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Surgeons remove 4-pound hairball from 400-pound tiger

Coughing up hairballs may be a natural activity for felines, but one tiger found himself in a bind when he created one over 4 pounds.

Veterinarians at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Clearwater, Fla. were able to successfully remove a basketball-sized clump of hair from 17-year-old Ty's stomach on May 22, 2013.

Ty resides at Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Inc., a non-profit organization that works with Florida law enforcement to provide housing for animals that have been seized. Staffers realized the 400-pound tiger hadn't been eating for about two weeks, so they took Ty to the veterinarian to see what was wrong.

After going through an ultrasound, having several X-rays taken and having scope with a camera put down his throat, BluePearl internal medicine specialist Dr. Brian Luria discovered the giant hairball. It was too large to remove with the scope, so surgery was necessary.

Dr. Mike Reems, a board-certified surgeon from BluePearl Veterinary Partners and Dr. Don Woodman, owner of Animal Hospital of Northwood in Safety Harbor pulled out the clump of hair. It weighed 4.015 pounds.

"I'm just extremely thankful for the help Dr. Woodman, Dr. Reems and the staff at BluePearl provided," Vernon Yates, founder of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Inc., said in a press release.

Hairballs are a natural byproduct of the feline grooming process, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals points out. When a cat is grooming themselves, they may swallow hair. While most of it will pass through their system, some of it collects in the small intestine, creating a hair ball. The cat will then try to cat to hack, gag or retch to vomit up the offending clump.