Furballs are part and parcel of cat ownership, right? Well, maybe not...
Frustratingly, studies pertaining to cats and furballs are few and far between – from what we can see, not even the creators of the specialist furball diets have done the research. This lack of knowledge and inquisition both reflects and reinforces the commonly held belief that furballs are normal.
However, there is a growing mindset among veterinarians that begs to differ. Their logic is that if cats evolved to consume relatively large amounts of hair - after all they catch and eat small furry prey and they spend much of their time grooming - how is it that their digestive tract has not evolved to process this hair? BUT, that same group cannot deny that there are cats who frequently produce hairballs but have been found, after intensive workups, to be completely normal.
So what would we consider if we did start an investigation into the cause behind furballs? Well firstly we'd attempt to evaluate whether the problem is more likely to be due to increased ingestion of fur (itchyness or anxiety would be the most common causes), primary gastrointestinal disease (dietary intolerances, allergies, parasites, infections or even, though we hate to say it, the big C) or a combination of the two. From there we choose, on a case by case basis, the least invasive, least expensive test that is likely to provide us with the most information.
We're afraid we can't answer the question we posed today, and actually don’t believe there is a right or wrong approach to furballs. What we do feel, is that by simply assuming that furballs are normal we potentially overlook treatable conditions and deny our cats (and ourselves, no one enjoys cleaning up cat vomit!) the chance to lead a more pleasant life.