Nature gave cats lots of wonderful, soft fur. Normally, when kitty grooms and ingests the dead, loose hair, it passes through the gastrointestinal (digestive) tract and comes out in the stool. A carnivore's gut is designed to handle fur, its own as well as the fur attached to prey animals. (If you've ever been hiking and come across "scat" from a coyote or fox, it's evident that it is mostly fur.) However, generations of directed breeding have created cats with much longer coats than ever conceived of by natural selection. And some cats, even shorthairs, just seem to have tender tummies. When too much hair collects in the stomach rather than passing out through the gut, it irritates the stomach lining and whoops — there's a hairball, on its way back out the wrong end of the cat! (By the way, the correct medical term for a hairball is "trichobezoar," pronounced trike-oh-bee-zohr — your vet will be impressed!).
Treatment for Hairballs:
Nothing can be done to totally prevent hairballs in cats, but there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood your cat will have hairballs or reduce their frequency.
Groom your cat regularly. The more fur you remove from your cat, the less fur that will end up as fodder for hairballs in her stomach. Combing or brushing your cat on a daily basis can be an effective way to minimize hairballs, and it can also provide a fun way for you to bond with your cat. If your can’t get your cat accustomed to grooming or brushing, think about taking her to a professional groomer for a grooming and hair cut (especially for long-haired cats) every six months or so.
Give your cat a specialized “hairball formula” cat food. Many pet food manufacturers now make hairball-reduction cat foods. These high-fiber formulas are designed to improve the health of your cat’s coat, minimize the amount of shedding, and encourage hairballs in cats to pass through the digestive system.
Use a hairball product or laxative. There are a number of different hairball products on the market today, most of which are mild laxatives that help hairballs pass through the digestive tract.
Discourage excessive grooming.
If you suspect that your cat’s hairballs are a result of compulsive grooming, try to train your cat to do another enjoyable activity instead of licking his coat. This might include teaching him to play with a new toy on his own or finding a fun toy you can play with together.
From a holistic point of view, excessive trouble with hairballs indicates a basic systemic or energetic imbalance. A holistic veterinarian would consider the entire cat, including history, previous medical problems, diet, environment, social and family issues — even the cat's personality. Hairballs would be just one symptom, one that will be weighed in totality with all the other information. For instance, a cat that follows the sunbeam all over the house, and sleeps next to the heater vent would receive different treatment than a cat that sits next to an open window in the dead of winter, even if they both displayed the "symptom" of frequent hairballs.