Vets have removed a 5in hair ball, said to be “largest we have ever seen” in an operation on a cat in Cambridgeshire.

David Fennell, from Cromwell Vet Group in Huntingdon, said the procedure was carried out on Gemma, an eight-year-old long-haired cat, who is now recovering.

“It was about 12.5cm (5in) wide, filled the entire stomach cavity and she had not eaten for days. It would certainly have killed her,” he said.

He said the owners were “very caring” but needed advice on grooming Gemma. Mr Fennell said the cat was brought in to the surgery after failing to eat its food for three days.

“She was clearly hungry, but as we later found out, there was absolutely no room in her stomach for anything else,” Mr Fennell explained.

At first the surgeons thought Gemma had a tumour. After an X-ray and scan, her owners agreed to an exploratory operation and vets found the hairball, weighing 215g (7.5oz).

“Cats do groom a lot, and they often cough up small hair balls,” Mr Fennell said. “For some reason Gemma had not been able to do that, and there was no way she could do that once it had become that size.”

Mr Fennell said Gemma was now at home with her owners and he was confident this would not happen again.

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