5 Best Cat Foods For Hairball Control [2019 Guide + Reviews]

Hairballs; it’s the least pleasant aspect of cat ownership. Berke Breathed makes light of this gross unpleasantness with his Bill the Cat (Catchphrase: “Aack!”) in his various comic strips. If only your cat could earn welfare checks from hairballs like Bill does!

It may be best for everyone involved if you find a way to fix your fuzzy friend’s little problem so neither of you have to worry about it. With a proper diet, regular exercise and a little TLC from you, the discomfort of hairballs can be kept to a minimum.

Why Do Cats Get Hairballs?

If you feel fancy, you can always refer to hairballs by the medical term trichobezoar. It’s a damp wad of undigested hair soaked by bile and other digestive fluids. They’re usually more cylindrical than ball shaped, having had to pass through your cat’s esophagus. Usually, they’re about an inch long but some can be as much as five inches long.

Ever had a cat show love and affection by licking you? You probably noticed Kitty’s tongue feels like wet sandpaper. A cat’s tongue has tiny barbs slanted towards her throat that are not only useful for rasping meat off bones, but it makes a built-in comb. These papillae separate and clean the hairs as your feline beauty grooms herself.

Just as stray hairs come off in a brush, a few stray hairs get caught in the tongue projections and get swallowed. Usually, the hairs just pass through the digestive system harmlessly but sometimes it stays in the stomach. Gradually, a lot of swallowed hair accumulates into a clump. Somehow, this clump needs out and it usually wants out the way it came.

Best Cat Foods For Hairballs Comparison

Preview
Blue Buffalo Indoor Hairball Control Natural Adult...
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor Adult Dry Cat...
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free,...
Instinct Original Grain Free Real Chicken Recipe...
Canidae Grain Free Pure Control Hairball Control...
Food Name
Blue Buffalo Indoor Hairball Control Natural Adult...
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor Adult Dry Cat...
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free,...
Instinct Original Grain Free Real Chicken Recipe...
Canidae Grain Free Pure Control Hairball Control...
Food Type
Dry Kibble
Dry Kibble
Dry Kibble
Wet/Canned
Dry Kibble
Rating
Prime Benefits
Preview
Blue Buffalo Indoor Hairball Control Natural Adult...
Food Name
Blue Buffalo Indoor Hairball Control Natural Adult...
Food Type
Dry Kibble
Rating
Prime Benefits
More Information
Preview
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor Adult Dry Cat...
Food Name
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor Adult Dry Cat...
Food Type
Dry Kibble
Rating
Prime Benefits
More Information
Preview
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free,...
Food Name
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free,...
Food Type
Dry Kibble
Rating
Prime Benefits
More Information
Preview
Instinct Original Grain Free Real Chicken Recipe...
Food Name
Instinct Original Grain Free Real Chicken Recipe...
Food Type
Wet/Canned
Rating
Prime Benefits
More Information
Preview
Canidae Grain Free Pure Control Hairball Control...
Food Name
Canidae Grain Free Pure Control Hairball Control...
Food Type
Dry Kibble
Rating
Prime Benefits
More Information

Last update on 2019-04-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Hairballs Are Normal

It’s expected that your feline will cough up at least one hairball every week or two. Long haired breeds like Persian, Burmese and Maine coon cats may have more frequent hairballs. Kittens and cats that are careless about their grooming don’t experience much in the way of hairballs. A mama cat with kittens to bathe might experience a few more hairballs than usual.

If your cat is lethargic, has loss of appetite and suffers unproductive retching or diarrhea, that means a hairball is blocking her digestive tract and she needs to see a veterinarian right away. Surgery may be necessary, but more commonly, the problem will be corrected over several days with laxatives and intravenous rehydration.

This is uncomfortable for your feline friend and expensive for you, so it’s a good idea to stop hairballs before they start.

How Can I Stop Hairballs?

First, see what’s causing the hairballs. Has your cat been grooming more often than what’s strictly normal? If your cat is grooming excessively, it could be because she feels stressed out. It could simply be anxiety caused by a change in environment or being bothered by other animals. It could also be a skin irritation or parasitical infestation.

A change in seasons can cause shedding that has the result of more hair being swallowed, especially in long haired felines. A more serious problem would be a condition that causes hair to be unable to pass through the gastrointestinal tract. Motility disorders, inflammatory bowel disease and neoplasia lymphoma are all ailments requiring veterinary care.

There are other options to help reduce hairballs in your cat. A laxative might help lubricate the hair through your cat’s system. Do this only if your veterinarian recommended it and DO NOT give your cat medicines meant for human use.

A little spoonful of petroleum jelly or mineral oil can also make things easier for Kitty. Just make sure to dose her on an empty stomach and make sure Kitty doesn’t inhale the oil. You may have to flavor it with something she likes to get her to take it.

Regular Brushing

Get your cat used to being brushed regularly when she’s still a kitten and she may even lie quietly and purr while you brush her. There are brushes and mitts that are specially designed to remove as much loose hair as possible. Remove the loose hair before Kitty ingests it and no more hairballs!

