A case of the fuzz ball

Tar­get the cat is hack­ing away, which leads to some ur­gent rug wash­ing.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Pets - Katz Tales Ellen Whyte https:/ www.face­book.com/ewhyte

TAR­GET is look­ing good. His fur is smooth and shiny, his eyes are bright, his claws are per­fect talons, and his nose is a shade cooler than room tem­per­a­ture. He’s also purring up a storm.

How­ever, ev­ery now and again, he gets up and hacks like an old man. It’s purr-purr-hack-hack-hack and then back to purr-purr. Usu­ally I take my cats to the vet if there’s the slight­est thing dif­fer­ent. That’s partly be­cause I worry but also be­cause of fe­line char­ac­ter.

While a dog may act out a five­act drama over a scuffed paw pad, a cat is more like Monty Python’s Black Knight, yelling, “Tis but a scratch” as he loses his limbs. Cats are the strong and silent toughies of the an­i­mal king­dom.

But this time we haven’t trekked in for pro­fes­sional help be­cause I’ve seen this be­fore. My lit­tle cat has a hair­ball prob­lem.

Healthy cats are in­cred­i­bly fas­tid­i­ous, de­vot­ing a lot of time ev­ery day to groom­ing. If you’ve ever been licked by your kitty, you’ll know they have weird sand-pa­pery tongues. That is be­cause a cat tongue is cov­ered in lit­tle hook-like spines called “papil­lae”.

These papil­lae feel tough be­cause they’re made from ker­atin, the same stuff that makes our nails and their claws.

As cats wash them­selves, these hooks un­ravel lit­tle knots, and pick up tiny bits of dirt. It’s like be­ing scrubbed clean with a rather ef­fi­cient hair­brush.

Cats do love a bit of at­ten­tion and they preen if you ad­mire them. How­ever, they don’t keep su­per clean be­cause they’re proud lit­tle an­i­mals who en­joy be­ing wor­shipped; keep­ing clean is im­por­tant be­cause cats are mighty hun­ters.

Our pets stalk and cap­ture their tar­gets – of­ten mice and birds – by ly­ing in deep cover, leop­ard-crawl­ing spe­cial-forces style and then pounc­ing on their vic­tims. If they have a whiff that gives their pres­ence away from six paces, they’re go­ing to go hun­gry fast – hence the kitty ob­ses­sion with groom­ing.

Now, Tar­get is not ex­actly hunt­ing his din­ner; he has ser­vants who fill his bowl at his meow. But in­stinct runs deep and so he grooms him­self un­til his fur shines in the sun­light.

The thing is, with ev­ery lick of that spiny tongue, our boy in­gests a lit­tle fur. Most of the time, it goes straight through him and out the other end. How­ever, some­times, hair col­lects in the stom­ach, and you get a hair­ball.

Long-haired cats like Per­sians of­ten have trou­ble with hair­balls, and even their tongues can’t cope with tan­gled fur, which is why they need to be brushed ev­ery day. Tar­get is tech­ni­cally a short-haired cat, but I have to say he has quite long fur. Some of his coat is 2.5cm to 3cm in length.

Also, my old boy is shed­ding a lot at the mo­ment. Cats shed all year round, but there are def­i­nitely times when he seems to lose a lot more fur than oth­ers.

Why cats shed is still not com­pletely un­der­stood but there’s no doubt it’s a mix of ge­net­ics and en­vi­ron­ment. What is in­ter­est­ing is that it’s not re­ally much to do with tem­per­a­ture. In­stead, stud­ies show that sun­light is a key fac­tor in shed­ding.

In tem­per­ate cli­mates, cats start grow­ing ex­tra fur for heat when the au­tumn nights cut down on day­light. And in the spring, when the day length­ens, they shed to their light-weight sum­mer coats.

We don’t re­ally have those dif­fer­ences, with days be­ing just an hour dif­fer­ent over the year. How­ever, as we’re in mon­soon sea­son, and there’s lots of rain, Tar­get has been hud­dled un­der the blan­kets and spend­ing less time in his sun pud­dles. I think it’s trig­gered a sit­u­a­tion where he’s walk­ing about in a cloud of fuzz.

So, it’s more than likely that my Tar­get has a hair­ball. In the past, Tar­get has hacked a bit and then trot­ted over to the rug and thrown up. Fur balls aren’t round, they’re thin and hairy and slimy, but they’re eas­ily recog­nis­able.

Usu­ally, I’m de­lighted he’s got­ten rid of it – and also mys­ti­fied why he can’t do it in the gar­den or even on the mar­ble floor. The sec­ond he feels it come on, he rushes over to the rug and heaves. I’ve talked to him about it but some­how it makes cat-sense to hurl on car­pet.

So yes­ter­day, I was re­signed to putting the rug into the wash but Tar­get hacked with­out re­sult. This morn­ing, he was still at it.

If a hair­ball doesn’t come up, it has to be en­cour­aged to go out the other end. There are lots of hair­ball reme­dies around but as it’s a mat­ter of “oil­ing it through”, I go straight for the tinned tuna in oil.

Tuna for hu­mans is gen­er­ally not good for cats, and oil isn’t re­ally rec­om­mended ei­ther, but a tea­spoon of the stuff ev­ery now and again in a medic­i­nal way is OK. Also, my boy loathes all the com­mer­cial prod­ucts we’ve ever offered but he’s a beast for tinned tuna.

To make ab­so­lutely cer­tain we get a good re­sult, I have also washed the liv­ing room rug. It came off the line an hour ago, and is ly­ing in the liv­ing room, white stripes shin­ing.

There’s no way a self-re­spect­ing cat can walk past that rug and not hurl up a hair­ball. At least, I hope so.

— 123rf.com

Cats are such metic­u­lous groomers.

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