All cats vomit occasionally, but frequent or severe vomiting is not normal and may be a sign that your cat is suffering from something more serious that an upset tummy. Our emergency vets share some advice on when your cat's vomiting may be something serious.
Is vomiting normal for cats?
Just like their people, our feline friends can suffer from an upset tummy for a number of reasons.
Some of the most common causes of upset stomach in cats include, a reaction to eating something bad, viruses and parasites, or more serious problems such as cancer or organ conditions.
Pet parents should be aware that if your cat vomits more often than once a month, or keeps vomiting repeatedly, it's time to see your vet to determine the underlying cause of your cat's vomiting.
Why is my cat vomiting?
Hairballs / Furballs
Hairballs (furballs) are undigested, wads of fur that clump in your cat's stomach as a result of the cat's self-grooming. Hairballs are especially common in longhair cats, and cats that groom excessively. Hacking noises and spasms commonly accompany vomiting if your cat is trying to rid itself of hairballs.
In the majority of cases, hairballs are easily brought up by cats, but if your cat is experiencing difficulties when trying to expel a hairball it's time to see a vet. Occasionally hairballs become trapped and can lead to intestinal blockages which may be fatal.
Eating Too Much & Too Quickly
If your kitty eats too much food, too quickly, vomiting will likely result soon after they eat. If your cat often eats quickly then vomits, there are a number of fun cat bowls available to help slow your cat's eating and help to prevent vomiting.
That said, vomiting right after eating could be an indication of a more serious health issue such as hairballs, a digestive tract obstruction, dehydration, or esophageal issues. If your cat frequently vomits right after eating, it's time to visit the vet.
Some Serious Conditions Which Can Cause Vomiting In Cats
It can be tempting to dismiss your cat's vomiting as normal cat behavior, however vomiting can be a symptom of a serious underlying health condition. A few of the more serious causes of vomiting in cat include:
- Intestinal foreign bodies
- Intestinal Parasites
- Food allergies
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Metabolic Disorder (ie: Kidney Disease)
How do I know if I should take my cat to the vet?
If your cat is vomiting periodically or infrequently, avoid giving your cat any food for about 12 hours. Provide kitty with a couple of tablespoons of water every 30 minutes or provide them with ice cubes during this brief fasting period. After 12 hours begin providing your cat with small amounts of bland food and gradually return to normal feeding if vomiting has stopped.
If your cat is experiencing repeated bouts of vomiting, you should contact your vet immediately. Continuous or severe vomiting could be a sign that your cat is seriously ill and requires immediate treatment. Contact your vet if your cat displays any of the symptoms below:
- Repeated vomiting
- Blood in vomit
- Weakness / Lethargy
- Pain / Distress
- Blood in stool
When taking your cat to the vet due to vomiting, it may sound 'icky' but it's a good idea to take a sample of your cat's vomit with you. Your vet will be able to examine the sample to help determine the cause of your cat's upset stomach.
Some of the things your vet may notice thanks to a sample of vomit are:
- Large amounts of mucus in your cat's stomach which could indicate an inflamed intestine
- Undigested food can be an indication of poisoning, anxiety or simply a sign that your cat has eaten too much or too quickly.
- If your vet notices that bile is present in your cat's vomit, it may be an indication of pancreatitis or inflammatory bowel disease.
- Red blood in vomit is a sign that your cat's stomach may be ulcerated.
- Strong smelling vomit may indicate that your cat has an intestinal obstruction.
When it comes to treating vomiting in cats, the treatment will depend upon the underlying cause of the problem. Depending on what's causing your cat's symptoms, treatment could be as simple as temporarily withholding food, or as complex as surgery or chemotherapy.