Pros: MANY less hairballs, cats love it, large pieces are good for teeth
Cons: Expensive - but aren't they worth it?
I'm a fan of Hills Science Diet Hairball Adult Formula.
We have two cats, both shorthair rescue kitties, both prone to hairballs. In years past we were dosing them with several different malt hairball treatments purchased at the vet, grocery store, or pet store. We never found one they would eat on their own (contrary to all the labels), so it was an uncomfortable force feeding with syringe to get them to eat it. This was not a good situation.
When hairball food formulas came out, we tried Iams first, as that was the brand we were using. One of the cats refused to eat it, so we switched almost immediately. I don't have any information on how efficient it might be. We received a sample of Eukanuba Hairball which both cats loved, but couldn't find a store or vet near us that sold that formula.
Enter Hills Science Diet. Both cats immediately loved it. They have been eating it for over two years, and we have seen a huge reduction in hairballs. One of the cats now has about one per year (down from six per year), and the other is down to about three per year - previously she had one or more per month. Huge difference for all of us - much less cleaning up hairballs, much less vomiting and constipation for the kitties, and goodbye syringe dosing!
The pieces are large - shaped like chocolate chips. Our vet says this is great for the cats - they chew more and it cleans their teeth. Our youngest cat (rescued from a dumpster) is a chronic overeater - she is much happier with a cup of Science Diet a day than she was with smaller food. I like the larger pieces because they are easier to locate and pick up when dropped. There is very little smell - you really have to put them next to your nose to notice.
Our cats did not noticeably gain weight when we switched to this product. One constantly battles her weight so it's hard to tell, and the other remained sleek and within 1/4 pound of the weight he has been for the past three years.
Two years ago it was difficult to locate this product - now we see it everywhere. In addition to large pet stores, our vet carries it, as do farm supply stores and large discount stores (like WalMart and Target). When we moved to a new city it wasn't carried in our WalMart, but a brief request to the manager had it in stock the next week. We have not found it in regular grocery stores.
Over the last three months we have been giving our hairball prone cat 3 - 5 pieces of a hairball treat (we've used Purina and Friskies) each day. This is in conjunction with the Hills Science Diet Food. So far, no hairballs. If we go another month, it will be a new record. We give the other cat 5 - 7 pieces once a week. It gets a little expensive, but if it keeps them more comfortable, and our carpet cleaning bill down, then it's worth it. We do not feed other treats (except for a tiny piece of turkey or chicken once a week or so).
My money saving tips - watch the pet store ads for sales and then stock up (ok, it's a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how often PetSmart has it on sale). It's rare to find a SD coupon in the Sunday paper, but it does happen. I have found several for cat treats, although only a few are making hairball treats so far. Our best source for hairball treats is WalMart.
Buy the largest bag you can afford - like most things, it's cheaper in bulk. We keep it in a large plastic bin with a screw top (available at feed stores), and if I find a great guy, I put a bag or two in the chest freezer until we're ready for it. No problems with it going stale or losing hairball-removal potency.
Here's the big secret - if you register at www.sciencediet.com, they'll send you coupons in your email! I registered late in 2001, and have received four $3 off coupons for the Hairball formula so far. I have also received similar coupons for Prescription Diet formulas - very useful for our cat with kidney disease and when the hungry-all-the-time kitty gets put on Feline W/D diet by the vet. One of the Prescription Diet coupons was for $7 off if you bought it at the vet!
A SERIOUS NOTE:
Buying hairball formula catfood of any type will probably not entirely rid your hairball-prone kitty of those nasty hairballs. Please keep brushing your cats, making sure they get plenty of water, and watching for telltale discomfort signs. Evaluate the food over a period of at least three and perhaps six months to tell if the brand is making a difference for your cat - snap judgements may be incorrect.