Can Cooking Oils Be Used to Prevent Hairballs?

By Bridget Johnson

Hairballs are a messy business as well as uncomfortable for your cat. Ingesting hair while fastidiously cleaning himself can result in blockages, so stand with a brush on the front lines and keep excess strands combed out of his coat. Be prepared to offer lubrication or stool-softening agents for his digestive tract to clear hairballs, including oils that can be found in the kitchen cupboard.

Vegetable Oils

Safflower, olive and other vegetable oils are good for everything from the bottom of a hot frying pan to the base of a flavorful salad dressing. Oil also can be a good addition to the diet of cats who need a bit of help to pass hairballs but aren't keen on the taste of some other treatments. For maintenance in hairball-prone cats, add a teaspoon of oil to your cat's food once a week to soften the stool and help your cat pass it more easily. To relieve constipation, use a dropper to add 5 to 10 vegetable oil drops each day to your cat's food until he is passing stool normally again.

Oil Drawbacks

Your cat's fur and skin condition can benefit from ingesting cooking oils such as olive oil. However, the use of oil also has drawbacks. Some owners eschew the use of oils as they're absorbed into a cat's system instead of just lubricating the digestive tract as a petroleum-based product would do. Avoid overdosing oil as it can turn a bowel movement into diarrhea, and avoid giving cooking oils to your cat if he has pounds he needs to lose as they add calories in much the same way as giving your cat a pat of butter.

Other Oils

Adding fish oil to your cat's food is a heart-healthy addition that helps relieve hairballs and can make dinner more palatable to picky cats in the process. Salmon or krill oil adds omega-3 supplementation to help everything from allergies to arthritis, but you also can get a laxative effect from the juice in a can of oil-packed tuna. Vetco suggests tempting your kitty once a month with a canned sardine to help stool move through his system.

Oil Alternatives

Help your cat move hair through his system and help prevent the formation of hairballs with a food formulated for this purpose, or add the secret ingredient to his diet on your own: fiber. Fruits and vegetables such as carrots and apples add fiber; ask your vet to ensure you're not adding a harmful variety of produce. Canned pumpkin, without any additives as you'd find in pie filling, is stirred easily into canned food or offered on its own. Offer your cat a dab of a traditional petroleum-based hairball remedy.