The scientific point of view: Can I prevent my cat coughing up hairballs?

A familiar sight for many cat owners: the sticky fur balls brought up by the cat and leaving stains on carpet and couch. Sometimes they contain parts of the cherished house plant making cleaning more difficult. The fur balls are natural and bringing them up is a natural process for cats, but unpleasant for the owner and not always harmless for the cat. Fur balls should not be confused with vomiting for other reasons (infections, stomach ulcers, metabolic diseases, poisoning, etc.). If the cat vomits semi-digested food without hairs or just mucus, the cat should always be seen by a vet.

Clean kitties

Cats are very clean animals and wash themselves often by licking their fur with their tongue. There are some negative effects associated with this behaviour. In particular with long-haired cats and in times of shedding, many hairs attach to the rough tongue and are swallowed by the cat. The stomach movements cause these hairs to form a fur ball which cannot be transported on to the intestines where the ordinary food ends up. This fur ball is unpleasant for the cat and he or she starts eating plants. Plant fibre causes the fur balls to solidify to make it easier to bring the fur ball up.

Tabby’s touchy tummy

This process is natural, although can be quite extreme in long-haired cats and have unpleasant consequences for the cats. The cat’s stomach is quite sensitive and becomes irritated by frequent vomiting. This stomach irritation can, if the cat continues to vomit fur balls, cause very painful gastritis. Cats attempt to ease the retching by eating plant fibres or grasses. As there is usually no grass present in the house or apartment, they start nibbling on house plants. But some very popular house plants can be toxic to cats. Cat grass is one way to try to tempt the cat away from the house plants. But it will not prevent the cat bringing up fur balls. This is why a special food ingredient was developed which is claimed to prevent the forming of the fur balls in the stomach. This substance, contained in special pastes but also in some dry foods such as Select Gold, forms a small network-like structure in the semi-digested food mash in the stomach. The hairs are trapped in this net causing them to be transported to the intestines with the food and excreted with the faeces preventing the formation of fur balls in the stomach. However, this food does not reduce the amount of hair ingested by the cat. Therefore brush long-haired cats regularly in order to reduce the amount of hair the digestive system has to handle.


Special fibrous ingredients in the food (as in Select Gold) transport the hair through the intestines and can prevent the formation of fur balls. This not only saves your couch but also protects the cat from greater harm. And if cats, long-haired cats in particular, are groomed regularly, you not only assist their digestion but also give them some extra attention.

Call into your local store today to discuss your cat’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts