A hairball is a small collection of
Hair is a protein filament that grows from follicles found in the dermis. Hair is one of the defining characteristics of mammals.
The human body, apart from areas of glabrous skin, is covered in follicles which produce thick terminal an ...
formed in the
The stomach is a muscular, hollow organ in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and many other animals, including several invertebrates. The stomach has a dilated structure and functions as a vital organ in the digestive system. The stomac ...
Animals are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic material, breathe oxygen, are able to move, can reproduce sexually, and go through an ontogenetic stage ...
s, and uncommonly in
Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species of primate, characterized by bipedalism and exceptional cognitive skills due to a large and complex brain. This has enabled the development of advanced tools, cult ...
s, that is occasionally vomited
up when it becomes too big. Hairballs are primarily a tight elongated cylinder of packed fur, but may include bits of other elements such as swallowed food. Animals with hairballs are sometimes mistaken as having other conditions of the stomach such as lymphosarcoma
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by '' Mycobacterium tuberculosis'' (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections show no symptoms, i ...
, and tumor of the spleen. Cat
s are especially prone to hairball formation since they groom
themselves by licking
their fur, and thereby ingest it.
Rabbits, also known as bunnies or bunny rabbits, are small mammals in the family Leporidae (which also contains the hares) of the order Lagomorpha (which also contains the pikas). ''Oryctolagus cuniculus'' includes the European rabbit ...
s are also prone to hairballs because they groom themselves in the same fashion as cats, but hairballs are especially dangerous for rabbits because they cannot regurgitate them. Due to the fragility of their digestive systems
, hairballs in rabbits must be treated immediately or they may cause the animal to stop feeding and ultimately die due to
In physiology, dehydration is a lack of total body water, with an accompanying disruption of metabolic processes. It occurs when free water loss exceeds free water intake, usually due to exercise, disease, or high environmental temperature. Mi ...
Cattle (''Bos taurus'') are large, domesticated, cloven-hooved, herbivores. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae and the most widespread species of the genus '' Bos''. Adult females are referred to as cows and adult ...
are also known to accumulate hairballs but, as they do not vomit, these are found usually after death and can be quite large.
A ''trichobezoar'' is a bezoar
(a mass found trapped in the
The gastrointestinal tract (GI tract, digestive tract, alimentary canal) is the tract or passageway of the digestive system that leads from the mouth to the anus. The GI tract contains all the major organs of the digestive system, in humans an ...
) formed from the ingestion of hair. Trichobezoars are often associated with
Trichotillomania (TTM), also known as hair-pulling disorder or compulsive hair pulling, is a mental disorder characterized by a long-term urge that results in the pulling out of one's own hair. A brief positive feeling may occur as hair is remov ...
(compulsive hair pulling
Trichobezoars are rare, but can be fatal if undetected.
Surgical intervention is often required.
Society and culture
Although uncommon in humans, some hairballs have been reported. These hairballs occur when hair strands collect in the stomach and are unable to be ejected as a result of the friction on the surface of the gastric mucosa. Hairballs are often seen in young girls as a result of
Trichophagia is the compulsive eating of hair associated with trichotillomania (hair pulling). In trichophagia, people with trichotillomania also ingest the hair that they pull; in extreme cases this can lead to a hair ball ( trichobezoar). The te ..., trichotillomania
Trichotillomania (TTM), also known as hair-pulling disorder or compulsive hair pulling, is a mental disorder characterized by a long-term urge that results in the pulling out of one's own hair. A brief positive feeling may occur as hair is remov ..., and pica. In 2003, a 3-year-old girl in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, had a grapefruit-sized hairball surgically removed from her stomach; in 2006, an 18-year-old woman from Chicago
(''City in a Garden''); I Will
, image_map =
, map_caption = Interactive Map of Chicago
, coordinates =
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, subdivision_name ..., Illinois
Illinois ( ) is a state in the Midwestern United States. Its largest metropolitan areas include the Chicago metropolitan area, and the Metro East section, of Greater St. Louis. Other smaller metropolitan areas include, Peoria and Ro ..., had a hairball surgically removed from her stomach; and in 2014, a 9-pound hairball was removed from the stomach of an 18-year-old in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan,, pronounced or the Kyrgyz Republic, is a landlocked country in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south, and the People's Republic of China to the ea .... Hairballs can be quite hazardous in humansGirl died from eating her hair
BBC News, 1999-08-20
since hair cannot be digested or passed by the human gastrointestinal system, and (assuming it is identified) even
Vomiting (also known as emesis and throwing up) is the involuntary, forceful expulsion of the contents of one's stomach through the mouth and sometimes the nose.
Vomiting can be the result of ailments like food poisoning, gastroenterit ...
may be ineffective at removing the hair mass. This can result in the general impairment of the digestive system.
* Pellet (ornithology)
Rapunzel syndrome is an extremely rare intestinal condition in humans resulting from ingesting hair ( trichophagia). The syndrome is named after the long-haired girl Rapunzel in the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. Trichophagia is sometimes ass ...
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