Fur balls are more than a nuisance for cats. They can be dangerous if enough hair collects in the cat's stomach to block the small intestine, colon or oesophagus. Surgery is sometimes the only way to remove the accumulated hair. Signs that your cat is having trouble passing a hair or fur ball are coughing, gagging or hacking, loss of appetite and vomiting after meals. Sometimes, the cat will back up while coughing and act like it's trying to get rid of something but can't.
Put an inch-long strip of commercial fur ball gel on your cat's leg or smear it across the mouth and let the cat lick it off. Since most of these products act as laxatives, they should be given at least two hours before or after food. Pet supply stores sell fur ball gels, and they're palatable to most cats. Read the dosing instructions on the tube to determine how often you can give it to your cat.
Give your cat a dab of vaseline several times a week. It will coat the fur balls and move them through the intestines.
Add egg-based lecithin to your cat's food. Fur balls are mostly fat, not fur, and the lecithin breaks up the fat. Lecithin is safe for cats, and health food stores sell it in capsule form. The dose will depend on the size of your cat. Independent and online pet supply retailers sell fur ball products that contain lecithin along with other ingredients.
Try slippery elm bark, available at health food stores. Slippery elm is safe for cats and is a popular remedy for constipation, diarrhoea and moving hairballs along.
Add about 1 tsp of canned pumpkin (not pie filling) to your cat's food twice a day. This gentle, natural fibre is safe for cats and will get the fur ball moving.
Give your cat fur ball treats. Be warned though that if your cat is struggling with a large fur ball, it could take a lot of treats to get the job done.
Comb your cat several times a week with a flea or greyhound comb to remove dead skin and help prevent matting and fur balls.
Feed wet food. It will keep the skin hydrated and reduce shedding and the formation of mats and fur balls.
Add some fat, such as wild salmon or fish oil, to your cat's diet. The omega-3 fatty acids in both will help prevent fur balls by keeping the cat's coat in GOOD condition. Independent pet supply retailers and health food stores sell wild salmon and fish oil. Both are safe for cats and can be added to the cat's wet food. The amount to give depends on the size of the cat.