Nutrition

Best Hairball Control Cat Food: 7 Top Picks

Hairballs are simply a part of cat ownership. Fortunately, owners can pick cat food that helps prevent and control pesky hairballs. We present 7 of our picks for the best hairball control cat food. Let's jump in and learn more.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: January 30, 2024 | 12 min read

Pet hair brush with pet fur clump after grooming cat and bowl of cat food in a blue bowl next to it.

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Are you on the hunt for the best hairball control cat food? You are not alone in this quest. Cats are avid and talented self-groomers, and part of that includes licking their fur, which keeps it free of debris, glossy, and looking good. While licking during grooming is necessary, it also leads to hairballs, a common occurrence for cats of all breeds, sizes, and ages. Except for those truly hairless breeds, most cats will experience hairballs periodically. Hairballs, also called trichobezoar, are uncomfortable for the animal and quite unpleasant for owners to pick up.

There are a few ways to help prevent and minimize the number of hairballs your cat has. This is especially important for medium to long-haired breeds, who tend to have more trichobezoar than shorter-haired kitties. Along with trying hairball treatments, and regular brushing, diet can play a particularly important role in preventing hairballs.

Feeding kitties a high-fiber diet with plenty of moisture is one way to promote healthy digestion and reduce the frequency of hairballs. Wet food can be very helpful in preventing hairballs due to the high moisture content. Fortunately, some recipes are designed to help prevent hair regurgitation like this, and others are better suited to help prevent them. Let’s jump in and take a look at our picks for the best hairball control cat food.

At A Glance: Our Favorite Hairball Control Cat Food

Best Overall

Smalls Fresh

Hill's Science Diet Adult Urinary Hairball Control Wet

Best Dual Formula

Hill’s Science Diet Urinary Hairball Control Wet

Blue Buffalo Tastefuls Hairball Control

Best Dry

Blue Buffalo Tastefuls Hairball Control

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What Causes Hairballs?

The primary causes of trichobezoar include excessive grooming and long hair. felines are naturally fastidious creatures and spend a significant amount of time grooming themselves. As a result, they often ingest a substantial amount of hair, which can accumulate in their digestive tract, leading to hairballs. Long-haired kitties like Persians, Siberians, and Ragdolls are particularly susceptible to hairballs, as their coats are more prone to shedding and tangling.

Grooming is a normal and expected habit for felines. However, feline hair is made in large part of a protein substance called keratin, which is indigestible. Because of this, cats cannot break down the hair they swallow. Instead, it works its way through their digestive system and comes out in their feces. The hair that does not make it through the digestive tract can stay in the stomach, eventually creating a damp, unsavory clump called the hairball.

According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, it is normal for purr babies to regurgitate a hairball once every week or two. This is normal and not something owners should be worried about. Healthwise, these are unpleasant for owners to clean up, but regular-sized hairballs do not pose a health risk. In some cases, this ball of matted wet hair can become too large to pass through either the esophagus to the stomach or the stomach to the intestinal tract. This can cause a blockage, which is a profoundly serious situation and will require surgical intervention.

No owner wants to see their pet go through pain or the trauma of surgery due to an obstruction from a hairball. One of the best things owners can do is try to prevent trichobezoar through regular brushing and a high-quality diet.

Symptoms Of Hairballs

Symptoms of hairballs include telltale gagging and hacking, and vomiting up a wad of matted hair. Other symptoms include:

  1. Gagging and retching
  2. Hacking and coughing
  3. Vomiting
  4. Diarrhea or constipation
  5. Lack of appetite
  6. Low energy, lethargy, or tiredness

What To Look For In Cat Food

There are a few ingredients owners should always look for in cat food.

Animal Protein

The most essential ingredient is animal protein. Felines are obligate carnivores and must eat a meat-heavy diet to survive. Look for named meats, including chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, fish, and other named animal proteins. These can include organ meat, as well as meat meals. Stay away from foods that use unnamed animal by-products. Also, look for a named fat source like chicken fat, turkey fat, beef fat, salmon oil, sunflower oil, etc. Healthy fat is especially important to help supply energy and support nervous system function and skin and coat health.

Taurine is an amino acid that felines need but cannot produce themselves. Because of this, it must be given to them in their diets. Taurine deficiencies can cause heart malfunction and disease, and this ingredient is usually added to high-quality commercial cat foods.

