Hairballs nothing to get choked up about

Hairballs nothing to get choked up about

July 11th, 2011 by Casey Phillips in Life Entertainment

For all the time they spend sleeping and lolling about, cats are industrious groomers. (Kansas City Star)

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For all the time they spend sleeping and lolling about, cats are industrious groomers. For many cats. that fastidiousness has a consequence: hairballs.

According to veterinarian Bruce Fogle's book "Complete Cat Care," cats spend as much as 10 percent of their day, about two and a half hours, engaged in cleaning themselves tip to tail.

Cats use their tongues as a kind of organic vacuum to remove debris and spruce up the undercoat, but occasionally, the bag needs to be emptied, said Rachel Walker, practice manager of the Cat Clinic of Chattanooga.

"It all balls up in their stomach, and they have to regurgitate it because they can't properly digest it," Walker said.

Hairballs may seem disgusting, but grooming is hardwired into cats' genetic code, so if a cat has them, he will always have them. Changes to the frequency of hairballs, however, should be addressed by a veterinarian, Walker said.

Owners can help cut down on excess dead fur by combing their cat's coat. Bristle brushes are a good start, but Fogle recommends additional passes with a comb - wider teeth for long hair, narrower for shorter - to get the most fur.

Veterinarians also can prescribe special, higher-fiber diets to help control hairballs. Flavored gels, such as Laxatone, can also be used to help lubricate the digestive tract to ease the passage of ingested hair, Walker said.

DOGGY DOINGS

Officials in a Phoenix suburb are considering a plan that would turn dog waste collected from an area park into an energy source. Don't pooh-pooh the idea before you hear it out. The Arizona Republic reports that students from Arizona State University would design and create a "dog waste digester" that the city of Gilbert, Ariz., could use to turn pet leavings into methane gas that in turn generates power. The proposed project would use the new energy source to run a street lamp first, and possibly other uses later. - The Associated Press