cat_vomiting_1_-_cat_vomiting

Cat Vomiting: How To Tell If It’s Serious

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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What is Acute Cat Vomiting?

what is acute cat vomiting

Acute vomiting refers to a sudden vomiting episode that lasts for 1 to 2 days. Cats with acute vomiting don’t usually have other symptoms.

Acute vomiting is a relatively benign condition that more often than not resolves on its own, without treatment. In other words, most acute vomiting episodes are self-limiting. 

What is Chronic Cat Vomiting?

Chronic vomiting, according to PetMd, refers to ongoing vomiting that lasts for more than a couple of days and several times per day. 

Chronic vomiting is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as appetite loss, abdominal pain, weight loss, and depression. Unlike acute, chronic vomiting requires veterinary attention and proper management. 

What Causes Cat Vomiting?

The list of cat vomiting causes is long and complex. To make things easier for understanding, we will review the causes of cat vomiting in two different categories – as causes of acute and causes of chronic cat vomiting. 

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Acute Cat Vomiting. The underlying causes of acute vomiting range from benign to severe. Therefore, it is important for pet owners to know these causes and act accordingly. Here is an overview of the causes of acute cat vomiting: 

  • Dietary Reasons for Cat Vomiting. One of the most common causes of vomiting in cats is diet. Cat food may contain byproducts that can upset the cat’s stomach. Sudden changes in the cat’s diet can also trigger vomiting and diarrhea. Make sure your cat’s food is high-quality and free from harmful ingredients. 
  • Treats and Milk. Just like cat food, cat treats often contain ingredients that can irritate the cat’s gastrointestinal tract and cause vomiting. Milk and other dairy products have the same effect since most adult cats are lactose intolerant.
  • Eating Too Fast. A cat vomiting or regurgitating undigested food is an indicator it ate the food too fast. Namely, if the food gets gulped down the esophagus too fast, chances are it will come back the same way. 
  • Consuming Foreign Bodies. Cats may swallow a foreign body (pieces of string, hairballs) which, once in the digestive tract, triggers irritation, and vomiting. In more severe cases, a foreign object may cause blockage. Long-haired cats are particularly prone to hairballs. 
  • Toxins or Chemicals. Ingestion of toxins or chemicals causes vomiting. Pet parents must know that many common household plants and products are toxic for cats. If your suspect your cat ate something toxic, call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435.
  • Intestinal Parasites. Intestinal parasites are common in cats, and they trigger an array of symptoms, including vomiting. Some parasites are dangerous for the cat owner as well. Common intestinal parasites are tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.
  • Acute Kidney and Liver Failure. Kidney disease and liver disease may trigger vomiting in cats. Both conditions are life-threatening and require prompt and adequate veterinary attention. In such cases, vomiting is the least of the problems. 
  • Gastrointestinal Inflammation and Infection. Inflammations and infections of any portion of the gastrointestinal tract will result in vomiting. The inflammation is often caused by poor dietary choices, while infections are caused by bacteria and viruses. 
  • Pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas (also known as pancreatitis) is accompanied by vomiting. Pancreatitis is a severe condition – painful and potentially life-threatening. A cat with pancreatitis needs to be stabilized immediately. 
  • Certain Human Medications. Some human medications can make cats experience nausea and develop acute vomiting. Considering that some meds can even be toxic to cats, it is highly recommended to consult with a vet before self-medicating your cat. 

Chronic Cat Vomiting. The possible causes of chronic vomiting in cats are generally more severe and require a more detailed approach. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common causes of chronic cat vomiting: 

  • Dietary Causes. Food allergies and intolerances are among the most common causes of chronic vomiting in cats. Getting to the bottom of your cat’s food allergies requires finding the offending protein and removing it from the diet. 
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) causes chronic vomiting in cats. IBD has a negative impact on the cat’s overall quality of life. The treatment for IBD depends on the exact type of cells involved in the inflammatory process. 
  • Intestinal Obstruction. Intestinal obstruction results from the accumulation of ingested solids and fluids in the intestinal tract. In such cases, cats vomit to relieve the build-up. Large clumps of intestinal parasites may also cause blockage and vomiting in cats.
  • Neurological Disorders. Injuries and infections of the central nervous system in cats may trigger neurological disorders, which may end up causing vomiting. A cat with such issues will show many neurological signs in addition to vomiting. 
  • Metabolic and Hormonal Imbalances. Problems with the normal metabolic processes may result in chronic vomiting. Chronic cat vomiting can also be triggered by hormonal issues like an overly active thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). 

What does the Color of Cat Vomit Mean?

Emergency Vets USA states that the color of a cat’s vomit is important to note, and may help a vet better diagnose the underlying issue on a cat’s health. 

