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Cat Health: How to detect and reduce hairballs in cats

Most cat owners are familiar with the sight and sound of their cat trying to cough up a hairball. Hairballs are common but are a discomfort to cats and can even pose potential danger by blocking the passage of digested food through the intestines, causing an impaction.

What causes a hairball?

When a cat grooms itself, the tongue catches loose and dead hair, which is then swallowed. The majority of the hair passes through the digestive system and out in the stool with no problems. But, if some hair stays in the stomach, it can eventually form a hairball. Ultimately, a cat will vomit the hairball to get rid of it.

Hairballs are most common in longhaired breeds. Cats that groom themselves compulsively are also more likely to have hairballs. As cats get older they become more adept groomers and therefore are more efficient at removing hair without ingesting it. Kittens do not typically have hairballs.

Symptoms of a cat with hairballs

The primary symptom is hacking, gagging and vomiting to remove the hairball. Owners will usually notice the accumulated hair in the vomit, but sometimes a hairball causes upset stomach and a cat will bring up just food or mucus.

If the following hairball symptoms are observed, contact a veterinarian, as these could indicate that a hairball has caused a potentially life-threatening blockage:

  • On-going vomiting, retching and hacking that does not produce a hairball
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargic/slow
  • Constipation

In rare cases, hairballs can get stuck in the esophagus or cause intestinal blockages that may require surgery to correct.

Tips for limiting hairballs

Brushing: By far, the best way to limit hairballs is to brush the cat. Brush longhaired cats daily to remove the hair that the cat would otherwise ingest by grooming itself. After the brushing, use a cloth to remove any loose hairs. Many cats like to be brushed and it’s an inexpensive way for owners to bond with a cat while reducing the incidence of hairballs.

Lubricant: Pet stores have commercial products to consider. Many are mild laxatives that help hairballs pass through the digestive tract. However, you don’t necessarily have to buy a hairball product to increase the fiber in a cat’s diet in order to move the hairballs through the system. Some owners add a teaspoon of canned pumpkin or squash to a cat’s daily diet. That method may be more cost effective as well.

Home remedies: Every couple of weeks feed a cat a spoonful of butter/margarine or a teaspoon of mineral oil to help hairballs pass as they occur.

Vaseline: A dab of petroleum jelly on a cat’s nose will deter it from licking and forming hairballs. 

Provide a distraction: Pet toys or other activities may help to reduce a cat’s boredom or tendency to over-groom and develop hairballs.

As always, cat nutrition is an important key in making sure your pet's digestive system is healthy and the cat's diet is not deficient in necessary nutrients. At Hubbard Life, our nutritionists combine the highest quality ingredients to create a balanced, healthy food source. To learn about the Hubbard Life Cat Stars product, visit

For more information about hairballs visit the website Additional cat health tips can be found at the website

Posted on 4/25/2012 by Amy Brown  |  Category: Cat
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Rabbit Feed: Understanding Ingredient Tags

As a nutritionist for Hubbard Life, I support owners who care enough about their pets to know exactly what ingredients are in the products they choose to feed to their animals. I am always willing to answer questions about pet nutrition to help owners enjoy healthy companions.

Today I’m responding a question from a pet owner inquiring about the ingredients in Hubbard Life’s rabbit feeds. When looking on our website at the ingredient list, the consumer asked why “common” terms (i.e. forage products) are listed instead of specific ingredient names such as “alfalfa.”

Following is my response to the customer’s question: 

At Hubbard Life, we are very proud of our rabbit products and have been making them for many years, with some nutritional tweaking to them as needed to meet evolving rabbit dietary needs. During our latest update to the Hubbard Life program, the rabbit feeds were basically kept the same but I added a little more of the amino acids, lysine and methionine.

Over the years, rabbits have been genetically selected to grow faster and develop a better hair coat. The adjusted ration was optimized with more lysine to help with faster muscle growth and more methionine was added to help make a thicker, denser hair coat. 

The main reason we use the common terms instead of specific ingredient names on the tag is to protect the “company secrets.” I have been doing this long enough that I can take anyone’s tag with an ingredient listing and make the feed in our mills. However, that does not help customers like you who want to know more about the products and the ingredients in them. So when we updated the website, we addressed your (and many others’) concerns by specifically stating that the feed has key ingredients (including alfalfa meal and yucca schidigera) in the product.

If you get a chance, I invite you to visit the updated website, It has much more information on it including several resources about nutrition, health and care for rabbits, chickens, horses, dogs and cats. The site is 

I hope you feel more comfortable about our products and the reasons why we have made some of the changes consumers are now seeing. If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to contact me directly or anyone at Hubbard Life. As always, we are happy to help any way we can.

Thank you for your interest in our rabbit feeds.

Sincerely, Ed.

Posted on 4/11/2012 by Dr. Ed Bonnette  |  Category: Rabbit
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