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Getting Purrsonal – Furball Frenzy
By Tania Marie de Saram
Felines spend up to half their lives grooming themselves, but this is not purely for the sake of hygiene. Our furry friends also lick to regulate their temperature, cover their scent, heal wounds, and show affection. However, the sound of retching accompanied by the violent contraction of a cat’s body can be somewhat distressing, as it brings up a shiny ‘sausage’ of fur known as a hairball. The good news, is that this rarely indicates a serious health issue.
The tongue of your puss is rough to the touch. This is due to it being covered in papillae, which are hook-like structures on the surface that catch dead or loose hair, much like a comb. Feline fur is made of keratin, a protein that is poorly digested in mammals, therefore once swallowed it must be removed from the body. If sufficient hair accumulates that it cannot pass through the intestine and out via the faeces, it must be regurgitated instead.
Long-haired cat breeds such as the Maine Coon or Persian are particularly prone to hairballs, so regular grooming ensures the fur stays away from your moggy’s gastrointestinal tract. Daily brushing provides a great opportunity for bonding, and we thoroughly de-shed our fluffy ones at least twice a year. Certain diets and supplementary formulas have also been developed, which reduce the risk of hair accumulating in the stomach.
Whilst a furball every couple of weeks is considered normal, keep an eye out for this becoming more frequent, especially if retching is unproductive, your cat demonstrates lethargy or a lack of appetite, and constipation or diarrhoea ensues; this may suggest a blockage which requires veterinary intervention. Overgrooming in felines can also be an indicator of boredom or stress, so take the time to play with your kitty, and keep anxiety at bay! ❤