Fiber

Because felines are obligate carnivores, they do not need carbohydrates in their diets. In some cases, carbohydrates may be hard to digest and can trigger allergies. Most commercial dry cat foods use carbohydrates as fillers and binders to hold ingredients together. For this reason, many owners choose grain-free cat diets. However, because carbohydrates are a reliable fiber source, fiber from carbohydrates can be helpful for owners looking to improve hairballs. These can be found in healthy fruits and vegetables Like sweet potatoes, potato starch, and green peas. Stay away from corn and wheat.

Vitamins & Minerals

Vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, C, E, and B vitamins are essential to a cat’s overall function. These play a role in many different types of body function, including supporting eyesight, protection from free radicals, preventing cell damage, and promoting overall health. Minerals like calcium help keep teeth and bones healthy while supporting muscles and the nervous system. Phosphorus is essential to bone and tooth development and supports healthy nerves and muscles.

Remember that kittens, adults, and senior kitties have varying nutritional needs. Kittens will need higher fat, protein, and calorie levels to support their rapid growth and higher energy usage. On the other hand, seniors will need lower calories and lower fat content but still need moderate protein levels to support body function and provide energy. Make sure that the formula you are looking at is appropriate for your cat’s life stage.

7 Best Hairball Control Cat Foods

Owners can approach hairballs through their cat’s diet in a few different ways. In some cases, limited-ingredient recipes, hypoallergenic diets, or fresh meals are good options. High-fiber diets can also help, as fiber can help move the hair through the digestive tract. The best cat food for hairballs will depend specifically on your cat’s situation. Every feline has unique dietary needs, so speak with your veterinarian before making any major changes to your cat’s diet. In general, look for foods with a good amount of fiber and high-quality animal proteins, and do not use artificial ingredients or fillers like wheat gluten, corn, or soy that can be hard to digest. High moisture content like that found in wet or fresh food also greatly prevents hairballs.

Top Picks Best Hairball Control Cat Food

Smalls Fresh Ground Bird

Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Cat Food
  • Human-grade ingredients.
  • Fresh meals are delivered to your door.
  • Top quality protein.
  • Limited ingredients.
  • Subscription service.
  • Easy to digest.
  • High moisture helps reduce hairballs.

Smalls is a top choice for hairball control and a top pick for overall feline nutrition. This company makes fresh cat food using human-grade ingredients. They make both wet meals and freeze-dried foods. Smalls is a subscription-only service. Meals are freshly prepared, frozen, and delivered right to the door. Currently, Smalls offers three product lines: human-grade fresh food and treats.

Smalls uses natural meat proteins in all their recipes. These include chicken, chicken thighs, chicken breast, chicken liver, duck, turkey thighs, 90% lean beef, beef liver, beef hearts, cod, whitefish, and salmon, among their proteins. Other ingredients include nutritional yeast, canola oil, cod liver oil, taurine, dried parsley, folic acid, and plenty of vitamins and minerals.

We love the high quality of this chow. It is high in moisture and has no hard-to-digest fillers or artificial ingredients. They offer a lot of variety, and cats love the taste. All recipes are tasty. Ground Bird, for example, is a top seller and feline favorite.

Our Personal Experience With Smalls

“I have tried Smalls fresh and free-dried with my purr babies. They are both about ten years old, with medium-length coats. Hairballs happen about once every two weeks. I tried Smalls and was extremely impressed. The food is the best quality I have seen. My kitties love the taste. We also noticed a significant improvement in digestion, less smelly bowel movements, and more energy. If money were no object, my cats would eat only this food.”

Hill's Science Diet Adult Urinary Hairball Control Wet

Hill's Science Diet Adult Urinary Hairball Control
  • Tasty wet formula.
  • It helps prevent urinary tract infections.
  • Works to reduce the frequency of hairballs.
  • High-quality animal proteins.
  • Includes added elements like fish meal, fish oil, and organ meats.
  • 4% fiber (max) and 78% water (max).

This canned chicken entree is designed to support adult feline’s urinary tract health and reduce the frequency of trichobezoar. It contains optimal levels of magnesium, taurine, and other vitamins to support overall health and body function. Recipes contain no artificial flavors or preservatives. This formula offers a balanced diet for adult kitties between one and six years old.

Along with hairballs, urinary tract infections are common, especially in adult male cats. It is important to support their urinary tract health all the time, not just when a problem arises. This chow is designed to support urinary health and prevent pesky hair regurgitation, two common occurrences that can make your cat uncomfortable.

We love that this straightforward recipe uses real meat proteins, including chicken, Turkey giblets, pork byproducts, and pork liver. The recipe also contains beet pulp, fish meal, fish oil, beta-carotene, and other supplements to support brain development, heart health, and overall body function.

