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Matthew Sisk: Leia has a gut reaction to hairballs
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“Hoss, I don’t feel so hot. Burn the yard!”

I’ve said many silly, even dumb, things in my life. But that sentence is one my friends don’t let me forget.

It was written numerous times in my high school yearbook. Long story short, too much greasy food and too many fair rides. “Burn the yard” was more of a noise than a sentence.

Which brings us to another bonding opportunity for Leia and myself.

Her owner calls with a question for me. Leia keeps throwing up. She acts fine and is keeping up her normal eating habits, as well as her normal play schedule. She has even corrected her refrigerator dismounting technique and jumps down from there regularly. But about twice a week, her owner finds a mess.

Sometimes Leia gets caught mid “hurl,” which tells us the specific source of the mess. Once dried, it can be difficult to tell which end of the cat produced a clump of nastiness.

I am suspicious that Leia is just showing signs of being a cat. In the wild, cats hunt and frequently kill things that must be eaten quickly, before any competing eaters arrive. Thus, an entire mouse is ingested. The muscular stomach helps grind the mass as digestive juices break it down. The useful bits move on down the gut. But the waste (hair, bones, etc.) often gets vomited back up.

Leia is an inside cat, and thus isn’t much of a hunter. So she probably is vomiting up bits of her own hair, with some food intermixed. Thus, the classic hairball is vomited up.

But that’s just a suspicion. Vomiting can also be a sign of toxin exposure, organ failure (liver, kidneys, etc.) or just about anything else. I suggest a hairball gel by mouth for a few days, as well as close monitoring.

If the problem persists or worsens, I want to see Leia for an exam and possible tests.

A week later, Leia’s owner reports all is normal. This suggests the problem was a hairball. Which means it’s likely to recur. Such is life with cats.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at