Big cats also spit hairballs?

Felines, both large and small, have always aroused strong feelings in us humans. There are those who love and also those who hate them, but it is impossible to be impassive before these born hunters full of charm and mystery.

According to a survey by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), released in 2016, there are about 22 million pet cats in Brazil. Anyone who has one of these at home knows two important facts. First, domestic cats are rather a miniature of the big jungle cats (with caveats, of course). According to experts Beverly and Dereck Joubert, who made documentaries on both the smallest and largest versions of the beasts, the difference is practically the size.

Another important fact that cat owners know is that their weakness is perhaps their biggest hobby: licking their own fur, a task that takes up almost half of their waking hours. Anyone who has ever seen a hairball being expelled knows that any cat loses its dignity at this point.

This is because, when they lick each other, cats slide their tongue - which is rough to accomplish this task - through the coat, the famous cat bath. In this, the loose hair ends up being swallowed and, as they are not digested by the digestive system, become balls inside the animals. From time to time they are expelled (usually on the carpet, of course), to the delight of owners around the world.

Big wild cats also have bristle tongues, but they are generally used to clean the bones of game and not for personal hygiene alone, according to University of Minnesota Lion Center researcher Natalia Borrego. She states that although physiology is the same among animals, this behavior is not seen in the jungle. What is often heard is a sound much like spitting hairballs, but it is typical roar or so-called lions' contact.

There are exceptions, of course, but then human interference seems to weigh more heavily. Smaller wild cats, such as servals and ocelots, when kept in captivity can develop furballs as well. Some experts bet that what changes is the diet, which is usually made up of feed and processed foods, and that would lead to such a shameful condition for cats.

In 2013, the case of Ty Tiger became famous. He had to be operated on in Florida (USA) to remove a 1.8 kg heap. The surgery came after the keeper noticed that the animal was eating less and showed signs of dejection. The vets performed several tests on the 17-year-old tiger until they discovered the problem.


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