American Journal of Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Clinical Signs of Hairballs in Cats Fed a Diet Enriched with Cellulose

A. C. Beynen, J. Middelkoop and D. H.J. Saris

DOI : 10.3844/ajavsp.2011.69.72

American Journal of Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Volume 6, Issue 2

Pages 69-72


Problem statement: The intake of cellulose may delay gastric emptying and raise the intestinal transit rate. These effects could antagonize hairball formation. Thus, it was hypothesized that a diet enriched with a cellulose preparation (Arbocel BWW40®), forming a completely insoluble fiber network, would diminish the severity of clinical symptoms of hairballs in cats. Approach: In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with parallel design, 24 privately owned cats were used and the clinical signs were evaluated by the owners. For a period of four weeks, the cats (n = 12 per treatment group) consumed a complete dry food without or with 4% (w/w) cellulose. During the test period, the control or test diet was the only source of nutrition. The trial questionnaire was in the form of a booklet in which each day the occurrence of hairball symptoms (vomiting, retching and coughing) were recorded by the owners. Results: When compared with the control diet, the feeding of the diet with added cellulose lowered the total incidence of vomiting, retching and coughing by 79, 91 and 70%, respectively. The cellulose-induced decrease in vomiting was statistically significant. It is suggested that cellulose ingestion had caused delayed gastric emptying, leading to binding of single strands of hair to food particles so that more hair is transferred into the duodenum. The cellulose-mediated increase in transit rate of digesta may subsequently promote the excretion of hairs with the feces. Conclusion: This study shows that a diet fortified with cellulose reduced the severity of clinical signs in cats with existing hairballs, but the diet may also be effective in the prevention of hairball development.


© 2011 A. C. Beynen, J. Middelkoop and D. H.J. Saris. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.