A Tail of Hair and Tea

Cat with hairballs (Photo credit Aprille Ross)

Photo credit Aprille Ross


This week I am going to educate you on something that afflicts millions of people worldwide.  The hairball!  First off, the scientific term for hairball is trichobezoar.  Not that it makes hairballs any more appealing.  For centuries people have been trying to find uses for these regurgitated masses of fur, and they were once thought to cure epilepsy, the plague, and poisoning.  Now I know what you’re saying.  “Hairball tea isn’t that bad!  And I really do feel like my plague is lessening!”  But I digress.  And in 2011, jewelry designer Heidi Abrahamson created cat hair jewelry to celebrate National Hairball Awareness Day.  The hair for these accessories was shed, not vomited, what a party pooper.  When they’re not eating, sleeping, or ordering you around, 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.  But one thing to think about when you’re cleaning up Kitty’s little present is that cats aren’t the only animal that gets hairballs.  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.  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. It was a five-inch wide hairball that weighed 7.5 ounces and incidentally looked like a newborn puppy.  So next time you take care of a hairball just be thankful you don’t have to pay a pricey vet bill.  Then sit back and enjoy your delicious, steamy tea. 😉

To see a real hairball, click here to watch my video.