Blue Buffalo Tastefuls Hairball Control

Blue Buffalo Tastefuls Hairball Control
  • Hairball control formula.
  • High protein and fiber.
  • Chicken, chicken meal, and fish meal.
  • Psyllium seed husks for hairball control.
  • LifeSource Bits.
  • Supports digestion and immune system health.

This limited-ingredient cat food uses 98% protein from animal sources. This wet food is grain free and supports even the pickiest eaters. Recipes come in both single and multiple protein options. Proteins include beef, chicken, liver, duck, game bird, lamb, salmon, pork, rabbit, mackerel, sardine, and trout.

These recipes contain no rendered animal fats, corn, soy, grain, plant protein, artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, dyes, carrageenan, guar gum, or xanthan gum. Food is made in the United States using high-quality, wholesome food sources. This is a high protein, high moisture formula in a smooth paste that is easy to eat.

We love that these are limited ingredient formulas with a wide selection of proteins. For example, the duck and liver grain-free pate includes duck, duck broth, duck liver, agar, salmon oil, taurine, and other vitamin supplements. We appreciate that these are protein-heavy, high-moisture formulas.

Other Notable Mentions Best Cat Food For Hairballs

Hound & Gatos 98% Duck & Liver

  • 98% protein from animal sources.
  • Limited ingredient.
  • 78% moisture.
  • Smooth pate, full of meaty flavor.
  • Made in the USA.
  • Grain, gluten, soy, and chemical free.

While wet food is preferable to help with hairball control, felines need kibble too. Fortunately, some high-quality dry kibbles are developed specifically to help reduce hair regurgitation. One top choice is Blue Buffalo Tasteful’s hairball control. This is a chicken-flavored dry kibble formula for adults. Contains no chicken byproduct meals, wheat, corn, soy, or artificial flavors and preservatives.

This kibble has a higher protein content, a max of 6% crude fiber. This helps pass the hair through the digestive tract. Ingredients include deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, and pea protein. The recipe also includes chicken fat, menhaden fish meal, taurine, cranberries, sweet potatoes, carrots, dried kelp, and other added vitamins and minerals.

We love that this offers both high protein and high fiber. Additionally, it is specifically for cats who have hairball concerns. This recipe uses natural ingredients to support hairball control, including a unique blend of cellulose and psyllium seed husks. Healthy digestion is supported by natural sources of fiber, omega-3, and 6 fatty acids that support skin and coat health. Additionally, this kibble contains Blue Buffalo’s exclusive antioxidant-rich LifeSource bits, which support immune system health.

Hill's Science Diet Adult Urinary Hairball Control Dry

Hill's Science Diet Adult Urinary Hairball Control Dry
  • Easy to digest.
  • Natural fiber helps pass hair.
  • Low magnesium to support urinary tract health.
  • All-natural ingredients.
  • Real meat is the first ingredient.
  • Suitable for cats of all ages and sizes.
  • Formulated for urinary tract health.

This is a hairball-reducing specific formula created by a highly reputable brand. This recipe uses natural sources of fiber to help hair clumps pass through the digestive system. It also contains low levels of magnesium to help support urinary tract health.

This kibble is developed to be easy to digest and contains added elements, including antioxidants, vitamins, and Omega fatty acids. This formula is effective at reducing hairballs and also supports overall feline health. It is suitable for cats of all ages, sizes, and breeds.

We love that this kibble uses all-natural ingredients and cooks right here in the United States. We greatly appreciate that there are no chicken by-products, artificial colors, added preservatives, or flavors. Real meat is the number one ingredient, which is especially important for all felines. Remember that this is a dry kibble, so give your cat plenty of access to fresh water to ensure enough moisture consumption.

Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Dinner Morsels

Stella & Chewy's Salmon & Cod Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels
  • Freeze-dried raw nutrition.
  • Animal meat, organs, and bones.
  • 98% meat.
  • Limited ingredients, easy to digest.
  • No fillers or artificial ingredients.
  • Serve as is, or add warm water.

This freeze-dried option from Stella & Chewy’s is a fantastic way to get real, raw nutrition into your kitty’s diet without subscribing to fresh food services. Food can be served as is in freeze-dried form or rehydrated with warm water or broth. This is formulated in the company’s own USA-based kitchen. The recipe uses farm-raised duck, goose, and organic certified fruits and vegetables. The recipe contains no grain, gluten, artificial preservatives, coloring, flavors, or fillers.

The freeze-dried recipe uses duck with ground bone, turkey with ground bone, turkey level, goose, turkey gizzard, pumpkin seed, dried kelp, taurine, and more to provide a tasty, nutritious meal. Felines are carnivores, and this food is developed to give a meat-heavy, protein-rich, satisfying meal. The recipe includes 98% meat and no added hormones or antibiotics.

