For those concerned about chicken allergies, it's important to note that the body sees chicken muscle meat and egg yolk as two different proteins. A chicken allergy does not mean your kitty is also allergic to egg yolk!
As discussed in our article Hairballs: How Best to Manage Them, often the butt of jokes, hairballs are a sign the stomach of our kitties is not emptying properly. This is a problem with motility, a problem that can lead to or be a symptom of inflammatory bowel disease and/or small cell intestinal cancer. Hairballs are no laughing matter.
Proper management of hairballs involves
In that article, we outline why egg yolk and egg yolk lecithin are the first, best methods for managing hairballs in our cats when help is needed. Since writing that article, however, we’ve found that some kitties do not enjoy the additional raw yolk (Please note, food made with EZcomplete fur Cats already contains egg yolk - and most raw or homemade diets also already contain egg yolk, which provides many essential nutrients), and some IBD cats sensitive to fats in the diet cannot tolerate as much egg yolk lecithin as they actually need to resolve hairballs. Food Fur Life co-founder, Carolina, discovered that using powdered egg yolk instead of additional fresh egg yolk made it not only enjoyable for her cats to eat – she no longer needed to give them egg yolk lecithin! (And Carolina has four long-haired rescue kitties, two with IBD).
Hairballs, not surprisingly, are a frequent topic of discussion in the Raw Feeding for IBD Cats Facebook group. And we’re finding this approach is helping other cats as well. Group member Eric Swanson decided to make his own homemade powdered, dried egg yolk – and it was both a success and a hit with the cats!
How much dried, powdered egg yolk to feed? START SMALL or your cat may experience loose stool or diarrhea. As with all new supplements, it is always best to start with a much smaller amount than you intend to use: make sure your cat does not react to the new addition. Start with a pinch of dried powdered yolk on one meal. Day two, try a big pinch. Day three, use 1/8th teaspoon every-other-day, and work up slowly from there. You can work up to as much as one-quarter yolk a day if needed (in addition to what is provided by the diet), but as always, it is best to use the minimum amount necessary to “get the job done.” Egg yolk in the diet provides many health benefits apart from aiding in hairball management (the egg is a powerhouse of nutrition!) and this amount of egg yolk will not throw the diet out of balance no matter what food you feed. For those with cats with Chronic Kidney Disease, one large egg yolk (which, at 1/4 yolk equivalent a day results in the addition of one yolk every four days) contains the same amount of phosphorus as one ounce of muscle meat. This should not be enough to need to adjust the phosphorus binder you are using if you're using one, but you may want to discuss this with your vet.
Recipe / Instructions for Making Homemade Dried, Powdered Egg Yolk
Courtesy of Eric Swanson. Photos preparing dried yolk, also thanks to Eric!
Use the highest quality eggs you can. Eggs from organically fed, pastured chickens is obviously ideal, but not necessary.
Eric started with four egg yolks. This recipe works for as many as you care to make.
1) Hard boil the eggs. (Gently lower eggs into boiling water, and boil on medium heat for 12 minutes)
2) When done, run the hard boiled eggs under cold water.
3) When cool, peel the eggshell. (If you make your own eggshell as a calcium source in your cat’s food, save the peeled shells!)
4) Crumble the yolk in a single layer onto a baking pan or into a baking dish. Eric used a Pyrex glass bakeware dish.
5) Bake at 140F (60C) for 10 hours. If the lowest temperature on your oven is 170F (75C), that's fine, use that and check the yolks after 9 hours to see if they appear to be completely dry. You can stir the yolk after 4 or 5 hours, but it isn't necessary.
6) Remove from the oven (leave it on) and powder the yolk in a food processor or blender. If the yolk is completely dry, you're done! If it feels a tad moist, or a bit "tacky," then
7) Put the now powdered yolk back on the baking sheet / baking dish.
8) Cook the now powdered yolk for up to another two hours so it dries completely.
Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator, or a cool, dark place.
Four large fresh egg yolks yielded approximately 11.5 teaspoons of powdered yolk (approximately four tablespoons). In this example, one tablespoon of dried yolk powder is the (approximate) equivalent of one large fresh egg yolk. Depending on how fine your processor makes the powder, you may have different results, so it is best you measure the amount of final dried yolk powder to determine how much powder equates to one fresh egg yolk.
We recommend feeding up to one-quarter yolk per day, though this amount may not be necessary for all cats. If hairballs do not resolve at that amount, other steps should be taken rather than feeding more powdered egg yolk.
You can, of course, purchase commercially prepared powdered, dried egg yolk (not whole egg). Please check for flow agents, many dried powdered egg yolks use them, and it is better to avoid them if possible. Also make sure you know what the fresh yolk equivalent is of the powder you purchase so you can feed the correct amount to your cat, as the fresh yolk equivalent of commercial powders ranges from one teaspoon to one or two tablespoons.