Do Cats Really Get Hairballs, If So What Are They?

courtesy catexpertblogspotcom

courtesy catexpertblogspotcom

By Carey’s Cats.Com

Is that a hairball? Yuck! Hairball that is often chucked up by the cat on the rug or on the carpet is one of the common problems of cat owners. Long haired and short haired cats get hairballs but this ball of fur is more common in long haired breeds. Hairballs are one of the reasons why finicky people would not dare to get a cat for a pet. Hairballs though should not stop a person from enjoying the wonderful companionship cats can offer. Not all cats form hairballs. Anyone wanting to have a cat but deterred from getting one because of hairballs simply need to choose a hairless breed or do something to minimize the likelihood of hairball formation.

What are hairballs? Cats are known for being fastidious groomers. Cats would contentedly lick the fur for hours causing some of the loose hair to be ingested. Cats have abrasive backward-facing spines in their tongue that aids them in grooming. These are called papillae. Made rigid by keratin, rows of these stiff spines would act like a hairbrush that would effectively remove loose hair. However, because of the backward formation of the papillae and also because cats would not know how to spit out loose hairs, hairs removed when grooming will be ingested. Loose hair will then work their way into the cat’s digestive system. Some will be removed normally…hairs will pass all the way through the digestive tract and will be passed out with the faeces. Some hair though will remain and form into clumps in the cat’s stomach and form into hair balls. Cat owner would often see the pet retching and gagging. After a while, a sausage like wad of hair and undigested matter will be chucked up by the pet. Hairballs take on a cigar-like or sausage-like form as the wad of hair passes through the cat’s long and narrow oesophagus.

Hairballs are more common in long haired breeds and in cats known to groom excessively. Hairballs are normally vomited by the cat. About twice a month, the cat would be seen gagging and retching. However, hairballs that are not vomited would accumulate in size and create a life-threatening situation. The hairballs can create a blockage in the digestive system preventing the cat from defecating. Oftentimes, this kind of concern would only be corrected with a surgical procedure. This will of course be a financial burden on the pet parent. A bigger concern though would be the risk to the cat’s life.

Hairballs are one of the deterring factors why people would not get a cat for a pet. Hairball though is not an unmanageable concern. People that do not want to be bothered by this unpleasant cat concern can get one of the hairless breeds. Sphinx cats, the Donskoy and the Peterbald are only some of the hairless breeds. Aside from being bald, these cat breeds possess all the admirable characteristics of cats. These breeds though would still manifest the habit of social grooming. Bald cats may not ingest their own hairs but they can ingest other cat’s hair when they groom other cats. This kind of situation usually happens in a multi-cat household. Formation of hairballs cannot be totally prevented. It is the nature of cats to groom not only themselves but other cats as well. However, an owner can reduce the likelihood of the pet to have hairballs. Frequent grooming is one. Brushing the fur, especially in long haired breeds will remove loose hair before it can be ingested by the pet. Another is to give the pet foods specially formulated to reduce hairballs. These high fibre foods would help the cat pass the hairballs normally and promote the health of the coat thereby minimizing shedding.

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Do cats’ teeth grow back?

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Cats do grow their teeth when they lost their first ones. Same as with humans, cats also have two sets of teeth- milk teeth and permanent teeth. Lost permanent teeth will never grow back.

 The milk teeth of kittens appear between thirteen and fifteen days. They are replaced by permanent teeth between five and seven months. During this period their gums are very tender thus cats at this age would find eating very uncomfortable. Adult cats have 30 teeth- 12 incisors, 4 canines, 10 premolars, and 4 molars. Cats are hunters. Their teeth are designed to chew dry foods, bones, meat of prey and other tough substances. Chewing of bones and meat of prey cleanse the teeth. The abrasive hair, feathers and bones of prey help maintain the good condition of the teeth and the gums. However, most domestic cats never have the opportunity to hunt. Domestic cats are generally fed dry foods. This results to accumulation of tartar. Tartar build up is one of the causes why cats lose their teeth. Lost permanent teeth will no longer be replaced as they never grow back.

 Cats have the inclination to gnaw hard objects and substances. This is one of the reasons why cats lose their permanent teeth. The teeth can get broken if the cat chewed hard objects. Diet would also affect tartar and plaque formation in the cat’s teeth. The most common dental problem in cats is a condition called Feline odontoclastic resorotive lesions. Feline dental disease is a true medical condition and one of the leading causes of cat teeth falling out. Tartar build up often causes gum irritation. It causes the roots of the tooth to become exposed. Plaque is produced in the cat’s teeth every six hours. Over time, plaque forms into a hard yellow brown substance called tartar. This plaque to tartar cycle can cause serious dental health problems like gingivitis, gum abscess, periodontitis, tooth loss and bone loss. There are 300 types of bacteria that naturally live in your pet’s mouth. The bacterial infection arising from these dental concerns can have serious effects on the cat’s vital organs. Once tartar has developed on the cat’s teeth, an animal dentist’s attention will be necessary as brushing would not be enough to remove the tartar.

 Kittens would suffer from teething pains and discomfort. The soreness of the gums makes it hard for the kitten to eat or play. Teething toys are commonly given to cats at this stage to alleviate the discomfort and pain caused by sore gums. Cats are stoic to pain. They may not show signs when suffering from broken tooth. A broken tooth can lead to more serious health concerns if it is neglected. Cats may develop serious systemic bacterial infection from the infected broken teeth.

 Brushing your cat’s teeth is the most effective way of preventing tooth loss. You can use a finger brush or a tooth brush specially designed for cats. Toothpaste formulated for animals must be used as well. Getting the pet accustomed to the feel of a finger inside its mouth would make the brushing routine easier. Place a dab of the pet’s favourite food in the finger. Put the finger into the cat’s mouth and move it on a circular motion over the teeth and gums. Do this several times a week. After a few sessions the cat will be comfortable with having the fingers in its mouth. The cat will then be more cooperative during teeth brushing time. Massaging the cat gums with soft cotton once a week can prevents gingivitis. It is important to always check the cat’s mouth. Monthly oral examination can uncover hidden diseases. Vet consultation is imperative as soon as problems associated with the pet’s health are noticed.