Hairballs, which are spit up, are a common problem seen in cats. Accumulation of hair in the stomach of the cat is a direct result of the significant portion of the cat's life that is spent grooming itself. It has been estimated that cats groom themselves for up to 1/3 of their waking hours.
The problem begins as the cat swallows the hair it has licked off during the cleaning process. The barb-like projections on the cat's tongue pull the hair loose from the skin and haircoat. These barbs point inward on the tongue, which causes the hair to remain lodged on the cat's tongue until it is swallowed.
Hair is mostly undigestible and therefore begins to knot up in the stomach. As the hairball enlarges, it is unable to pass out of the stomach down into the small intestine. It then becomes an irritant to the stomach lining eventually being vomited up in most cases. Should the hairball get so large that it cannot pass back up through the opening into the esophagus, it becomes a surgical procedure to get it out.
Signs of "hairballs" include vomiting, constipation, listlessness, and coughing. It frequently causes a loss of appetite and even depression. The regurgitated "hairball" is often not actually round in shape, but rather "tubular."
Finding regurgitated hairballs is a definite sign that your cat has a problem and needs help. Although rarely fatal, hairballs are an inconvenience to cleanup, very uncomfortable for the cat, and can lead to serious complications.
RECCOMMENDATIONS FOR PREVENTING HAIRBALLS:
Daily brushing of the cat to remove loose hair is the best prevention. Longhaired breeds especially need special attention. During the spring when all cats shed, daily brushing is most important.
There are many products available to assist prevention of hairballs. Laxatone, is a palatable gel/paste which which your cat may choose to consume on it's own. If resistant, you can rub the desired portion on the cats mouth, or even the paws. You kitty will "groom" it off.
There are food supplements such as Missing Link, A powder form that you add to food. Missing link is a great product for skin, haircoat, sustained energy and healthy digestion.