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Nobody is really having a good time if they’re looking for the best cat food for hairballs. The sounds and sights that go along with retching aren’t exactly wonderful. However, I can help you to have an easy time when searching for a good choice.
Let’s get to the bottom of treating hairballs through diet.
In this article, we’re going to review the following hairball cat food recipes:
- Royal Canin Hairball Care
- Hill’s Science Diet Dry Cat Food, Adult, Hairball Control, Chicken Recipe
- Nutro Wholesome Essentials Hairball Control Adult Cat Food, Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe
- Purina Pro Plan Focus Hairball Management Adult Dry Cat Food
- IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Hairball Care Dry Adult Cat Food Kibble, Chicken and Salmon
- Blue Buffalo Indoor Hairball Control & Weight Control Natural Adult Dry Cat Food, Chicken & Brown Rice
- Meow Mix Hairball Control Dry Cat Food
All About the Relationship Between Hairballs and Cat Food
Let’s start by talking about why hairballs happen.
The problem is caused by your cat’s love of neatness and cleanliness. The little hooks on your cat’s grooved tongue pick up dead fur during grooming.
While most of that hair passes easily, some can get stuck in the digestive tract. The fur will cause discomfort until it can be naturally ejected.
Some cats are more likely to have this problem than others. Longhaired cats are at greater risk for obvious reasons. However, you shouldn’t assume that your cat has a short-hair safety guarantee just because she has a thin coat.
Older cats are also at risk. This mostly comes down to the fact that older cats are more meticulous about grooming because they’ve simply had time to figure it out.
The Signs That It’s Time to Consider Special Cat Food for Hairballs
It’s very hard to watch a cat struggle with hairballs. Cat owners should pay close attention to any digestive abnormalities in their cats. Take time to confirm that the issue is truly a hairball issue to avoid ignoring something more serious. Signs that your cat has a classic hairball problem include hacking, gagging and retching with an ejection that follows shortly after.
The ejection part is important.
Always confirm that a specimen is actually vomited up by your cat before dismissing digestive distress as “just a hairball.” It’s possible that your cat has a dangerous blockage if she is struggling to produce a hairball.
Consult a veterinarian if you notice any of the following symptoms without an accompanying ejection:
- Reduced appetite
Yes, hairballs are relatively normal for cats. Unfortunately, blockages can still be fatal for all cats. The obstruction caused by an untreated hairball can cause choking, impaction and death.
Confirming That Hairballs Are Causing Your Cat’s Symptoms
“Go to the vet if you see you frequent hairballs,” suggests Dr. Jennifer Coates. Not every digestive issue can be chalked up to this problem.
If your cat is exhibiting worrisome signs, consider a trip to the vet to rule out some other causes. Your vet will be able to look for mites, test for ringworm, do blood work, order a fecal analysis and perform a urinalysis. You can even consider abdominal imaging.
How Does a Hairball Formula Help Cats?
If your cat is struggling with incessant hairballs, it’s possible that her digestive tract just can’t manage the amount of fur being ingested on a routine basis. Switching to special cat food for hairball control is going to help reduce the odds of a painful, potentially fatal clog.
It’s also going to make everyone in your house happier because you won’t have to deal with the gritty details of hacking and vomiting.
Hairball cat foods actually help to reduce blockages in two ways. The first is by using high-fiber ingredients to make it easier for fur that your cat consumes to pass through the digestive system. Smooth digestion helps your cat avoid painful clogs and blockages that pose health risks.
The second benefit of a hairball cat food is that it’s formulated to improve the health of your cat’s coat. This means a sleeker, smoother coat that sheds less. Even a cat that grooms obsessively should get relief because less fur will be captured on the tongue.
What to Look for in Hairball-Reduction Cat Food
Good cat food for hairballs won’t just solve the problem. It should offer all of the balanced nutrition and natural ingredients your cat needs.
Cat food brands use different types of insoluble fiber to help move cat fur through the digestive tract. Some natural fiber ingredients to look for include chicory, beet pulp, plant gums, oats, and psyllium.
Generally, you want to look for cat food with natural, quality sources of animal protein. You should also avoid foods with excess fillers and carbohydrates. It’s a great sign if cat food lists natural meat or poultry as the first ingredient.
Omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, antioxidants, fruits, and vegetables are also nice to see. If your cat has a sensitive tummy, consider options without wheat, soy, or corn.
There’s also one special avenue to consider. Some cat owners make the decision to switch to hypoallergenic cat foods when their cats have hairball problems. Hypoallergenic foods don’t necessarily treat hairballs. However, they can be helpful if you suspect that your cat has an undiagnosed food allergy or inflammatory bowel condition.
Underlying digestive disorders that are triggered by food allergies can actually make it more difficult for your cat’s gastrointestinal tract to manage your cat’s fur.
Lastly, I’ll say that chicken is king when it comes to hairball prevention. The reason why is that chicken tends to be gentler on the digestive system than red meat. This is important when the goal is smooth movement. The perk of choosing a chicken formula is that it provides high protein while being easily digested.
FAQs About Using Cat Food for Hairballs
Do You Need a Veterinarian’s Prescription to Get Cat Food for Hairballs?
No, a prescription is not needed to purchase most hairball-reduction cat foods. Many mainstream cat food brands sell hairball formulas that taste similar to regular formulas. However, you can ask your vet about prescription options if your cat has allergies, food sensitivity, or any underlying condition that makes you apprehensive about using a store-bought formula.
What Does a Hairball Look Like?
Don’t expect to see a clump of fur when confirming that your cat has coughed up a hairball. A typical hairball can contain between 20 percent and 30 percent fat. A hairball is a tube-shaped collection of hair that can be up to 5 inches long.
How Do You Get Rid of Hairballs Without Switching Food?
There are several ways to manage the issue without changing your cat’s diet. The first is to simply brush your cat’s fur daily. This will allow you to remove any dead, loose fur that would otherwise catch on your cat’s tongue during grooming. If you have a longhaired cat, consider regular grooming appointments to keep your cat’s fur short.
How Do You Know If a Hairball Is Stuck?
This is a serious danger that can threaten your cat’s life. The telltale sign that your cat has an obstruction is that she is gagging, coughing, and retching without ever producing a hairball. While it’s normal for cats to make some pretty horrendous sounds, the end result is a tube-shaped specimen that is ejected from your cat’s mouth.
The entire process of releasing a hairball should take a few minutes. Seek help from a veterinarian if your cat is struggling to bring up a hairball. A clog can cause everything from choking to fatal gastrointestinal blockages.
Are Excessive Hairballs Linked With Cat Anxiety?
Yes, it’s possible that your cat’s symptoms point to an anxiety issue. Cats that are anxious may groom more frequently than is really necessary. Some cats lick their fur as a self-soothing mechanism. As a result, they ingest more fur than is typically considered normal. Treating your cat’s anxiety could nip the issue in the bud!
Can Kittens Get Hairballs?
Yes, kittens can certainly have this problem! However, hairballs are less common in kittens and younger cats. Older cats tend to get more simply because they have perfected their grooming skills. As a result, they tend to spend more time rigorously licking their fur when compared to their kitten years. The risks should be treated seriously regardless of a cat’s age.
Reviews of the Best Cat Food for Hairballs
This is a high-fiber blend with 8.4 percent crude fiber, 32 percent crude protein, and 13 percent crude fat. A lot of the fiber in this formula comes from psyllium husk that’s a great insoluble fiber for keeping things swimming along in the digestive tract. The flavor is a real winner for cats that enjoy chicken-flavored dry cat foods.
Royal Canin does a nice job of adding ingredients that are known to help produce smooth bowel movements. You’ll clearly see natural ingredients like beet pulp and pea fiber on the ingredient list.
Much of the protein content in this formula comes from a chicken. However, I would ideally love to see just “chicken” listed as the first ingredient instead of the “chicken meal” that’s there.
I do love that the protein content is so high on this cat food. 32 percent crude protein is a nice number for dry food. The use of insoluble fiber from natural ingredients is also a big benefit. Lastly, I’ll just recommend that you consider mixing this in with your cat’s ordinary wet food if you’re looking for a way to save money by stretching every serving.
- Most cats will enjoy this taste!
