Cat vomit: Is it bad, or natural?
If you’re a cat owner, chances are you’ve had to grab the paper towels and carpet cleaner once or twice in your life, after hearing that familiar sound your cat makes just before s/he empties their stomach (nothing moves faster then a cat owner who hears those heaving sounds!).
While unsightly and often messy to clean up, there may be some reasons as to why your cat is regurgitating, which will we look into in this article.
We will also explain when to seek vetinary advice, and what steps you can take to help your feline friend get back on their paws should they be a little under the weather.
So why do cats throw up, and what is does vomiting in cats mean?
Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
Acute Vs Chronic: Why Do Cats Throw Up?
It is important to ascertain what type of vomiting is present with your feline friend. There are two main types, those being acute, and chronic.
Acute vomiting is a sudden change in your cats’ behaviour, with multiple bouts of vomiting occurring regularly and suddenly, often accompanied by changes in your cats’ general behaviour as well.
If acute cat vomiting becomes present, a vet consultation is advised as quickly as possible, as this could be a sign of something serious.
Chronic vomiting in cats can be classed as “less urgent”.
If your cat tends to vomit once in a while, but less then daily/weekly, and is in general good health, while still eating/drinking, playing, sleeping normally (etc), this is not usually a cause for concern, as there could be simple reasons as to why.
Of course, any concerns should be addressed by a qualified vet if you feel worried or notice anything “off”.
What can cause vomiting in cats?
There may be a few reasons as to why your cat vomits. Some of them are easy to treat/alleviate, others more serious.
It is hard to pinpoint the exact reasoning without a thorough vet exam, however, below are some of the most common and well known possible reasons for vomiting in cats.
Gorging can cause cat vomiting
Gorging is usually a very common reason.
Your cat may have eyes bigger then their stomach, and decide to try and wolf down their food as quickly as possible. With no time to digest or process it, naturally the cats stomach can’t handle the sudden influx of food, and will release it rather quickly.
The food will often be barely chewed, and the vomit will usually be the colour of the food just eaten, and in a tubular shape, as it hasn’t had the chance to enter the cat’s stomach properly, and stays in the shape of the esophagus.
Hairballs are a risk factor
Another common reason for a cat to vomit is hairballs. These are clumps of fur your cat ingests while grooming themselves.
Much more common in long-haired breeds or pairs/families of cats who groom each other, a cat will gather a build up in their throat and stomach, and eventually regurgitate it.
Often this will look as it sounds, a ball or untidy clump of fur, usually mixed with bile/saliva and with a yellowish hue (the joys of owning pets!).
Foreign objects are often time another cause, whereby a cat can accidently (or otherwise) ingest something that is indigestible (string, for instance), and it causes a blockage in either their throat or stomach.
As a natural attempt at removing it, the cat will often vomit. Sometimes with success, other times without.
If the obstruction does find it’s way out, you’ll often find this to be in the middle of a messy mass of stomach fluids (keep the carpet cleaner handy!).
Stress in cats can cause cat vomiting too
Stress can also sometimes cause vomiting in cats.
Changes to routines, new people coming and going, unexpected noises, factors such as these can be a contributing reason to your cat vomiting.
While stress usually manifests as other conditions (cystisis, for instance), it cannot be unaddressed when assessing potential reasons, and any significant changes should be noted and not ignored.
One final prominent reason, overlooked by many, is diet.
A sudden change to a cat’s food or regular diet can cause a reflux action, and you may find it will take some time and gradual adjustment before they can handle the food.
Sometimes, the food is simply unsuitable or contains an ingredient or allergen that your cat simply cannot stomach (forgive the terrible pun).
Often time, the vomit will be clumps of undigested food, thrown up in small balls, resembling the same structure as a hairball.
These issues are usually not a serious concern, as long as they are addressed early and action is taken (a blockage can be cause for concern depending on what was ingested, treat it as cautious).
Some of the above reasons are even listed as “commonplace” for cat vomiting.
