Many cats will experience feline hairballs at some point. Long-haired cats and cats who overgroom are more likely to have this problem. Feeding cats a hairball control cat food formula can help them pass the hairball early before it becomes too large.
While throwing up an occasional hairball is generally not serious, feline hairballs can become too large to be passed easily. When this happens, they can become lodged in either the intestines or esophagus, leading to serious problems that require veterinary medical assistance.
Using Hairball Cat Food for Relief and Treatment of Feline Hairballs
Many cat food manufacturers have hairball control formulas designed to help cats pass hairballs quickly and easily. These formulas use a combination of increased fiber as well as fish oils and omega-6 and omega-3 acids to unblock the digestive system.
Most manufacturers add extra vitamins and minerals since food, as well as hairballs, are passed more quickly, making it harder for cats to absorb all the nutrients from the food.
Well-known manufacturers of hairball control cat food include Purina, Science Diet, Iams, Royal Canin, Eukanuba, Pro Plan, and Authority.
Types of Fibers in Hairball Control Cat Food
Most regular cat foods have between 1 and 2% fiber. Hairball control cat food may have as much as eight percent fiber.
A cat’s digestive system is different from dogs and other species. Cats react strongly to the fermentability of fiber, which differs according to the fiber source. (Fermentation is the process during which carbohydrates are broken down in the digestive tract to release their energy.)
Fiber from poorly fermentable sources, such as cellulose, are difficult for cats to digest. That’s why foods containing large amounts of grains are not well tolerated by cats. The vets at Vetinfo.com recommend products using beet pulp because it is more readily digested and better for cats.
Risks of Too Much Fiber In Cat Food
As with many things, too much of even a good thing can have bad results. The same is true of fiber.
Too much fiber in cat food can irritate the GI tract. In addition, hairball control cat food is often lower in fat than regular formulas. According to Vetinfo.com veterinarians, this can result in indigestion or constipation.
Over the long term, fiber can draw fluid into the intestines. This has two effects. One, as fluids are drawn away from other parts of the body, cats are at a greater risk of dehydration. Two, with less fluid in the bladder, the concentration of urine increases. This can lead to cystitis, an inflammation of the urinary bladder. Cystitis is painful and can be serious and requires veterinary medical attention.
Recommendations for Using Hairball Control Cat Foods
Before introducing a hairball control cat food, read the label carefully. Look for products with no more than 8% fiber from non-grain sources and introduce the new formula gradually, mixing it with the cat’s regular food.
Monitor the cat’s reaction to the food.
If the cat develops constipation or diarrhea, cut back on the amount of the hairball control food or change to a brand with a different source of fiber. And, if the problem persists, consult your vet.
If the cat appears to be having problems urinating, such as going frequently but only urinating a bit or urinating outside the litter box, take the cat to the vet to check for cystitis.
Most cats will react well to the hairball control cat food and have fewer problems with hairballs. Once the problem is resolved, Vetinfo.com veterinarians recommend returning to the normal cat food. Hairball control cat food is meant as a hairball remedy treatment, not a long term substitute for regular cat food.