Your beloved cat sleeps at the end of your bed. As you climb in for a good night’s sleep, your foot hits a warm, damp patch of something. Meanwhile, lounging next to this thing, your cat is grooming himself intently. You know right away – it’s a hairball! You also know you’re not going right to sleep after all.
Hairballs are a part of cat ownership. You get that, but what you want to know now is:
- What are hairballs really?
- What are the ways to treat them, according to vets and other cat lovers?
- What are the best lubricant gels for this problem?
- Will there ever be an end of these unwanted deliveries?
Your answers are here, starting with one of the best gels available. Tomlyn Hairball Remedy Gel for Cats offers tuna Flavor, and is one of the most highly recommended gels for hairball problems. There are also other very good products to use because as always, it is your choice, as well as what your cat will actually ingest.
What Are Hairballs?
They are exactly what the word says, a ball of hair, or fur, that instead of being taken care of in the digestive tract is brought back up. What causes them needs a bit more explanation.
Cats have stomachs that are created to take care of fur. When you see your cat grooming themselves they are using their rough tongues to remove excess hair. The tongue carries some of that fur into the stomach and the bulk of that is normally processed through and comes out when the cat eliminates.
Sometimes, all the fur is not processed and the stomach can become blocked. These are the times you see your cat vomiting up a hairball. The vomit can include fur, as well as food and mucus It might even include bile. The reason it looks like a tube when it comes up is due to its passing up the tubular esophagus before coming out the mouth. Hairballs are common every once in awhile in a healthy cat who grooms themselves, but sometimes more than occasional hairballs are a sign of possible illness.
Vet Recommended Treatments
Veterinarians have all dealt with the hairball problem. The first advice they offer cat owners is to brush their feline family often, especially if their cat has long hair. That is the first and best DIY remedy for getting rid of excess hair. They also recommend:
- Using a good food that can help with hairball problems. Olive Knows has a detailed article that covers the best foods available.
- Using cat grass.
- Cat Treats. This can include the DIY treat of one daily teaspoon of canned pumpkin or pureed squash.
- Petroleum-based gels.
- Non-Petroleum gels.
Petroleum-based Lubricating Gels vs. Non-Petroleum Gels
There is some controversy surrounding using petroleum-based lubricant gels compared to non-petroleum based gels. Many articles online deal with this subject related to human uses, but you will have to choose which one works for you and your cat. Ask your veterinarian and also see what is available in your area to purchase.
To help with the decision, here are some of the pros and cons of both kinds of lubricating gels:
- Derivative of Petroleum
- Discovered in 1860 while oil drilling
- FDA regulates product when used for drugs and cosmetics
- Keeps area moist by blocking water loss
- Okay to use occasionally, not recommended for daily use
- Prolonged inhalation of petroleum can lead to medical issues
- Paraffin-like petroleum by-product
- Can contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – potential cancer-causing ingredients
- Made with plant oils and natural waxes
- Used as far back as Marco Polo’s lifetime – 1254 to 1324 AD
- FDA regulated as an animal product that affects functions of the body
- Lubricates area where used
- Safe to be used for treatment for cats and to be ingested
- No medical issues found from inhaling products
- Plant oil based
- Safely broken down by the body after use
Lifeline Vet Clinic in British Columbia, Canada recommends petroleum-based lubricating gels and published an article that endorses, using a petroleum jelly based lubricant. They say it can aid your cat’s stomach in eliminating hairballs. They listed a number of the brand names for these gels including, Laxatone, Hairball Laxative, and Petromalt. They recommended putting the gel on the cat’s paw, or by giving them a teaspoon of it to lick. They also gave the okay to use actual petroleum jelly, or Vaseline as a cat lubricant. Many online articles submitted by other veterinarians, also approve the use of petroleum-based lubricating gels.
Other articles by passionate cat owners do not agree. They vehemently rail against using these gels and stand up for non-petroleum, or plant oil-based products. For example, some explain that plant-based products do not have any dangerous substances that would enter your cat from the gel used. Plant oil based gels are also from a renewable source and more environmentally friendly.
Some of the Best Lubricating Gels
Many of the big box pet stores and a number of veterinarian offices will have the lubricating gels available for sale. On Amazon.com the most recommended gel is available to be delivered right to your home.
This remedy has been chosen, by hundreds of reviewers, as the best over-the-counter lubricating gel available. It is mineral oil and vegetable oil based. It comes in different flavors and is easy to use. Additionally, it is 100% guaranteed and a low-cost solution to a very common problem. Many cat owners have given it two-paws up as their cats really enjoy eating it.
Regular use of Laxatone coats the swallowed hair and allows it to easily pass through the intestinal tract. Laxatone is a safe, gentle, easy-to-use gel used worldwide for over 25 years.
Another highly recommended gel is Nutri-Vet Feline Paw Gel. This product is a non-petroleum gel. It is another inexpensive aid for hairball control. It is also a USA-made commodity. It can be given by spreading it on their paw, right from your finger, or a spoon. It is completely natural and made by veterinarians.
The unique blend of ingredients also helps stop hairballs before they start by minimizing excessive shedding and promoting your cat’s skin and coat health.
Vetoquinol 410615 Laxatone is a fully petroleum-based lubricating gel, but does have a number of recommendations. The maple flavor is enjoyed by felines and it can be applied to their nose, or paws to lick it off. This is a slightly more expensive product than the ones listed above, but still reasonable.
This palatable tuna flavored oral gel is easy to use. Just place a small amount on your pet’s nose or paws to stimulate taste interest.
If you are looking for a completely organic lubricating gel SynergyLabs Richard’s Organics Tuna Flavored Hairball Remedy is the way to go. It is completely petroleum free and states that it is for cats with delicate digestive systems.
A new product on the hairball market is a spray made by Epic Health. This company began in 2012, in the state of Washington. Dr. Amy Schwartz began making products that are odorless for her own pet and now sells worldwide via the internet.
This formula was specially formulated to aid in the elimination and prevention of common hairballs in cats and kittens. It's easy to use and naturally eliminates and prevents hairballs.
Be sure to take a look at Cat Digest by Epic Pet Health. It is the most expensive product listed here. It is not a gel, but a spray that you can put on their food daily. It contains watered down, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes and it helps with digestion and hairballs.
Electrolyte supplements bring comfort to your pet's persistent health problems. The safe and effective supplements are made of diluted vitamins and minerals in filtered water.
Do Cats Ever Stop Producing Hairballs?
The truth is that all information points to this being an ongoing issue with cats. If your family feline normally coughs up a hairball or two per month, or maybe only one per year, that will be the way it is even when they are a senior. There is no cut off age for cats to stop vomiting up hairballs. Hairballs are a normal part of family cat ownership. The more informed you are about what they are and what to do about them, the better. There are foods that can help, cat grass and treat additions and also DIY solutions.
When it comes to lubricating gels, they are a great aid to this problem, but like any medicine for humans or animals, they need to be used sparingly. Under no circumstances should you need to use lubricating gels each day. If you feel your feline is vomiting up more hairballs than usual, please take them to your vet.
If you need a hairball gel two to three times a week for a few weeks, that is quite normal. Not only will you be happier when you go to bed and find no warm, “things” waiting for you, but your cat will feel healthier and happier too.