Fact: Cats vomit. It’s just what they do! But aside from being a little gross, your cat’s vomiting might actually seem a little scary. Here’s what vets want you to know about what causes feline vomiting and how you can help.
Vomiting, Acute Vomiting, or Chronic Vomiting?
There’s a significant difference between a cat who vomits occasionally, one who is vomiting uncontrollably, and one who seems to vomit all the time. Each kind of vomiting suggests different causes and necessitates a different course of treatment.
Feline Vomiting: Most cats vomit occasionally. For some cats this can happen once or twice a month; for others, vomiting might only happen a few times a year.
Acute Feline Vomiting: Acute vomiting is usually very sudden and can be quite uncomfortable for your cat and/or involve a significant volume of vomit.
Chronic Feline Vomiting: Chronic vomiting occurs on a regular basis – more than several times a week - and might not even seem to phase your cat.
The Causes of Vomiting in Cats
There are dozens of reasons your cat might vomit. Remember that the kind of vomiting your cat suffers from (occasional, acute, or chronic) probably has a lot to do with the root cause.
Here are some of the most common reasons cats might vomit:
1. Ingestion of Substances
Sudden, acute vomiting is often induced by the ingestion of something that disagrees with your cat’s stomach. These substances can range from relatively harmless (spoiled food, bitter leaves) to life-threatening (human medications, poisonous chemicals, string or yarn). If you suspect your cat has eaten something that is causing her to vomit, consult a vet immediately.
Hairballs are damp, undigested wads of hair; almost all cats get them. Vomiting up a hairball is usually accompanied by hacking noises and spasms and of course, the expulsion of a ball of hair. Most hairballs come out relatively easily, but if you cat can’t seem to get one out, talk to your vet about whether or not it might eventually cause intestinal blockage.
3. Bacteria, Viruses, or Parasites
Certain bacterial and viral infections within your cat’s intestinal tract can result in vomiting. Likewise, a gastrointestinal parasite might induce regular vomiting in a cat who can’t process food properly.
4. Chronic Disease
Vomiting can be a symptom of a number of chronic – sometimes undetected – diseases. Acute kidney failure, acute liver failure, gall bladder inflammation, colitis, gastritis, and pancreatitis are some of the most common. A qualified vet can evaluate your vet for these diseases and suggest a treatment plan.
5. Change in Diet
An often-overlooked cause of vomiting is a change in a cat’s diet. If you’ve recently changed your cat’s food, added new foods, or even started a course of feline medication, nausea and/or indigestion may result. If this is the root cause, the vomiting should eventually subside.
How You Can Help a Vomiting Cat
While your cat is vomiting, stay out of her way but be sure she’s in a safe location. Re-hydration is important after vomiting, but most vets recommend waiting around two hours after an episode of vomiting to offer your cat any water or bland food.
Don’t let your cat eat her expelled vomit, even if she tries. If you’re unsure what caused the vomiting, consider keeping a sample of the vomit to give to your vet for testing.
If your cat’s vomiting is severe or frequent, you’ll want to talk to your vet. She may recommend fluid therapy or anti-emetic medication until your cat feels better. She might also want to test or evaluate your cat for any underlying causes like disease or infection.
When in doubt about your cat’s vomiting, talk to your vet!
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