We love that this is a limited-ingredient, simple recipe that offers top-level nutrition and protein. The raw meat taste draws cats in, and this freeze-dried food is very easy to feed.

Solid Gold Hairball & Sensitive Stomach

Solid Gold Hairball & Sensitive Stomach
  • Holistic approach.
  • All natural kibble.
  • Salmon is the main protein source.
  • Easy to digest, added fiber to keep hair moving.
  • Added superfoods for increased body function and health.
  • Promotes gut health.

This dry kibble is made with whole superfoods, which include juice, pulp, ruined, and skin. It also uses a patented blend of living probiotics to support the immune system, digestive health, fight disease, and support skin and coat health. The company takes a holistic approach to digestive health, noting that up to 80% of the immune system is influenced by gut health.

This recipe gets protein from cold water salmon and uses natural sources of fiber to reduce hair regurgitation. A unique blend of functional superfoods helps boost health and keep cats feeling satisfied. This recipe is grain and gluten-free. Ingredients include salmon, salmon meal, lentils, peas, Turkey meal, pea protein, pea fiber, chicken fat, ocean fish meal, dried eggs, carrots, pumpkin, salmon oil, and vitamins and minerals like calcium, taurine, and more.

We love the holistic, all-natural approach this kibble takes. The choice of salmon for protein makes it easy to digest, as some cats may have trouble with chicken. High in protein, with elevated levels of fiber to aid digestion and keep hair moving to prevent hairballs.

How To Prevent Hairballs

While owners cannot wholly eliminate pesky hair issues and regurgitating, they can do some things to help prevent them. This includes feeding your cat a high-fiber, nutrient-rich, high-moisture diet. Along with that, regular grooming, brushing, and inspection can help remove excess hair.

Along with picking a hairball support chow, owners can occasionally add a small amount of canned pureed pumpkin to their kitty’s meals as a natural fiber supplement.

Egg yolk contains micronutrients, choline, and lecithin, which can help move food and hair through the digestive tract. Additionally, these micronutrients can emulsify fat and loosen hair clumps. It is important to discuss adding egg yolk to your kitty’s food with your veterinarian before doing so.

Olive oil is another additive owners can add to their cat’s meals that can help make digestion easier, including helping move hair through the digestive system naturally. Be careful never to force oil into your pet’s mouth. Only add it to their diet, as you do not want them to breathe it in and aspirate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal for cats to throw up hairballs every day?

Cats should not be throwing up hairballs daily. In truth, they should not be throwing them up every other day or every couple of days, either. Felines vomiting at this frequency may have an underlying disease or gastrointestinal concern. Speak with your veterinarian, have your pet examined, and work on identifying the underlying cause is essential. Your vet can help you determine the best treatment from there. This will likely include a high-fiber diet, regular grooming, and sometimes medication or laxatives.

Should I give my cat Vaseline for a hairball?

A minimal amount of Vaseline can help coat hairballs and make their passage through the intestines easier. This does not mean you should give your cat a spoonful of Vaseline or petroleum jelly daily. The intestines cannot absorb Vaseline because the molecules are too big. Unlike other hairball remedies and mineral oils, it does not act as a laxative.

You can give your cat a dab of Vaseline for a day or two, very occasionally, to help a hairball pass. If your cat has continued hair regurgitation problems, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian rather than make Vaseline a regular part of their diet.

Will coconut oil prevent hairballs in cats?

Coconut oil may help with the digestion and passing of hair clumps, but this is not something cats should have an excess amount of. Coconut oil has other health benefits, including reducing arthritis inflammation and improving bad breath. You should not give your cat coconut oil regularly, but it can be an occasional treat or method to help hair clumps pass easier. Before adding coconut oil to your pet’s bowl, speak with your veterinarian first.

Final Thoughts

Hairballs are a normal yet rather unpleasant part of owning a cat. While they seem uncomfortable, and your cat may make horrible sounds while passing one, these are usually nothing to worry about. However, owners can do a few things to help make them smaller and less frequent. These include regular grooming and providing a high fiber, high moisture diet to aid digestion and help the hair pass through the system easily. We have presented seven of the top choices of hairball control cat food.

Our information is provided to educate only and is not a substitute for advice from a pet nutritionist or veterinarian. As always should you have any specific health concerns about your cat or notice hairballs happening more than once every week or two, it is best to have your kitty examined to rule out any underlying health concerns.

small orange kitten next to a wasp

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