Skin & Coat

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Hairballs (and More)

Hairballs. Those oh-so-gross tubes of slimy hair our cats leave on the floor for us, the ones we always seem to find in the middle of the night with the bottoms of our feet, right? Well, we’ve hacked up some interesting facts about them for you:

ThinkstockPhotos-475857006The scientific term for a hairball is Trichobezoar
Trich is Greek for “hair” and a bezoar is a mass found in the stomach or the intestines.

Some cats get more hairballs than others
Hairballs are caused by cats grooming and ingesting their fur, so it would make sense that cats who groom less get fewer hairballs! That said, long haired cats tend to swallow more hair and thus, have more hairballs. Kittens rarely have hairballs at all because they haven’t developed a thorough grooming regimen yet. Obviously hairless breeds don’t get hairballs at all (lucky!).

Hairballs are most common in the Spring
That’s right, hairballs are seasonal. They’re most common when cats are shedding their thicker winter coats.

A healthy cat only has one or two hairballs per year!
According to veterinarians, a cats digestive tract is designed to handle the hair they swallow and, in fact, coughing up hairballs is not normal. So, if your cat is hacking up more than a couple of hairballs a year, it could be a cause for concern.

But, there are a lot of remedies for hairballs, including giving your cat a little bit of butter or petroleum jelly to keep everything lubricated, or feed a high fiber diet to keep things moving. Also, regular brushing and grooming will keep excess fur off your cat and help keep him from ingesting it.

Cats aren’t the only animals that have hairballs
It turns out cows and rabbits are especially prone to hairballs, they just can’t vomit them up! Even humans can get hairballs, if they’ve got trichophagia, the compulsion to eat hair.

Hairballs can get HUGE
According to Mental Floss, 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. It was a five-inch wide hairball that weighed 7.5 ounces and, incidentally, looked like a newborn puppy.

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