No one likes to vomit and the same goes for your cat. Little surprises that they sometimes through up and leave for you on your light coloured carpet, of course are a chore to clean up. Cats are known for grooming themselves a lot. It's roughly estimated that a cat will spend up to a third of its waking life washing itself. When your cat washes herself miniature hooks pull the loose hair out and go in to the digestive system. The occasional hairball is usually nothing to worry about it's when it becomes more frequent that you should worry.
Nature has designed a carnivores stomach to digest fur and hair. Any wildlife programme you watch will show meat eaters stripping fur and flesh and consuming it all together. The issue is the breeding of long haired animals, Persians, Birmans, Maine Coon and other medium to long haired cats. This doesn't mean that a short haired cat won't have problems as well. When a cat grooms, the hair sits in the gut and usually passes through. However if there is a problem in the stomach the hair will collect, become thicker and come back up the wrong way! As a kitten you probably never really saw any hairballs from your pet, however as your cat grows so does their ability to groom themselves better.
Frequent brushing with a good quality cat brush should be a daily procedure for any responsible animal owner. If you're going to have a long haired cat as a pet then make sure you are taking the time out to groom them correctly. Your pet shop should have a mixture of good, quality cat brushes and combs. Brushing alone isn't enough, combing is necessary too. A brush tends to collect fur from the top where as a long, wide toothed comb will get through thick, long hair and remove dead hair from the root. The thickness is just as much a problem as the length. Also the issue of flea treatment will be easier to deal with if you can lessen the amount of dead fur that your pet has to carry around.
Hydrating your pet is a must for helping with hairball problems. Cats are notorious for liking to drink in different places. So having fresh water readily available in all your cat's favourite places, as well as at the feeding area, will get your cat used to drinking more. This will start to lubricate the digestive system and help to flush the hair through rather than clumping in the stomach. It's a well known fact that cats love to drink from running water. Have you ever seen them sit in the bath catching the dripping tap water? If you have a difficult cat then you're more likely to entice them into drinking by purchasing a fountain type water bowl. Certain brands are now selling hairball control food. Where this is good in terms of high fibre content it can cause problems if your cat doesn't drink enough water.
Always check with your vet first and ask for their opinion on dietary changes and supplements.