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Why Is My Cat Throwing Up?

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If you own a cat, you have probably come across more than a few unpleasant piles of cat vomit around the house. While cat vomit can be annoying, it is not always a cause for concern.

Cats throw up to eliminate hairballs, expel grass and other non-food items, and regurgitate food they have eaten too quickly. With that said, there are other situations when a cat’s vomiting can indicate a more serious issue.

To help you understand why your cat is vomiting, we’ll go over the different reasons why felines throw up. We will also explain what you can do to help your cat if the issue becomes concerning or a nuisance.

angry red ginger cat on black background

Why Do Cats Throw Up?

As mentioned, there are many potential reasons why a cat could be throwing up. Some of the reasons are natural and no need for concern, but others require treatment and may indicate a fairly serious medical issue. 

Hairballs

As cats groom themselves, their textured tongues pull loose and damaged hair from their coats. When cats swallow this hair and debris, it can accumulate within the stomach. Since the hair is not easy to digest, the cat will get rid of it by vomiting a hairball.

This type of throwing up is nothing to worry about and is a natural part of a cat’s grooming process. But, if the cat is suddenly producing an excessive number of hairballs each day, you might want to speak with a veterinarian to make sure that the frequent vomiting of hairballs is not a sign of something more serious.

Brushing your cat more frequently can help reduce the frequency of hairballs. There are also supplements and diets you can use to manage your cat’s hairballs.

Gastroenteritis

Essentially, gastroenteritis is just the medical term used to describe an upset stomach. Just like humans, cats experience discomfort in their stomachs and digestive system for a variety of reasons. In less serious cases, it is usually just caused by a mild food allergy.

When a cat is throwing up repeatedly, it may because they’ve consumed contaminated food, such as spoiled meat. This is far more common with outdoor cats, especially those that hunt and consume prey. In some cases, the cat will have simply eaten a piece of rotten food from a garbage can.

If the vomiting only occurs a few times then seems to resolve itself, there is a good chance it was just a mild reaction to something the cat ate. If it happens whenever the cat eats its daily meals, it could mean that your cat is allergic to one or more ingredients in the food. In these situations, a veterinarian might recommend trying another type of cat food.

It is also worth noting that cats usually have a sensitivity to most types of milk. Despite what you see in the movies, it is not a good idea to give cow’s milk to your cat. It often triggers issues in the intestinal tract, like vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort.

Trapped Foreign Bodies and Obstructions

An intestinal blockage within the cat’s digestive system can trigger repeated episodes of vomiting. Your cat can swallow pieces of toys, bits of string, and other indigestible objects as it plays. These objects get trapped inside the cat’s gastrointestinal tract, leading to vomiting as well as other serious clinical signs. Look for the presence of blood and other symptoms, like weight loss and lethargy.

These situations should be treated as an emergency, as the blockage can become life-threatening if it is not removed quickly.

Illness and Disease

Some of the more serious reasons why cats throw up are chronic illnesses and diseases. Kidney disease, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, and various types of cancer can all cause a cat to experience chronic nausea and vomiting.

If your cat has repeated vomiting that is accompanied by symptoms such as a loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, significant changes in litter box habits, or any other noticeable changes in behavior, book an appointment with a veterinarian immediately.

When you are dealing with serious illnesses and diseases, the sooner the issue is identified, the better it will be for your cat.

Parasites

While it may sound unpleasant, the presence of parasites, like intestinal worms, can cause a cat to throw up. These issues tend to be more common in kittens, but they can occur at all life stages. If you notice small, white strings in the cat’s vomit, you should contact a veterinarian right away.

Luckily, treating these parasites is fairly easy, and it will resolve the vomiting issue.

Why Does My Cat Throw Up Undigested Food?

Some cats will regurgitate their food before it has had a chance to be digested. While it is often mistaken for vomiting, regurgitation is somewhat different. Where vomit contains contents of the stomach, like water, bile, and partially digested food, regurgitation only involves ejecting the contents of the mouth and esophagus.

You will notice the cat makes less noise than when they are vomiting, and they seem to lower their head while food falls out. Typically, this will occur within an hour of eating.

Causes

Sometimes, the reason why the cat regurgitates its food is that it eats too fast. It could also be linked to a food allergy.

In some situations, a cat will eat much faster than usual because they are experiencing stress or if there is a significant environmental change. Others will regurgitate their food when they have been switched to a new type of food too quickly.

What Can You Do?

You can try feeding your cat smaller portions throughout the day rather than big meals to encourage the cat to slow down while they eat. There are toys and feeding apparatuses that make the cat take their time while they eat, and you can find them at most pet stores.

There are also cat foods specifically formulated for cats with allergies and sensitive stomachs. You can speak with your veterinarian if the cat’s regurgitation is becoming a serious issue.

If the cat is regurgitating its food and displaying other irregular symptoms, like lethargy, weight loss, and diarrhea, a physical exam with a veterinarian is necessary to get to the bottom of the issue.

Why Does My Cat Throw Up White Foam?

Throwing up white foam is fairly common in cats. Usually, it means that the stomach is empty, and there is no material for the cat to bring up. If the cat is not eating its food but seems to throw up white foam, it could be a sign of a food allergy or a blockage. In either scenario, you should book an appointment with a vet if the behavior continues.

In many cases, vomiting white foam is a precursor to a hairball. In these cases, you can use an over-the-counter hairball management supplement if the problem continues.

White foam can also come up if the cat is experiencing gastritis. When this happens, the white foam might also be dotted with bile. Irritable bowel syndrome can also be associated with throwing up white foam.

If the white foam only appears once or twice, it is probably not a major concern; however, if the cat is chronically throwing up white foam, it might be a good idea to book an appointment with a veterinarian.

Final Words

While throwing up can have a benign cause in cats, it is important to watch out for signs that it could be linked to something more serious. Check the contents of the cat’s vomit and keep an eye on other symptoms or changes in their behavior. If your cat is vomiting more than about once a week, or If you are unsure whether or not it is a serious issue, contact a veterinarian right away.

If you have other questions about your cat’s health, you should also consider reading the following informative cat care articles: Top 10 Less-Known Pet Toxins and How to Prevent Hairballs in Cats.

As always, our Hello Ralphie online vets can address your questions and concerns right away, and an appointment can take place right from the comfort of your own home. Create your free online profile to view vets that are available to help and give you peace of mind.

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