- Nice amount of protein.
- Fiber comes from natural ingredients.
- There’s a little more wheat, gluten, and corn than I like to see.
I really advocate for focusing on coat health to tackle a hairball problem at the root. This food does exactly that. Packed with vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-6 fatty acids, this formula offers what an adult cat needs for healthy fur and skin. That means less shedding that can contribute to hairballs.
I’m thrilled that chicken is listed as the first ingredient. I also notice that extra protein is packed in using pork fat and chicken liver. Ingredients like fish oil and biotin are part of the coat-focused nutrition in this formula. I also love seeing natural ingredients like green peas, apples, cranberries, carrots, and broccoli on there.
While this recipe doesn’t have as much protein as my top pick, it does still have an impressive 29.5 percent crude protein. Crude fiber is 6.5 percent. Overall, this is a good balance for helping a cat to maintain muscle mass while also passing food easily.
- Real chicken is the first ingredient.
- Packed with natural ingredients.
- Very respectable amount of protein.
- Good amount of fiber.
- Packed with essentials for coat health.
- The kibbles are a little on the big side for chewing.
3. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Hairball Control Adult Cat Food, Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe – Best for No Corn, Wheat or Soy
This is a great pick for “clean eating.”
First, it’s completely free of corn, wheat, and soy. This is important because many high-quality hairball-control formulas still use these types of ingredients as fillers. Most cats do just fine with soy, wheat, and corn. However, you might want to explore this option if you’re wondering about allergies or sensitivities.
I think this food can be a good “hack” if you find the idea of trying a prescription cat food too expensive, overwhelming or confusing. This food actually has many of the same attributes as many prescription hypoallergenic cat foods without the hassle of getting a letter from your vet.
However, I am in no way suggesting that you should try to replace prescription food with this one.
This food features omega-6 fatty acids from natural fats to promote healthy skin and coat. It’s also full of antioxidants to boost your cat’s immune system. Of course, my favorite part is that real chicken is listed as the first ingredient.
The fact that this food has 33 percent crude protein really pushes it to the top of the list. However, 6.50 percent crude fiber is a little lower than what I’d consider perfect in an otherwise perfect formula.
- Real chicken is the first ingredient.
- No chicken meal or byproducts.
- Non-GMO ingredients.
- Nice amount of protein.
- Rich in omega fatty acids for coat and skin health.
- Free of wheat, soy, and corn.
- Price is very reasonable for the quality.
- A touch more fiber would be nice.
I consider this hairball cat food to be the fiber superstar. It boasts an impressive 40 percent crude protein. However, 5 percent crude fiber is a little skimpier than I like to see when we’re talking about a hairball formula. However, I do like that natural chicory root is used as prebiotic fiber for strong digestive health.
Omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin A are nice touches for supporting things like your cat’s vision and coat. Of course, it earns points for using chicken as the first ingredient.
It seems like lots of cat owners are having success with getting their “picky eaters” to love this food after stumbling with other formulas. I suspect the strong chicken flavor is very enticing to cats.
- Real chicken is the first ingredient.
- A protein superstar with 40 percent crude protein.
- Cats really seem to like the flavor.
- Vitamins and minerals that support vision, coat health and skin health.
- The fiber content is a little low.
This is a great filler-free food that offers balanced nutrition. Its 32 percent crude fiber is impressive. It also shines for outperforming many other foods in the fiber category with 8.5 percent crude fiber.
The omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids in this formula help with coat and skin health to help nip shedding in the bud. Real chicken is the first ingredient listed.
I actually really like how simple and clean the ingredient list on this food is compared to many other options out there. Everything from the egg to the dried rosemary extract will show you just how much thought was put into creating this formula.
I like the whole-health support that’s so evident in this food’s ingredient list. There are tons of antioxidants to promote organ health and immune response. In addition, this blend uses natural beet pulp and prebiotics for a fiber formula that boosts digestive health naturally.
- Real chicken is the first ingredient.
- Features a really “clean” ingredient list.
- Decent amount of protein.
- Really shines for providing a good amount of naturally derived fiber.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids and antioxidants to support skin, coat, organs and immune system.