Cats have a habit of trying to eat what they shouldn’t, and other times they’re simply a little greedy. “Par for the course”, one could say, and most times you will find these are the most common reasons for vomiting.
There are other reasons linked to more serious ailments, all of which will require vet attention as soon as possible to determine exactly what is wrong.
These ailments can include, and aren’t limited to:
- Exposure to toxins (such as antifreeze and the Lily flower. Both are considered fatal, immediate treatment will be required).
- Organ failure/dysfunction.
- Stomach conditions.
- Intestinal complications.
- Feline infections (examples being heartworm, F.I.P, feline flu, etc).
Types of cat vomit and when to address concerns
Colors of vomit in cats can be an indicator as to what might be going on with your cat.
While not concrete, inspecting vomit before disposing can be very handy in finding out what demands medical attention, and what could be attributed to something more simple.
Signs to watch out for are:
- Blood in the vomit, which could be from either the mouth, stomach or throat.
- Coffee ground colour/consistency vomit, which can be a sign of stomach bleeding from ulcers/stomach issues.
- Brown/stinky vomit, which can be caused by bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Yellow-ish coloured vomit, which could be bile, but could also be a kidney related issue.
If any of these are noticed, and on a more regular then not basis, it is advised to book a vet visit as soon as possible, the earlier any conditions are spotted, the earlier treatment can begin.
What can I do to help?
As mentioned above, any serious changes should be taken as just that, serious.
Get in contact with a local, reputable vet, at the very least for some advice on what to do.
However, for the more common symptoms, there are some steps you can take to try and alleviate your cats’ symptoms, and get your cat “feline fine!” (The last terrible pun, honest!).
Increase water intake
Increase water intake. Cats need more water then they think they do, and sometimes a simple increased intake of water can help to either push things through their stomachs, break down any undigested matter, or even help push it back out through their throat to clear the blockage.
A simple way to up water intake is to increase your cat’s wet food consumption.
Also, adding water to their food (dry or wet) can help with water intake.
Try to avoid using metal or plastic bowls which can taint the water with an odd taste.
Adding a cat water fountain to your home will encourage your cat to not only play, but to take more water (cats much prefer natural flowing sources for water then just a bowl, and a flowing fountain will certainly be appreciated!).
Also read: Best water fountain for cats.
Observe your cat
Observation will also be a crucial factor. Watching your cat and monitoring their behavior changes and habits can be a very helpful preventative step.
Catching any changes or symptoms early enough can ensure your cat remains healthy, or gets the treatment needed much quicker then if left unnoticed.
If vomiting is becoming more frequent, pay close attention each time. Try to ask yourself new questions while noticing anything new, questions such as:
Is your cat showing symptoms of diarrhea, or has changed their sleeping habits, or cries out a lot more then usual?
Do they not seem as playful as usual?
How soon after eating are they vomiting?
Is your cat losing any weight or seem lethargic/uninterested in food?
Do they now seem to want to hide away more, or have any struggles/issues with breathing?
Any changes to routine behavior or traits should be monitored as closely as possible.
While this may be difficult sometimes, especially with outdoor cats, do as best as you can.
Cats are very clever, and have subtle ways of letting you know something isn’t quite right, so any subtle changes or more drastic ones should be monitored closely.
Try to reduce any stress
Stress reduction can also help.
Cats aren’t well adapted to deal with stress, and sometimes stress can manifest itself in different ways.
Researching signs of stress and taking close notice of your cat can help with ways to do this, and trying to reduce stress or stressful situations can be very helpful, not only for alleviating vomiting, but also for their general health.
Cat toys, playing with your cat some more to expel their built up energy, placing some extra litter trays and scratching posts around can all help with this.
You know your furry friend better than most.
If you notice anything strange, or anything you’d deem as unusual, don’t leave it to chance after trying your best to help.
The longer it is left, the potentially worse it could be long term, so keep an eye on your kitty, keep a local vet’s number handy, and everything will be just puuuurrrr-fect!