Hairballs are a natural outcome of a cat's grooming ritual; when the cat licks and ingests his fur, knots of residual hair gradually build up in kitty’s stomach. Once a ball forms it stays trapped in the stomach, growing bigger as more hair tangles up with it until it finally gets coughed up, usually on your favorite rug or bedspread.
Some lucky kitties have no problem with hairballs, but for other cats – especially longhairs - hairballs can be a regular fact of life. Occasional hairball episodes (1-4 times a month) are considered normal for most cats and usually prevention is the best treatment.
That means: a daily ritual of gently brushing out kitty’s loose fur. It makes perfect sense – the less loose fur on your cat, the less fur ends up in his stomach. This is especially important during heavy shedding seasons, but a daily grooming habit established in kittenhood will be looked upon by kitty as a wonderful quality-time ritual spent with you. If you first approach your cat with a brush when he’s in his 4th year of life and suddenly start a grooming session, it’s unlikely he’ll perceive the experience in quite the same loving way.
If daily brushings aren't keeping the hairballs at bay, then other treatments can include petroleum-based laxative preparations such as Laxatone,(available from your vet – use only as directed) that you can smear on kitty’s chin so that he’ll lick it off. This won’t prevent new hairballs from forming, but it should bring up any stubborn hairballs that kitty has been unsuccessfully gagging on. Another remedy to try might be a cat food that contains a hairball control component.
Note: Any hairball problem that cannot be solved with extra daily brushings should be referred to a vet. Cats vomit for a number of different reasons, some of them quite serious. A condition that appears to be "chronic" hairballs could actually be a severe stomach problem or even a life-threatening intestinal disorder, and would require veterinary testing in order to determine the correct diagnosis.