IMPORTANT: If your cat is in any distress or discomfort, please consult your own vet as your first priority.
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Post by Mollycat »

Quick recap, Molly crashed with dramatic weight loss and yellow liquid from both ends 18 months ago, which led to diagnosing hyperthyroidism for which she was treated last March with radioiodine. Ever since her crash she has not produced normal furballs, they have been small and half-formed and come up with food - not her standard perfect evenly sized near-dry and densely packed affairs.

About 3 weeks ago she delivered an improved furball, to my delight, and last night another furball that I think merits a post of caution. It was still a bit loose and came up with food, but it was 13cms (5 inches) long - and that's what prompted this post.

Nobody likes to listen to them being brought up or stepping in them first thing in the morning or any time for that matter, but where cats go furballs go too. They are as sure as a litter tray scoop. They are also a much more sophisticated thing than we give them credit for and I strongly believe a deliberate evolutionary survival method. They should not be prevented. Easing them to go down through the gut and not come back up is potentially dangerous. I'll explain why using my 13cm beast here to underline the point.

A cat's small intestine alone is around 2.5 times the total length of that cat, all bundled up into a cavity less than a third of the cat's main body. That's folded up around 8 times over, like a sleeping bag crammed any old how into a stuff sack. The intestine is perfectly made to squeeze mulched liquidised food from the stomach all the way through to the large intestine where most of the liquid is reabsorbed into the body making a solid-ish lump ready to be deposited into that litter tray and scooped up. The small intestine is no better at squeezing a solid lump of fur along than a sleeping bag in a stuff sack. A furball 13cm long undertaking that journey would have quite a high risk of getting snagged, causing a blockage and a life-threatening expensive or heartbreaking problem. It's much better for the cat to have a way to expel it back up the way it came through a relatively straight oesophagus and out through the mouth. That one single 13cm furball could have occupied 20 or more turns of the intestine at any one time all the way through, risking a blockage at each and every turn.

To aid this process food doesn't leave the stomach straight down, it leaves at the 3-4 o'clock position, leaving a 'bottom' to the stomach where ingested fur can collect safely to form a ball. It can sit there building up through many regurgitations of food, until it's a good size to be brought up. A properly functioning furball mechanism normally expels very little food or none at all, even if the cat has eaten a meal up to an hour or so beforehand, despite food normally spending around 3-4 hours in the stomach. This is not coincidence folks, there is a method at work here and cats that are able to manage their ingested fur in this way have a better chance of surviving and passing on their genes.

I am not a vet or a scientist but please think carefully before giving oils and potions and formula foods designed to help any fur in your cat's stomach to pass on through the digestive tract and out the back end. 13cms, today I am grateful that my cat made a mess on the carpet and is still alive without surgery. Respect those nasty little hairy sausages and be grateful for them, they are there for a reason. Something is still wrong with Molly's furball-making system but it is on the mend and I will be relieved when we're back to normal.
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Ruth B
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Re: Furballs

Post by Ruth B »

If one of mine, its normally Tiggy, throws up and there is fur in it, it is almost a relief, it means that it is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about, more worrying is when they throw up for no apparent reason. The only thing I do to try and reduce the furballs is to try and groom her a bit, any fur that comes out in a brush or comb isn't going into her stomach.
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