This April 26, Cat Lovers Celebrate Hairball Awareness Day, Avoid Gag Reflex

From making jewelry to feline techno dancing, humans have long come up with a wide variety of uses for the hairball sufferers in their lives.

If your cat yaks and gaks up hairballs on a regular basis, don't despair, there is help! On National Hairball Awareness Day, on April 26, 2013, cat lovers around the world will gather to show their strength and increase their resolve to prevent the condition that dogs their feline friends.

Hairballs form naturally during a cat's normal grooming routine. Most of the fur that a cat swallows while grooming passes naturally through the digestive tract, but when it gets caught in the stomach, a hairball forms. While long-haired cats are most prone to developing hairballs -- especially in the spring and summer when warming temperatures equate to more shedding -- short-haired cats are not immune.

The holiday was launched in 2006 by the National Museum of Health and Medicine to spotlight its curated "collection" of 24 veterinary and three human hairballs, also known as "trichobezoars." [Warning: Some of the photos are quite gross, and include a photo of a hairball being surgically removed from a human.] The display features hairballs from cows, oxen, a horse, and a chicken, most of them dating back to the late 19th century.

Trichobezoars aside, it can be quite disturbing to watch -- and listen to -- a cat cough up a hairball, but luckily there are some small changes cat lovers can make to help prevent the suckers, from regular grooming to special hairball-reduction food. Petco even has a Hairball Relief Shop -- who knew? -- with a variety of solutions.

  • Grooming. Removing excess hair by brushing and grooming a cat regularly can help limit the amount of loose hair that eventually turns into a hairball. Millions of cat owners swear by the FURminator to help keep hairballs at bay.
  • Diet. There are several pet-food manufacturers that make hairball-control cat food and treats that contain natural vegetable fibers to help aid this process.
  • Goop. For cats with a more persistent problem, you can try a hairball lubricant like Laxatone that helps the cat pass the problem more easily.
  • In any case, the increase in public awareness -- and remedies -- means that felines need not suffer in silence...or, uh,
    . This year, you can be filled with pride and hold your head high as you and your furry friend celebrate National Hairball Awareness Day on Friday.