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Ask the Veterinarian/hairballs in cats


QUESTION: I have a 4 year old long haired black cat that is constantly throwing up hairballs and sometimes just pure cat food !  As if finding piles of puke frequently isn't gross enough she insists on throwing up on the carpets every time, to the point of running through the house until she is on carpet before puking !  We just had our whole upstairs re-carpeted and she is succeeding in ruining it !  So, I was hoping you could help resolve the issue of hairballs....she eats the hairball rememdy science diet cat food....we have tried the yucky hairball medicine you can buy at pet stores, but nothing seems to help !  any suggestions before I get rid of her !!

ANSWER: If this cat is on Science Diet hairball food and is still vomiting that much hair, then there could be another underlying issue going on here.

One thing you could do is help her by brushing her out once a week. That will help remove her undercoat which is what they usually get a mouth full of.

But if this is a sudden problem, or one that has gotten worse, then it's time for a check up from the vet.

The hairball medicine from the pet food stores is just vaseline with flavoring. You can add pumpkin (canned) to her food a few teaspoons at a time and see if that helps some. The fiber in it will help her pass the hair better.

Vetacyl is a capsule you can break over her food as well. Maybe some wet food daily can help. I give two teaspoons of wet feed every morning and evening to my medium haired cat and she vomits up a hairball maybe once every six months.

As far as the rug thing goes, I can't explain it, but I DO know that cats prefer to vomit on rugs!! Maybe because they look more like grass/dirt to them and that is where they would normally vomit outside.

So try the pumpkin (plain in cans) or get the Vetacyl from the vets.
I would certainly get her looked over really well before you do something as drastic as getting rid of her for this.

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QUESTION: Thank you for some hopefully helpful suggestions!  I will definetly give them a try!  Do you suggest i first try the canned food - without the pumpkin or vetacyl to see if that "moves"  things along better ?  Or should i do it together?  She has always vomited since we got her as a kitten...on average 1-2  times a week.  We have taken her to the issues and with past cats all the vets want to do is extensive testing.  Please let me know if i should just try wet food as a stand alone first?  Thanks

ANSWER: If this were my cat I would have at least a contrast xray or an ultrasound done on her. It is not "normal" for a cat to vomit or regurgitate all of the time.

There are conditions that can cause this; persistant aortic arch is one, a megaesophagus is another.

She might need her food elevated and she might need to be on an wet food only diet. If she has issues with the shape of her digestive tract then it's not her fault for the regurge or vomiting.

That is the least invasive yet most diagnostic tests you can have done.

Start her on an all wet diet and raise her bowl up off of the floor as well. You can get cheap wire stands for this at most pet stores now.

Try that and see if it helps. Keep her on Science Diet food, however, as you don't want to be irritating her gut as it is. The canned foods come in all kinds, adult, hairball, etc. Start her out slowly on it as it might give her some diarrhea from the change.

See how that goes for a few weeks. Maybe that is all she needs. You should have her teeth checked twice a year for tartar buildup if she is on an all wet diet. It isn't that it causes more dental problems but without a proper cleaning twice a year it can build up.

Please let me know how it goes in a few weeks.

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QUESTION: Hi - just wanted to let you know how things are going - we started all wet food on or about Oct 11th - since starting the food she has vomited 5 times....seems to be getting better as it is not as frequent - however, do you think it is still alot for a month ??  she LOVES the wet food, but if she is going to continue to vomit then I figured with the cost of it maybe its not the answer.

Well it sounds like an improvement, but are you elevating her food as well? As I said before, I would have the vet look her over before you do any thing else to rule out any underlying problems. Getting down to only 5 times a month is a pretty good thing!

She might have a chronic gastritis which will cause this intermittent vomiting. She might do better on a prescription diet such as I/D which is a very bland and non-irritating diet but can be used for life time maintenance.

You could try a case of it from the vets and see how that works- or just put her on the I/D dry.
It's not cheap food but if it solves the issue it is well worth it. I would get her in for an exam and then ask the vet about the I/D for a trial period.

Some cats are just really sensitive to the additives, colors, dyes etc in other foods. The best way to found out is to do an elimination diet.I just had another person ask me about her cat that has chronic vomiting as well.

This is such a common problem in cats that many vets have written about it.
Here is a very good article on it:

So let me know how she is doing once you get her onto some I/D or even W/D. Both are available only at the vets.

I hope that she gets past this soon!

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Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 35 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.

Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 550 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

Awards and Honors
Nominated for Expert of the Month for the last 5 years.

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