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7 Facts About Hairballs
Mental Floss ^ | April 26, 2013 | Amanda Green

Posted on 04/27/2013 11:21:03 PM PDT by Slings and Arrows

April 26 is National Hairball Awareness Day. To celebrate, we've hacked up a few facts about everyone's least favorite cat treat. 

1. It's hairballs. Trichobezoars, if you're nasty.

A hairball by any other name is still gross. In this case, the scientific term is trichobezoar. The root, trich, is Greek for "hair." A bezoar is any mass found in the stomach or intestines. It comes from the Persian word for "antidote." 

Animal hairballs were once thought to cure epilepsy, the plague, and poisoning. (But alas, have never been aphrodisiacs.) During the Middle Ages, hairballs were even set in gold. In 2011, jewelry designer Heidi Abrahamson created cat hair jewelry for Modern Cat founder Kate Benjamin to celebrate National Hairball Awareness Day. The hair for these accessories was shed, not vomited, but it still pulls off that "Is this art, or is it gross?" look.

2. Some cats are hairball-ier than others.

When they're not eating, sleeping, or starring in Internet videos, cats like to groom. A lot. Hairballs happen when indigestible hair is swallowed and builds up in the stomach. In a healthy cat, hair passes through the digestive tract just fine and reappears later in the litter box. But sometimes the hair forms a mass that has to be regurgitated. Thanks to the esophagus, hairballs usually look like tubes of hair, not balls.

All cats groom, but not all cats get hairballs. Obviously, long-haired cats have more hair to swallow, so they're more likely to have a hack attack. Kittens don't really get hairballs, either. In addition to having less fur, they don't groom themselves as thoroughly. So which of your cats is responsible for that mysterious hairball on your bedroom floor? Blame the older, more fastidious one.

Or your pet lion. Lion hairballs are especially furr-ocious.

3. Hairballs are seasonal.

Flowers in bloom, chirping birds, retching cats—they're all signs of spring. Hairballs are especially common as cats shed their winter coats.

4. Healthy cats have one to two hairballs ... a year.

"The bottom line about hairballs is they are not normal," says Dr. Jane Brunt, a feline veterinarian and executive director of the CATalyst Council. "The cat has developed a digestive tract that can handle normal amounts of fur without a problem. Even long-haired cats should not develop more than one or two hairballs a year.”

And don't assume all cat coughing or vomiting can be blamed on hairballs. It could be a sign of another medical issue, like an allergy or skin or intestinal disorder.

5. Hairballs today, gone tomorrow.

More than two hairballs a year is cause for concern. But don't worry: There are a number of remedies out there. Many hairball-fighting cat treats contain flavored indigestible mineral oil or petroleum jelly, which keeps everything lubricated. Some cat owners skip the fancy stuff and just put Vaseline on their kitty's nose, so he or she will lick it off. Switching to a high-fiber cat food is also helpful. You can do it yourself by feeding your cat canned pumpkin.

But food's not everything. Brushing your cat or seeking professional grooming help also makes a big difference. Dr. Brunt suggests using brushing as a reward. “It has two positive outcomes," she says. “First, your cat will have a lovely coat when properly brushed, and second, you may prevent your cat from becoming overweight if you are using brushing as a reward rather than treats.”If you're really feeling ambitious, you can even try this...

6. Where there's a mammal, there's hair. And where there's hair, there's hairballs.

Hairballs aren't just for cats. Cows and rabbits are especially prone to them, but their bodies aren't designed to vomit them up. They often go undiscovered until an animal's untimely death. Talk about a bad hair day.

Humans also get hairballs. People with trichotillomania, the compulsion to pull out their hair, sometimes experience trichophagia, the compulsion to eat hair. Trichobezoars can cause severe stomach pain. Sometimes hairballs grow so big over the years that they extend beyond the stomach into the colon, a rare intestinal condition called Rapunzel Syndrome. Trust us, it's one fairytale no one wants to comes true.

7. These hairballs are nothing to cough at.

If a hairball gets too big, it may require surgical removal. In January 2012, a British cat named Gemma went under the knife when a tumor the "size of two cricket balls" prevented her from eating. But it wasn't a tumor. (Please read that in your best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice.) It was a five-inch wide hairball that weighed 7.5 ounces and, incidentally, looked like a newborn puppy.


TOPICS: Pets/Animals
KEYWORDS: kittyping; kityping
Pix, videos at source.
1 posted on 04/27/2013 11:21:04 PM PDT by Slings and Arrows
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To: Slings and Arrows; Glenn; republicangel; Beaker; BADROTOFINGER; etabeta; asgardshill; devane617; ...

2 posted on 04/27/2013 11:22:13 PM PDT by Slings and Arrows (You can't have IngSoc without an Emmanuel Goldstein.)
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To: Slings and Arrows

It’s an interesting article and I don’t have cats - only an 8 lbs dog who isn’t a puppy but 10 years old. I watched the cat getting vacuumed and saw how he loved it! So no treats needed for Mr.Fluff.


3 posted on 04/27/2013 11:42:08 PM PDT by presently no screen name
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To: presently no screen name

That lion hairball was impressive, you betcha.


4 posted on 04/27/2013 11:53:34 PM PDT by Slings and Arrows (You can't have IngSoc without an Emmanuel Goldstein.)
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To: Slings and Arrows
Well, aren't you timely! LOL


5 posted on 04/27/2013 11:56:12 PM PDT by Daffynition (Stand Your Ground)
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To: Slings and Arrows

I went back to view the vid on the lion and ugh! LOL! I picked the right one to view the first time - kitty getting vacuumed. ;)


6 posted on 04/28/2013 12:00:44 AM PDT by presently no screen name
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: presently no screen name

“Impressive” isn’t always a good thing, huh?


