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Most cat parents are all too familiar with the sound of the Heimlich maneuver being performed on a small alien, more earthly known as your cat dealing with the unpleasantness of hacking up a hairball. Hairballs are the tubular-shaped byproduct of regurgitated cat hair covered in digestive fluids. Sounds gross, so just think how your cat feels when she’s got one coming back up her esophagus!

Hairballs are natural happenings of feline hygiene due to cats using their rough tongues to groom themselves. Since cats prefer to be clean, self-grooming is a daily routine which means a greater chance she will unintentionally end up swallowing a bit of loose hair. Coughing or vomiting up hairballs occurs when swallowed hair is unable to pass through the digestive tract and out in the cat’s stool.

To prevent your cat from having to go through uncomfortable hairball symptoms like coughing, gagging, hacking, and vomiting, consider trying a simple home remedy to help keep hairballs to a minimum and your cat happy and healthy.

Canned Pumpkin

This orange vegetable can help hairballs pass all the way through your cat’s system. Mix in one to two tablespoons of plain canned pumpkin to your cat’s food each day or a couple of times a week. You can add it as is, but for cats with a sensitive stomach, warm up the pumpkin. The natural fiber in pumpkin keeps your cat regular and assists in pushing swallowed hair out with bowel movements.

Olive Oil

Adding one teaspoon of olive oil to your cat’s food once or twice a week can prevent vomiting up hairballs. The oil lubricates the cat’s digestive system, which will allow the hairball to slide right on through without disturbing her tummy. Olive oil also helps pets digest their foods easier.

Cat Food 

As a precautionary measure or if hairballs are a persistent problem in your cat’s lives, feed a hairball formula food. Like fiber-rich foods, hairball formula food helps hairballs to pass out the other end while improving hair and skin health and reducing shedding.


Invest in a good quality cat hairbrush and brush her fur daily to decrease the amount of hair that is ingested. To remove as much loose hair as possible, wipe her down with a damp cloth in the direction of hair growth after brushing. Assisting with grooming is especially important for long-haired cats and older cats.

Distractions (i.e. toys!)

Maybe cat toys are the way to go! If your cat is grooming herself excessively, gift her a new toy or play with her to distract from having to constantly groom. Reduce the occurrences of hairballs while also spending some quality social time together.

If home remedies do not seem to help your cat or if you notice abnormal symptoms and she continues to cough up hairballs or things get worse, consult your veterinarian immediately. Abnormal signs and symptoms include vomiting or gagging up more than one hairball a day, constipation, diarrhea, lethargy, or lack of appetite. These symptoms could mean an internal blockage that can potentially be life-threatening.

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