Change Diet

There are cat foods and treats with fiber added to bind the hair and stimulate the intestine thereby eliminating hairballs. Be choosy in selecting a high fiber cat food as not all of these foods are good for cats. The crude fiber content should not exceed 3% and neither should it come from grains or cheap fillers. You can also add some pureed fruits and vegetables like pumpkin, carrots, apples or sweet potato for extra fiber.

Cat food that’s too dry can also cause a problem. It would be good for your cat to eat wet foot, but if she won’t eat anything but dry food, it should have a moisture level at a minimum of 10%. Always make sure your cat has access to fresh water.

Alternative Exercise

If your cat is grooming excessively because of nervousness or anxiety, maybe you can make her feel better by paying a special attention to her and get her focused on something else. Use one of her toys to engage her in some playtime.

Exercise will also stimulate your cat’s digestive system and get things moving along. This is the most natural way to get the hair in your cat’s stomach to just flow out of the system like it’s supposed to.

Are Hairballs Dangerous?

For the most part, the odd hairball now and then is more of a nuisance than anything to panic over. It’s when the hairball becomes big enough to block the digestive tract that a hairball becomes life threatening.

The symptoms of hairballs are also very similar to respiratory troubles such as asthma. Reducing hairball occurrences in your cat will make it easier for your vet to make diagnoses when examining her.

How Can Cat Food Help Prevent Hairballs?

There are plenty of cat foods on the market that tout themselves as being able to control or even completely prevent hairballs. Take this with a grain of salt. (You, not the cat!)

Most of these are high in fiber, working on the assumption that this will move things quickly through the gastrointestinal tract. This can work on some cats, but it is not guaranteed to work in all situations.

What should you consider when shopping for cat food for hairball control?

Read the label. Look at the list of ingredients. Read the guaranteed analysis. Watch the crude fiber level and try to stay away from grains and cheap fillers. You should be on the look out for products made with premium animal proteins and healthy animal fats.

There should be low to moderate amounts of dietary fiber and digestible carbohydrates. Wet food is always best, but there are dry foods that can help your cat if that’s all she’ll eat.

The ingredients Matter

The first items listed should be natural ingredients like whole meats, not anything with “meal” or “by product” or “rendered” in the name. Grains like corn, soy and wheat really won’t do anything to help your cat. “Powdered cellulose” is just a fancy way of saying “ground up wood chips” and has no business being in your cat’s food.

Artificial Flavors Preservatives

It is best if you choose a cat food that contains nothing artificial. This means no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Natural preservatives like rosemary, Vitamin C and citric acid are not only acceptable but provide health benefits. Artificial preservatives like ethoxyquin have been linked to cancer.

Propyl gallate is also a possible carcinogen and can cause kidney and liver problems. Some artificial preservatives allowed in pet foods are banned from use for human consumption. Why make your cat eat something you wouldn’t eat?

Artificial flavors are rarely used in pet food, but most will advertise this feature anyway. As for artificial coloring, just think about it a moment. Why do you need food coloring for an animal that’s practically colorblind?

Quality Over Quantity

Remember that with cat food, you usually get what you pay for. Some of the pricier brands do allow you to save money by buying in bulk. Take care! If it’s a dry cat food with no preservatives, it may go off before your cat is able to eat it. Keep in mind wet food in a can is able to keep for an exceedingly long amount of time.

The Top 5 Best Hairball Control Cat Foods

Blue Adult Indoor Hairball Control Chicken and Rice

Sale
Blue Buffalo Indoor Hairball Control Natural Adult Dry Cat Food, Chicken & Brown Rice 15-lb
  • REAL MEAT FIRST: Blue Buffalo dry cat food always features real meat as the first ingredient....
  • HAIRBALL CONTROL: BLUE Indoor Hairball Control adult cat food contains high-quality protein and...
  • WITH LIFESOURCE BITS: This formula contains BLUE's exclusive LifeSource Bits - a precise blend of...
  • NATURAL CAT FOOD: BLUE dry cat food is formulated for the health and well-being of your cat and...
  • Contains one (1) 15 lb. bag of BLUE Indoor Hairball Control Natural Adult Dry Cat Food, Chicken &...

Last update on 2019-04-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Pros: The first ingredient is protein rich deboned chicken with no by products. While there is rice in this food, “If the rice is brown, chow down.” Combination of fruits and vegetables include the fiber rich sweet potato, vitamin rich carrots and antioxidant rich cranberries. It also contains a prime balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids for healthy skin and a shiny coat.

The Cons: The second and third ingredients are chicken meal and fish meal rather than whole meats. Powdered cellulose is an ingredient. The feeding instructions are vague. Barley and oats are among the grains. It’s very high in the crude fiber content at 6%.

