive methods to fight hairballs.Feline behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Think Like a Cat, says:
Hairball formula food contains higher amounts of fiber that help push the intestinal contents through the system smoothly. This food also contains specific enzymes that help prevent hairballs from forming in the stomach in the first place.

Hairball gel or paste contains mineral oil or petroleum jelly because that is not absorbed in the system and therefore helps lubricate so the hairball will pass easily. It should not be given with food therefore, so it won't interfere with normal nutrition.

Butter is not a good idea because that is absorbed and will add to the cat's fat and caloric intake. Vegetable oils are also not a good idea. Polyunsaturated fats gets absorbed although they are not used by the cat and so it again adds to the caloric intake.

Best,
Pam Johnson-Bennett, CABC
IAABC-Certified Animal Behavior Consultant

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Help for Hairballs

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Reader Comments

Crosswind    Phoenix, AZ

4/16/2013 9:09:31 PM

Problem with laxatone is they changed the formula last year and now it has HYDROGENATED OILS (Trans-fats), which then make up cells in the body. We want good fats to make up cells, not transfats.

Rosemary    Toronto, ON

6/21/2008 5:17:53 PM

This article is very important.For my cats I have learned that food for this particular hairball problem,only makes my cats vomit unfortunately.So I use plain ole vaseline.just a bit on my finger does the trick.I put some on their nose and they lick it off,for the two easy cats,I can just put it on their tongues.The malt flavor hairball gel,they do like,but I like to save money if I can

Bonnie    Atlanta, GA

5/13/2008 10:34:58 PM

What about flax oil or borage oil to add to cat's food to help lubricate system and move hairballs through?

Patti    Coatesville, PA

4/27/2008 6:20:40 PM

I know not to give my cats hairball remedy with food but how much time should lapse before/after food is given? ie- 2 hours after/2 hours before or otherwise?

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