Cats spend an hour or more every day grooming themselves.
Their barbed tongue is perfect for this but the loose hairs that get caught on the tongue are often swallowed. Mostly this hair just passes through the digestive tract but sometimes it only gets as far as the stomach where it forms a ball. This is more of a problem in long haired cats and at certain times of the year when cats shed more hair.
These hairballs formed in the stomach are vomited up and after being squeezed through the oesophagus they appear as a cigar shaped mat of fur. This vomiting can be accompanied by unpleasant gagging and retching noises.
Hairballs are normal, just be observant because sometimes these hairballs are not vomited up, or become excessive and can cause your cat to become constipated and uncomfortable.
You can minimise or prevent hairballs by grooming your cat, which if done gently can be a great bonding experience. Many cat foods on the market also contain insoluble fibre that help trap the hair and help it pass it through the digestive tract.
For cats that excessively groom get them checked by a vet to eliminate pain or skin disease as a cause then give them fun things to keep them bust such as feeding them with a treat ball or providing interactive toys.
If you are worried that you cat is suffering with constipation or is uncomfortable or not eating get them checked by a vet. The vet might suggest that you add a gentle laxative to your cats Hairball prevention food each day.