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Vomiting in Cats: Causes, Prevention and Treatments

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Vomiting in Cats: Causes, Prevention and Treatments

Posted by David Louvet on
Updated at: October 28, 2020

Vomiting In Cats | Innovet PetVomiting in cats is more common than many people realize. Within the category of vomiting among cats, there are two types of vomiting. The first type of cat vomiting is known as acute vomiting, which essentially refers to a situation in which your cat vomits for a day or two, but then the vomiting lets up. 

The other type of cat vomiting is known as chronic vomiting, and this is a scenario in which your cat vomits multiple times per day for numerous days back-to-back. Acute vomiting is still a cause for concern, but chronic vomiting is a more alarming behavior. When the vomiting is persistent and consistent on a daily basis, it could be an indication of something serious. 

Have you ever wondered about the side effects of vomiting? Are you curious to learn more about why cats vomit in the first place? Allow us to explain the many symptoms that vomit causes, as well as let you in on the causes of cat vomiting and how to figure out the underlying cause! 

Common Side Effects of Feline Vomiting 

Whether your cat is dealing with acute vomiting or they are battling a case of chronic vomiting, there is nothing comfortable about having to vomit. Vomiting itself is often a symptom of something else, but vomiting also creates its own set of side effects. 

Some of the side effects of feline vomiting include… 

  • Cat Vomiting and Nausea Symptoms | Innovet PetSensitivities in the abdomen 
  • Fever or warm to the touch 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Hard time focusing or listening 
  • A dry mouth or chapped gums 
  • Dizziness and/or fainting 
  • Blood in the vomit 
  • Hard time urinating 
  • Heat flashes or cold sweats
  • Weight loss

When your cat is vomiting, the body’s number one goal is to expel the body of whatever is causing the discomfort in the first place. Whether it’s a hairball or a food allergen, there are many reasons as to why your cat’s body does not want to keep foreign bodies in it. As a result, vomiting induces a lot of uncomfortable side effects as the body forcibly causes your cat to throw up whatever is in the stomach. 

What are the Causes of Vomiting in Cats? 

Cats vomit for a variety of reasons. From eating something that upsets their stomach and hairballs that form in their throats, to other internal issues like viruses or infections, there could be more than one reason behind your cat’s frequent vomiting. 

Some of the most common causes of vomiting include… 

  • Sensitivity to certain ingredients 
  • Reactions to specific food allergies  
  • Hairballs that get stuck 
  • Eating their food too fast
  • Playing immediately after eating 
  • Parasites upsetting your cat's stomach
  • Untreated gastrointestinal issues 
  • Hyperthyroidism 
  • Intestinal obstruction 
  • Illnesses like kidney disease
  • Eating foreign bodies off the ground 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Insulin resistance or diabetes 
  • Weight loss that makes it hard to keep food down
  • Digestive tract issues and concerns
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Late-stage cancerous stomach tumors 
  • Ingesting toxic chemicals 
  • Medication intended to treat cancer 
  • Side effects from NSAIDs, antibiotics, or other drugs 
  • Consuming something that has gone bad 
  • Issues with the pancreas 
  • Internal inflammation that is uncontrolled 
  • Neurological problems 
  • Earaches and/or headaches 
  • Heartworms that need to be taken care of 
  • Constipation or other bowel issues 

Now, in order to paint a clear picture, let’s look more closely at a few of the causes of vomiting. You see, when people vomit, it's usually because they have eaten something unfavorable or they have come down with some sort of internal infection. When vomiting persists among human beings, it tends to be the result of a virus, like influenza, which is known more commonly as the flu. 

But with cats, there are behavioral reasons for why they vomit frequently. It’s still important to address your cat’s vomiting with professionals, especially if it persists over time, but keep in mind that not all vomiting spells are immediate cause for concern. Take hairballs and eating too fast as two prime examples where cats end up vomiting for non-concerning reasons.

 

Hairballs and Eating Too Fast

When it comes to cats, not every instance of vomiting is the result of a health concern. Sometimes, cats throw up as a result of grooming themselves. Naturally, cats use their tongues to lick themselves clean and keep their fur in a clean state. When they lick their fur over and over while cleaning themselves, they can create a buildup of fur that collects on their tongues and eventually makes its way into their throats. 

When enough pieces of fur pile up, they turn into a hairball and it causes a major tickle in their throats. Hairballs also cause a blockage for cats and their instinctive response is to vomit the contents of their stomach in order to relieve themselves of the hairball. That's why hairballs are often coupled with vomit. This doesn't always happen, but it's not rare by any means. 

Another example of situations where cats vomit as a result of their own behaviors is when cats eat their food too fast. Have you ever caught your cat scarfing down their dry food? Sometimes, cats can display a tendency of eating way too quickly. 

When they consume their food faster, it can upset their stomach to the point of causing them to throw up. Additionally, the faster they eat, the more food they'll consume in one sitting because they aren't receiving the natural cues that show them they are full. 

And if your cat is like the majority of them, your feline friend will probably go from eating their food to engaging in playful activities with undigested food in their systems. Cats love to engage in playtime after eating because they have energy from their food, but playing too soon after eating increases the risk of vomiting.  