Here is a short overview of the different cat vomit colors and their meaning. 

Brown Cat Vomit. Regular cat food and treats are brown, which may affect the color of the vomit. The cat’s vomit may also be colored brown if it contains blood. It is recommended to clean up vomit with a white paper towel so blood can be easier to spot.

Green Cat Vomit. If a cat’s vomit is green, this could be due to the cat eating some kind of plant material. Green vomit can also be an indicator of bile presence. This can happen if a cat gets sick on an empty stomach.

Yellow Cat Vomit. If a cat’s vomit is yellow, this is also an indicator that bile is present. This typically means they are vomiting on an empty stomach and not because of something they ate. Basically, yellow cat vomit is relatively benign. 

Red Cat Vomit. If a cat’s vomit is red, there might be some source of bleeding in the digestive tract (for example, an ulcer). Internal bleeding can be life-threatening and requires immediate veterinary attention. 

Black Cat Vomit. If a cat’s vomit is black and tarry, it usually contains digested blood (which looks like coffee grounds). Black cat vomit is a red flag that requires veterinary attention. It can also be caused by the cat eating black-colored human foods. 

White Cat Vomit. If a cat’s vomit is white, it usually means there is foam present in the vomit. This does not make a cat’s condition more serious and is usually a result of the cat vomiting on an empty stomach.

How Much Cat Vomit is Normal?

Although all cats throw up occasionally, vomiting is not normal behavior according to WebMD. It is important to see a vet if the cat is vomiting more than once a week or consistently every few weeks. 

A cat throwing up may signify she is eating too fast, too much, or simply attempting to get rid of hairballs. These reasons are not life-threatening but are uncomfortable, so it is better to prevent them. 

What to Give a Cat for Vomiting?

What to Give a Cat for Vomiting

If a cat is experiencing acute vomiting due to issues like excessive hairballs, there are certain treats and chews that can be purchased.

  1. Natural Hairball Control Chews for Cats.

These chicken and cranberry flavored chews will help to prevent and eliminate hairball formation. They also promote skin, fur, and coat health while relieving itch and irritation.

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  1. Dechra Cat Lax Hairball Formula.

This edible gel is not only tasty for cats but also helps to prevent and eliminate hairballs in cats. It comes in a three-pack of two-ounce tubes.

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  1. HomeoPet Digestive Upsets Drops

These digestive drops are great for cats with constipation, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. They are specifically good for cats who vomit after eating or from eating too much.

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  1. Sentry Hairball gel Relief for Cats

This edible gel helps in the prevention and elimination of hairballs. The gel is also useful for relieving hairball-related constipation, dry cough, and vomiting. 

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  1. Greenies Hairball Prevention Chews

These chicken-flavored chewable treats help minimize hairball formation. They are made of plant-based fiber and promote healthy digestion.

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When Should I Be Concerned About My Cat Vomiting?

In many cases, vomiting is considered to be a non-specific symptom, making it challenging to diagnose a disorder solely in the presence of vomiting. In general, you should be concerned if the vomiting is chronic or accompanied by other signs and symptoms. 

Common signs and symptoms accompanying cat vomiting are: 

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation 
  • Retching 
  • Weight loss
  • Upset Stomach
  • Dehydration
  • Bloody vomit
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Appetite loss 
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Fluctuation in water intake
  • Frequent trips to the litter box 

Furthermore, pet owners should monitor the frequency of the vomit and when it occurs (e.g., after eating, being outdoors). 

How do Veterinarians Diagnose Cat Vomiting? 

To diagnose cat vomiting, the vet will start with a physical exam. It should be noted that vomiting is not a diagnosis – it is a symptom. Therefore, the vet’s goal is to determine what is making the cat vomit. 

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the veterinarian will perform the following diagnostic tests and procedures: 

  • Blood Work  
  • X-rays of the abdomen 
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Endoscopy
  • Exploratory laparotomy. 

How will a Vet Treat Cat Vomiting?

How will a Vet Treat Cat Vomiting

Typically, the treatment of cat vomiting involves withholding food and water until to give the upset stomach time to settle. Once the vomiting has stopped, pet parents will be advised to slowly reintroduce water and then a bland diet.

The above-mentioned approach works for cats with acute vomiting. Chronic cat vomiting is a more serious condition that requires veterinary attention – finding and treating the underlying cause while providing supportive care. 

The treatment for cat vomiting can be costly, especially if the underlying issue is severe. In such cases, it is helpful to have good pet insurance. We strongly recommend OneVet, which provides 24/7 access to licensed vets and up to $3.000 in emergency funds.