Crude Protein 32.0% min
Crude Fat 15.0% min
Crude Fiber 6.0% max
Moisture 9.0% max

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor Adult Farm Raised Chicken and Brown Rice

Sale
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food Farm-Raised Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe, 14 Lb....
  • Contains One (1) 14 Lb. Bag Of Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food Farm-Raised...
  • Farm-Raised Chicken Is The #1 Ingredient To Deliver Great Taste And Help Support Strong Muscles
  • Formulated With Ideal Calorie Content To Help Maintain A Healthy Weight For Indoor Cats
  • Rich In Omega-6 Fatty Acids From Natural Fats For Healthy Skin And Coat
  • Made With Non-Gmo Ingredients* *Trace Amounts Of Genetically Modified Material May Be Present Due To...

Last update on 2019-04-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Pros: The first ingredient is pure and simple chicken. Taurine, iron, and lots of vitamins are included. The ingredients are not produced with GMO’s and there are no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. The fiber comes from beet pulp and flaxseed. No by products, corn or soy were used in this recipe.

The Cons: The second ingredient is chicken meal rather than a whole meatOf course, not completely grain free, but the rice is brown. The large kibbles mean this food may not be suitable for kittens. That crude fiber content is terribly high at 7%.

Crude Protein 33.0% min
Crude Fat 14.0% min
Crude Fiber 7.0% max
Moisture 10.0% max

Blue Wilderness Adult Indoor Hairball Control Grain free Chicken

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Indoor Hairball Control Dry Cat Food,...
  • PACKED WITH REAL CHICKEN: Made to feed your feline's wild side, this high protein cat food is packed...
  • GRAIN FREE HAIRBALL CONTROL CAT FOOD: BLUE Wilderness grain free hairball control cat food is...
  • WITH LIFESOURCE BITS: This formula contains BLUE's exclusive LifeSource Bits - a precise blend of...
  • NATURAL CAT FOOD: BLUE dry cat food is formulated for the health and well-being of your adult cat...
  • Contains one (1) 5-lb bag of BLUE Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Indoor Control...

Last update on 2019-04-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Pros: This formula IS grain free with no corn, wheat or soy. The first ingredient is deboned chicken. Turkey, fish oil, dried egg add more protein with animal sourced amino acids. The healthy carbohydrates come from sweet potatoes and some healthy fiber comes from pumpkin. Antioxidants are also present in this formula. There are no by products or artificial ingredients.

The Cons: The popular “powdered cellulose” is back! (Blue, you’re feeding cats, not termites!) Would be nice to have whole turkey instead of turkey meal.

Protein 38.0 % min
Fat 16.0 % min
Fiber 5.0 % max
Moisture 9.0 % max

Instinct Original Grain Free Real Chicken

Sale
Instinct Original Grain Free Real Chicken Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food by Nature's Variety, 3...
  • GRAIN FREE CAT FOOD WITH CAGE FREE CHICKEN: Instinct Original is made with 95% chicken, turkey &...
  • CANNED CAT FOOD WITH NO FILLERS: Instinct Original wet cat food is high protein cat food. Made...
  • NATURAL CAT FOOD: Made from real meat & whole food ingredients, our grain free wet cat food is...
  • RAW INSPIRED WET CAT FOOD: Our canned cat food offers complete & balanced nutrition from real...
  • INSTINCT, THE RAW BRAND: We craft wet & dry cat food from real ingredients. Compare Instinct to Blue...

Last update on 2019-04-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Pros: Another grain free formula! Lots of protein rich ingredients are listed first like cage-free chicken, turkey, chicken liver and chicken broth, along with eggs and fish oil. The carbs, fiber and vitamins come from healthy fruits and vegetables. This food is suitable for cats, kittens and pregnant or nursing females. The crude fiber content is a low 3%.

The Cons: While moist food is good, this might be just a little too watery. It also seems that some cats don’t like it. Your mileage may vary.

Crude Protein 11.0% min
Crude Fat 7.5% min
Crude Fiber 3.0% max

Canidae Grain Free Pure Hairball Control Cat Food

Sale
Canidae Grain Free Pure Control Hairball Control Cat Dry Formula With Fresh Chicken, 5 Lbs
  • Real Meat Is Always First For Great Taste
  • Made With Whole Foods For Gentle Digestion
  • Simple Recipes For Sensitive Cats

Last update on 2019-04-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Pros: Fresh, whole chicken is the first ingredient. There’s no corn, wheat or soy here. It contains taurine, biotin and lots of vitamins and minerals. The simple recipe makes this food good specifically for cats with sensitive stomachs.

The Cons: It contains turkey meal instead of whole turkey. Some cats just don’t like it. The crude fiber content is a high 6% and it’s dry even by dry food standards.

Crude Protein 36.0% min
Crude Fat 20.0% min
Crude Fiber 6.0% max
Moisture 9.0% max
  • October 17, 2018
Mary Nielsen
 

A huge animal lover, born and raised around dogs, cats, chickens... Self-educated pet care nerd. Currently parent of three adopted cats and one small mutt. Animal adoption advocate. Loves a good book (about animals) and playing the piano.