- This is one of the more affordable hairball cat foods out there.
- It’s a fan favorite for flavor among cats.
- Protein ratio to fiber could be higher.
6. Blue Buffalo Indoor Hairball Control & Weight Control Natural Adult Dry Cat Food, Chicken & Brown Rice
I really like this formula because of the way I’ve seen chicken and brown rice formulas be so soothing and gentle on a cat’s stomach. The perk with this formula is that real deboned chicken is the first ingredient over brown rice. That’s good to know if you’re on “filler watch” when shopping for cat foods.
This hairball cat food also passes the “clean eating” test. First, it only uses real chicken without any addition of chicken byproducts or meals like you often see with other chicken formulas. Next, this formula is free of corn, wheat, and soy.
I think this can be a good option if you’re looking for good hairball food for a cat with a sensitive stomach without necessarily going the prescription route. I should also cover the LifeSource Bits in this food if you’re not familiar with the Blue Buffalo brand.
Blue Buffalo uses a proprietary blend of carefully selected vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to provide balanced nutrition for a healthy immune system.
The things I see that I really like in the ingredient list are those omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. I’m especially impressed that they are derived from Atlantic menhaden fish.
Natural ingredients like psyllium seed husks, dried egg, chicory root, dried kelp, blueberries, sweet potato, flaxseed, apples, spinach, blackberries, pomegranate, pumpkin, barley grass, and turmeric also help with everything from digestion to vision.
The 32 percent crude protein in this formula is respectable. While the 6 percent crude fiber is on the lower side compared to other options, it’s still good enough to get this food on the list. Overall, this formula offers a well-balanced medley with very little filler.
- Deboned chicken is the first ingredient.
- Gentle on a cat’s stomach.
- Decent amount of protein.
- A good value compared to other options.
- Could be a little starchy for some cats.
- Fiber is on the lower side.
I wanted to throw a really affordable, accessible option on my list for those of you who don’t necessarily have the budgets to be throwing money at premium cat foods for hairballs. This budget option still shows up with 31 percent crude protein. It also ranks firmly in the middle with 7 percent crude protein.
While I think this is perfectly suitable food, I’ll point out that the first ingredient is chicken by-product meal. I personally like to see pure meat or poultry as the first ingredient.
I do like the fact that a lot of the natural antioxidants and omegas in this recipe come from salmon meal and fish meal. However, it does contain beef tallow that could be harsh on a delicate stomach even though it’s packed with nutrition.
- A great budget pick.
- Good amounts of protein and fiber.
- Nice mix of natural protein sources like chicken, turkey and salmon.
- Pleasing scent and flavor for cats.
- Only contains chicken and fish byproducts.
- I wish they kept the artificial coloring out of the recipe!
Why I Chose Royal Canin Hairball Care as the Best Cat Food for Hairballs
I just had to crown Royal Canin Hairball Care as my top pick after I was done putting research and testing into finding the absolute best cat food out there for hairballs.
The 8.4 percent crude fiber is really untouched by similar cat foods out there. I think this is important because fiber is ultimately what keeps everything moving smoothly to help your cat enjoy healthy, smooth digestion that cuts the risks of obstructions caused by fur clumps.
This one also shot to the top of my list simply because it offers 32 percent crude protein using such high-quality protein sources. The only spot where I struggled with this one was that I was so sure I would only be able to select a cat food that lists real chicken as the first ingredient as my top choice.
However, this food simply offers more of everything even though it’s missing that one detail. I made sure to include reviews of other cat foods that do offer real poultry as the first ingredient because I recognize that this may be important to you!
Finally, the fiber sources used in this formula really helped to tip the scales in favor of Royal Canin Hairball Care for me. I think this food does a great job of using tummy-friendly, effective fiber derived from things like psyllium husk to help your cat enjoy better digestion. I can’t wait to hear all about how your cat is loving life after you try one of the hairball cat foods on this list!
Brian is a proud cat parent and animal enthusiast who lives in the Northwestern United States with two cats. In his spare time, Brian likes traveling around with his pets, exploring new places, and writing. Sharing what he learned over the years of cat ownership brings him joy, and the cats teach him something new every day.