Sometimes, however, fur builds up in the stomach, resulting in a hairball that causes the cat to gag and cough it up. Picture: AP

Do you remember the moment when Puss in Boots coughed up a hairball in Shrek 2? It was the first scene Antonio Banderas recorded as Puss in Boots and it left him temporarily voiceless, according to an interview in the New York Times.

The scene highlights the reality of hairballs for cats, as does Hairball Awareness Day, which takes place on the last Friday of April every year (April 26) and is aimed at educating cat owners about their feline friends and those annoying hairballs.

Whiskas senior brand manager, Nivashnee Moodley says hairballs occur because cats’ tongues have tiny hooks that capture dead and loose fur when they groom themselves. “This fur is then ingested and usually passes through the digestive system without incident.

“Sometimes, however, fur builds up in the stomach, resulting in a hairball that causes the cat to gag and cough it up. While this is a perfectly natural occurrence, if it happens too often, it may be harmful to cats and They may become tired, lose their appetite or suffer from constipation or diarrhoea. If this happens, it is best to consult a veterinarian for advice.”

Here are five easy ways for cat owners to help prevent hairballs:

Grooming

Brush your cat regularly. Not only does it help remove loose fur and stimulate blood circulation, but it is also a great way for owners to bond with their feline friends.

Lubricating oil

Adding fish, corn or olive oil to a cat’s diet helps lubricate the digestive system, which keeps things moving along smoothly and reduces the potential build-up of hairballs.

Playtime

Cats love to play. Playing can distract them from excessive grooming as a result of boredom or anxiety. Owners can up the game by making their own toy – a simple string with a feather attached to the end will do – or buying one of the many fine toys on offer in retail outlets to keep their kitties entertained.

Diet

Moodley says owners can consider feeding their cats hairball control dry food which gives them a healthy coat and aids their digestion.