Hair Ball

June 05, 2006

For some weeks now I have been worried about one of my cats. Having one of the two beings I feel closest too potentially be ill was more than I could handle. I tried to ignore the symptoms hoping against hope that they would go away on their own. The primary symptom was retching and occasionally throwing up undigested food. Sometimes this would happen two or three times in a single day. A friend at work suggested I try one of the sensitive stomach cat foods available at the pet store.

Switching their food doesn't seem to have helped. I'm still coming home to little surprises. Now that I have set down a large part of the emotional burden I've been carrying for the past few months I am ready to tackle this problem. And, as luck would have it, I was presented with a major clue today when I got home.

A hair ball.

This is the first hair ball that any of my cats has ever produced. I've had cats for nearly ten years now and never had to deal with this particular issue. Nekko, the older cat and the one who has been retching all spring, has a very thick, almost pelt like fur. When Michele was alive she would comb Nekko regularly to remove the matted hair that collected. Even through Nekko is a short-hair cat, it wasn't unusual to collect a handful of fur from a combing. Nekko used to jump up on the desk in front of Michele to get ear rubs and she would tolerate combing at that time. Since Michele's death, however, Nekko has not gotten on to the desk at all. Once or twice I have lifted her up to her former perch to show her it was okay, but she gets down immediately and shows no interest in returning.

Consequently she has not been brushed since last October. With the onset of spring I'm sure that she has been shedding her winter coat and all of that spare hair has been collecting in her pelt. Her bathing has resulted in a large amount of hair in her digestive tract and hence the retching. Obviously I need to find a way to comb her without traumatizing her. She hates to be picked up and held and will reward me with a day or more of hiding when I do hold her. The one place she lays that I can reach her is on the back of the easy chair.

This afternoon, after cleaning up the deposit, I sat in the chair, comb in hand, waiting for her to join me. After a few minutes she did, and to my amazement allowed herself to be combed. Some of her fur was so matted the comb got stuck and I could tell it was hard for her to sit still. In the end, after ten minutes work, I had collected a huge pile of hair. Even compressed it was golf ball sized. Hopefully this will see a reduction in her retching. I plan on doing this at least weekly from here on out.

Now if I could just figure out how to get her to bury the smellier deposits in the litter box...

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.