It’s not only longhaired cats that suffer from hairballs. Although there are a lot more coughing cats in Spring due to moulting their Winter coat; with a growing number of cats spending more time indoors, shedding is a problem some cat owners have to deal with all year round. With more and more ‘hairball’ formulas and treatments available, it’s easy to get confused about which is best for your cat so in this article we look at what’s actually in different hairball treatments and what that means for your catThe new feline “hairball formulations” all appear to afford some source of increased dietary fibre. While the actual fibre type may differ, the fundamental results remain the same. Typically in these formulas there are increased levels of cellulose, rice bran, oat bran, pea fibre, oat hulls and other fibre sources. Advocates of cellulose suggest that this particular fibre binds with hair in the stomach and aids in removal. Most cats tend to groom after they eat and ingest hair. Once a mass of hair is formed, no amount of fibre will get it from the stomach and into the intestinal tract intact.
Increased dietary fibre works, as it always has, to decrease intestinal transit time, increase the water content of the stool, and to increase intestinal mucous content. These latter two features do aid in relieving constipation, a concern often motivated by hairballs that enter the intestinal tract. The problem with long term, high fibre diets is the cats tend to defecate excessively and owners start to dislike this side effect. Additionally, by increasing the speed at which the food moves through the intestinal system, there is commensurately less nutrient absorption. Animals will often “stay hungry”, another side affect owners come to resent.
There are a couple of “tips” we can offer to feline owners to help enhance satisfaction.
1) Identify if a cat has a possible constipation problem prior to purchasing a hairball formula. A proper feeding schedule should have a pet owner feed the higher fibre only as required. This may mean every second bag, every third bag or possibly some reformatting of the weekly feeding regime. Perhaps some cats might benefit from every fourth or fifth meal being higher in fibre for instance. Whatever approach, the idea will be to alleviate constipation, reduce nausea, and limit stool volume as much as possible.
2) Finally, new hairball formulations often contain Bromelain to aid in the prevention of the actual hairball. Nutrience Elite contains bromelain which is a digestive enzyme found in pineapple. It aids in the breakdown of the protein that bind hair together. This allows the ingested fur to pass through the stomach, and be excreted. Bromelain is often advised as a routine digestive aid, complete feline diets may benefit from this addition.