Food Allergies 

Food Allergies in Cats | Innovet PetFood allergies tie into gastrointestinal problems, which further increases the issue of vomiting. Oftentimes, food allergies in cats revolve around chicken, fish, and dairy, all of which must be given to a cat before a cat can have an allergy to them. This means that cats cannot have food allergies for foods they have never tried before. While some causes of cat vomiting result from everyday behaviors that are usually harmless in nature, other causes of vomiting stem from internal problems. Food allergies are an excellent example of something internal that causes cats to vomit. 

So, if you think your cat has an allergy to something in his or her diet, consult with your veterinarian for insight into figuring out the cause of the allergies. Your vet might suggest something known as an elimination diet to determine the food that your cat is allergic to, but you shouldn't try this method for your cat unless your cat's vet suggests that you do so. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is one of the health issues linked to high rates of vomiting. 

Inflammatory bowel disease refers to a disease that is marked by the inflammation of your cat's digestive tract. There are two types of inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. 

Both of these IBD subcategories involve inflammation of the part of the digestive system, but the exact location of the inflammation differs ever so slightly. For example, Crohn's disease involves inflammation of the thin lining that surrounds the digestive tract, including the small intestine. On the other hand, ulcerative colitis involves inflammation of the lining that protects the colon and the rectum.

When your cat is battling this inflammation, it’s more than likely that they will experience frequent vomiting as well. Both of these cause a great deal of discomfort for your cat, despite not being totally life-threatening. Inflammatory bowel disease still requires professional attention and medical care. 

Prevention 101: How to Prevent Vomiting in Cats 

There are many different ways to prevent your cat from vomiting, but the only solutions that will work are the ones that relate to your cat's diagnosis. For example, let's imagine two cats that are both experiencing frequent cat vomiting but one cat has a hairball while the other cat has a cat food allergy. 

How to Prevent Hairballs

The prevention measures that you can take for cats with hairballs are not the same as the preventative steps you can apply to a situation where a cat has a food allergy. For cats with hairballs, the best way to prevent vomiting is to prevent hairballs in the first place. You might be wondering how best to do this, and we have a great tip for you! 

Cats get hairballs as a result of hair building up in their throats and stomachs after grooming themselves. If you can carve out a few minutes every week where you spend time grooming your cat, brushing their fur, and even applying cat-friendly shampoo to their hair will work wonders. 

There are many loose pieces of hair that get picked up by your cat’s tongue, which are then swallowed and eventually accumulate into a big hairball that irritates their throats. The tickle in their throats causes them to throw up, creating a mix of vomit and the hairball. But if you make it a point to frequently groom your cat every week, it will lower the likelihood of hairballs. 

How to Prevent Vomiting Caused by Cat Food Allergies

While you should still groom cats whether they have a propensity for hairballs or not, grooming a cat with a food allergy will not lower the chances of the cat throwing up. Instead, you will need to eliminate the allergen from your cat’s diet. When you take away the allergen, your cat won’t experience frequent vomiting because the underlying cause of the problem is no longer in the picture. 

All in all, each situation will warrant a different prevention method, but preventing vomiting starts with identifying the underlying cause of the vomiting and then getting rid of it. If you are not sure how to prevent cat vomiting issues for your cat, don’t hesitate to address the situation with your vet. They can offer expert advice and help you lower the frequency of your cat’s vomiting spells.

How is Vomiting Diagnosed in Cats?

There are so many questions that need to be answered before your cat's veterinarian can definitively provide you with a diagnosis for your cat's vomiting. But these specific questions will be brought up by the vet, so be prepared to answer a few questions about your cat’s vomiting! 

Diagnostic tests are also introduced into the equation when trying to diagnose the underlying cause of your cat’s vomiting.

Some ways by which vomiting is diagnosed in cats include… 

  • Abdominal imaging 
  • X-rays and CT scans
  • Testing for barium levels  
  • Full blood counts 
  • Other blood work exams 
  • An ultrasound 
  • An endoscopy

Advice for What to Do When Your Cat is Vomiting 

When your cat is vomiting, you might find yourself feeling incredibly helpless. After all, what are you supposed to do at the moment? It’s an uncomfortable situation for both you and your cat, primarily because there isn’t a lot that can be done. 

Don’t interrupt your cats as they vomit. It’s a natural response to something that is bothering their system, so let them thoroughly finish throwing up. When they finish, check to make sure they are okay and help them get comfortable again after vomiting.  

Jot down the time of day and the number of times per day that you catch your cat vomiting. Another great detail to provide your cat’s vet with is a description of the vomit. As unpleasant as it is to create a detailed explanation of your cat’s vomit, it could give the vet more insight. The color of your cat's vomit can tell the vet where it is coming from, too. 

At the end of the day, your cat’s health is a top priority. It’s hard to say the underlying cause of your cat’s vomiting, so it is best to leave the problem-solving process up to the professionals. Vets are trained to figure out the cause of everything under the sun, so allow them to care for your cat and figure out why your cat is throwing up in the first place!

Sources:

Acute Vomiting in Cats
Cat Vomiting: Types, Causes and Treatments
Vomiting in Cats
Vomiting
Vomiting in Cats
Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids
Regulation of nausea and vomiting