8 posted on 04/28/2013 12:44:31 AM PDT by Slings and Arrows (You can't have IngSoc without an Emmanuel Goldstein.)
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To: Daffynition

I wonder what the vote breakdown was on this important proclamation?


9 posted on 04/28/2013 12:45:40 AM PDT by Slings and Arrows (You can't have IngSoc without an Emmanuel Goldstein.)
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To: Slings and Arrows

No! And you caught me with ‘impressive’ - the reason for me going back to view it! Ugh! And it’s a hard imagine to get rid of.


10 posted on 04/28/2013 12:50:29 AM PDT by presently no screen name
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To: Daffynition; Slings and Arrows

Yay for the furminator!

I won’t look at the hair balls but here’s one more fact-

Kitty always leaves one where you are barefoot and will,step in it.


11 posted on 04/28/2013 1:03:37 AM PDT by Gefn (More Cowbell please)
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To: Gefn

They want their work to be appreciated.


12 posted on 04/28/2013 1:13:35 AM PDT by Slings and Arrows (You can't have IngSoc without an Emmanuel Goldstein.)
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To: JoeProBono

13 posted on 04/28/2013 1:26:06 AM PDT by Daffynition (Stand Your Ground)
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To: Slings and Arrows; Gefn

14 posted on 04/28/2013 1:27:07 AM PDT by Daffynition (Stand Your Ground)
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To: Daffynition; Slings and Arrows

Lets not forget the awful hacking sound they make when they try to bring one up.

I’m looking at that picture and feeling so,sorry for kitty.


15 posted on 04/28/2013 1:32:09 AM PDT by Gefn (More Cowbell please)
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To: Daffynition

Bob Barker would not approve.


16 posted on 04/28/2013 1:46:33 AM PDT by Slings and Arrows (You can't have IngSoc without an Emmanuel Goldstein.)
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To: Gefn

I’m feeling sorry for the hoomin who has to clean that thing up.


17 posted on 04/28/2013 1:47:56 AM PDT by Slings and Arrows (You can't have IngSoc without an Emmanuel Goldstein.)
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To: Slings and Arrows

My cat never hacks up hairballs........She’ll hack up grass she eats but not hairballs.


18 posted on 04/28/2013 3:16:52 AM PDT by Hot Tabasco (This space for rent)
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To: Hot Tabasco

My babies hack up hairballs but I find more of the dry cat food barfed up.


19 posted on 04/28/2013 4:33:30 AM PDT by angcat
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To: Slings and Arrows

20 posted on 04/28/2013 6:31:34 AM PDT by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: martin_fierro

Always found that pic hysterical!


21 posted on 04/28/2013 7:25:27 AM PDT by Focault's Pendulum (I live in NJ....' Nuff said!)
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To: Slings and Arrows

After I began a vigorous daily brushing combined with a vigorous head massage, my tuxedo short-hair kitty’s hairball production has dropped by 90%.

I began doing this at the same time every day several years ago and he now loves being massaged and brushed so much that he will summon me from the next room at that time to come to the place where we share this ritual.

It is amazing how accurate their internal clock is not just for feeding but for grooming, too!


22 posted on 04/28/2013 7:28:24 AM PDT by Seizethecarp (Defend aircraft from "runway kill zone" mini-drone helicopter swarm attacks: www.runwaykillzone.com)
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To: Slings and Arrows

The next cat I get is going to be fed a meat-only diet (or the “Catkins” diet, as I’ve seen it called). It’s much healthier for them in a number of ways, one of which is supposedly a lower incidence of hairballs.


23 posted on 04/28/2013 7:56:36 AM PDT by CatherineofAragon ( (Support Christian white males---the architects of the jewel known as Western Civilization))
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To: Slings and Arrows

My cat wants to know if Tribbles are futuristic hair balls.


24 posted on 04/28/2013 8:55:19 AM PDT by Gefn (More Cowbell please)
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To: Gefn

They’re evolved hairballs. If they get thumbs we’re *****ed.


25 posted on 04/28/2013 10:56:10 AM PDT by Slings and Arrows (You can't have IngSoc without an Emmanuel Goldstein.)
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To: Gefn

We have ceramic tile in the bathrooms, wood floors over some of the rest and carpet in the bedrooms and living room, yet which surface do you think they ALWAYS choose to receive their hairballs? Yep, the carpet...easily the hardest to clean! I wonder why?


26 posted on 04/28/2013 1:32:30 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
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To: boatbums

Because they are cats and they can?

Because its revenge that they don’t have opposable thumbs or they would have taken over the world by now?


27 posted on 04/28/2013 2:47:09 PM PDT by Gefn (More Cowbell please)
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To: Daffynition

None of my kittehs ever had harbls. And as far as I know, no hairballs either.

But Patch occasionally pukes up other interesting stuff...


28 posted on 04/28/2013 3:39:50 PM PDT by ZirconEncrustedTweezers (Some people take there grammar way to seriously.)
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To: boatbums

Yet another reason I’m glad our house is all hardwood flooring (except for linoleum in the kitchen/dining area and tile in the bathrooms). The only “difficult” cleanup I’ve had so far was the one time Patch threw up on the bed.


29 posted on 04/28/2013 3:41:54 PM PDT by ZirconEncrustedTweezers (Some people take there grammar way to seriously.)
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To: boatbums

Yet another reason I’m glad our house is all hardwood flooring (except for linoleum in the kitchen/dining area and tile in the bathrooms). The only “difficult” cleanup I’ve had so far was the one time Patch threw up on the bed.


30 posted on 04/28/2013 3:45:47 PM PDT by ZirconEncrustedTweezers (Some people take there grammar way to seriously.)
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