If you have ever stepped from a hot shower on cold winter's day, only to find yourself stepping on a cold mass of - something - you probably have a cat with a hairball. At least, I hope that's what you have.
Turns out, hairballs are pretty fascinating. They have a long history with cat folks like ourselves and have contributed to a lot of history.
Not everyone hated hairballs. In fact, it was used for medical purposes at one point!
There are many different types of species that are subject to hairballs - pretty much if they have fur or hair, they are able to get a hairball. Sometimes this is due to the physical act of grooming, other times it's due to a psychological issue (especially in humans who can sometimes have a compulsion to eat their hair).
Here are the top 15 most interesting facts about hairballs that you probably didn't know...
1. Cats have a LOT of hair to eat.
The average cat spends 1/3 of their waking life grooming themselves. Let’s do the math:
- ~ Most cats sleep an average of 13-14 hours per day
- ~ Most cats groom themselves for 3-4 hours per day
That only leaves 7 hours per day to play, demand food, stare at you in a condescending manner, and vomit hairballs on to your Persian rug.
2. People mostly don't know what hairballs are.
The average person spends 1 hour per week staring at a regurgitated hairball and wondering what it is.
(Okay, we made that stat up, but the rest of the stats in this article are true).
3. Cats eat a LOT of hair.
The average cat consumes 173 grams of cat hair each year.
That’s about 6 ounces, which is the equivalent of 30 quarters or $7.50. It’s also the equivalent of 86 Ruby-throated hummingbirds.
4. The largest hairball
4. The largest hairball ever removed from a cat was 5 inches wide (12.5 cm) and weighed in at a whopping 7.5 ounces. The surgery was performed by Cromwell Vet Group in Cambridgeshire, England on a cat named Gemma.
(Side note: We discovered that the UK will write news stories about ANYTHING!)
5. They're called Trichobezoars
The scientific term for hairballs is “trichobezoars.” The word Trichobezoars comes from the Persian word, Bezoar, and means “protection from poison.”
6. There are different kinds of hairballs.
Hairballs are named for what's in them. There are several different types:
- Bezoar is just a plain old fashioned hairball.
- Phytobezoar is a mass of undigested food particles usually from fruits and vegetables such as celery, citrus fruits, coconut, pumpkins, grape skins, prunes, and raisins.
- Diospyrobezoars are bezoars that contain undigested persimmons. Whether that means eating a lot of persimmons can result in hairballs or hairballs are just hard to digest, I couldn't really tell you.
7. Hairballs prevent poisoning.
Hairballs were once used to prevent poisoning and act as an antidote if poisoning had already occurred. Whether that's because hairballs are super absorbent or because our ancestors were incredibly gullible and the doctors liked messing around with people's heads, I really couldn't tell you. Whatever works, I suppose...
8. All animals get hairballs.
8. All animals get hairballs but those who are particularly susceptible to this problem include cats, ferrets, rabbits, cattle, deer and (believe it or not), humans. See #9. <shiver>
9. Humans get hairballs.
In 2003, an 18-year-old woman from Canada had a 5.1 lb hairball surgically removed from her lower intestine.
The World’s largest hairball is a collection from Henry Coffer of Charleston, MO. The hairball weighs in at 167 pounds and is a result of collecting hair clippings throughout his 50-year career as a barber. You can read that (and other interesting world records for cats) here.
10. Hairballs can cause a lack of appetite, dehydration, and depression in your cat.
This is why it’s so important to offer them a food that is high-quality pet food and brush them daily (especially long-haired cats and during shedding seasons) to eliminate excess pet hair. Excessive grooming in a cat could indicate a health issue, just as a lack of grooming could indicate the same.
11. All animals groom, but not all animals get hairballs.
If you're wondering where that hairball came from, check with the longer-coated, middle-aged, bored cat. You know - the one who prefer to lie on the couch and groom himself all afternoon. Kittens aren't nearly as self-conscious (and let's face it, they're just learning how to groom). Older cats generally have more mobility issues and can't reach those difficult spots (which is why you should implement a grooming routine!)
12. Eliminating hairballs (or reducing them) is as easy as a liquid supplement.
The best ones are all-natural, palatable (your cats enjoy them) and are simple to digest (because cats are sensitive). Our personal favorite is the Licks Hairball - The Pill Free Solution.
13. Hairballs get big and can cause serious health concerns.
One cat had a hairball so large it cut off her ability to eat! When the vets successfully removed the offending fur, it was "the size of two cricket balls". (I don't know what size a cricket ball is, but it doesn't sound good.)
14. The average cats swallows 173 grams of hair in 1 year.
The average cats swallows 173 grams of hair in 1 year, which is about the weight of 30 US quarters.
I don't even like carrying change around in my purse because it gets so heavy. I think that trying to surgically remove 173 grams of hair would cost a lot more than trying to prevent it.
15. Most cat hairballs aren't even balls.
Usually cats cough up something that is a long, cylindrical object. I've mistaken hairballs for everything from dead lizards to poop - and none of those are fun to see or step on...