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Vomiting in Cats – When to Worry

When it comes to vomiting in cats, it can be challenging to know when it’s time to worry.

Since our feline friends can have the occasional hairball, it makes it more difficult for cat owners to know when to act. So when should you worry about your cat’s vomiting?

In this article, we’ll dive into the details of vomiting in cats, and help you understand when it’s time to visit the vet for further care. 

Everything to Know About Vomiting in Cats

What Causes Bad Stomach in Cats?

Just like us, our cats can experience an upset stomach from time to time.

Our cats can be exposed to bacteria that can cause their stomachs to rumble, and even diet sensitivities that can lead to gastrointestinal upset.

There are a number of factors that can lead to an upset stomach in cats, some of which can cause our cats to vomit. 

Why Do Cats Vomit?

Before we discuss the factors behind vomiting in cats, it’s important to realize that vomiting is always a symptom of another issue.

Vomiting is a result of some other illness or irritant causing a cat to be nauseous, and will only resolve once the main factor is addressed. 

Now that we understand that vomiting is a symptom instead of the main issue, let’s discuss some of the most common causes of vomiting in cats. These possible causes include:

  • Changes in their diet
  • Eating fatty food
  • Consuming poor quality kibble
  • Eating indigestible items such as toys, plants, etc.
  • Severe hairballs
  • Bacterial infection
  • Foreign body
  • Urinary issues
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Underlying diseases involving the kidneys, liver, etc.

Difference Between Vomiting & Hairballs In Cats

Since cats are prone to hairballs, it can be difficult to know when a cat is actually vomiting versus experiencing hairballs.

Though hairballs can be normal in some cats, vomiting is not a normal symptom that should ever be ignored.

So how do you tell the difference between hairballs and vomiting in cats? Let’s dive into the details. 

Vomiting in Cats

When it comes to vomiting in cats, there are often many signs that point to a cat feeling ill. Before the vomiting actually begins, you may notice your cat appearing more sluggish than usual.

They may also refuse to eat, or eat less than they normally would. When your cat actually does vomit, you may notice them drooling or appearing in a trance-like state.

They will then have abdominal contractions leading up to the vomiting, and then vomit up the contents of their stomach after the contractions.

Vomit is not often cylindrical in shape, but closer to a liquid consistency. 

Hairballs in Cats

Hairballs in cats will often look like slender or cylindrical vomit.

Our feline friends have tiny barb-like structures on their tongues that allow for proper grooming and capture loose hair with each stroke of their tongue. Due to their fur being swept up by these barbs, this hair is swallowed and begins to move through the digestive tract.

While most of the fur will move past the stomach and into the intestines, some fur will remain in the cat’s stomach. This hair that’s left in the stomach will then be vomited up, creating a cylindrical hairball. 

Aside from the cylindrical shape and presence of fur in a hairball, there are other indicators that this could be a hairball versus actual vomit. When a cat has hairballs, it doesn’t usually feel ill or refuses to eat.

If a cat is truly nauseous and vomiting, you will likely notice other symptoms of GI upset. 

What Happens if Your Cat Throws Up White Foam?

If your cat is vomiting, you may see a variety of different colors and consistencies present in their vomit.

Cat vomit can be brown, green, yellow, liquid, thick, foamy, and more!

Though the color of a cat’s vomit can always cause concern, the most common question involves what could cause a cat to vomit white foam.

To put it simply, white foam is simply a result of air coming in contact with the vomit as it exits the stomach.

White foam can even be a result of the vomit being sloshed around in the belly.

Though white foam in your cat’s vomit may be alarming, the vomit itself should be the main concern. 

Why Is My Cat Throwing Up Repeatedly?

If your feline friend is repeatedly vomiting with no relief, this means that something is seriously upsetting their stomach.

Though occasional vomiting in a cat may be nothing to worry about, repeated vomiting should always be a great cause of concern.

A cat that is vomiting repeatedly may be suffering from gastrointestinal upset, a bacterial infection, toxicity, a serious illness, or any other complication that can lead to nausea.

No matter the cat in question, you should always seek veterinary advice if your cat vomits more than once. 

Is Cat Vomiting Serious?

cat throwing up

Cat vomiting can be potentially serious, especially when it’s left untreated. Since vomiting quickly dehydrated our feline friends, our cats can begin to experience serious complications after a few rounds of vomiting.

Not only is vomiting concerning, but it usually means that our cats are also unable to keep down food and water. Because of this combination, vomiting in cats should always be taken seriously.

If your cat vomits more than once, it’s time to contact your veterinarian for further care. 

When should I be concerned about my cat vomiting?

Anytime a cat vomits more than once, it immediately warrants concern.

Vomiting more than once is a sign that your cat is experiencing gastrointestinal upset, and will be easier treated the sooner you seek veterinary care.

When repeated vomiting is left untreated, it puts our cats at risk of serious complications and dehydration.

Immediate concern followed with action offers your cat the best chance at a fast recovery. 

What can I give my cat for vomiting?

Unfortunately, there is no at-home treatment option for vomiting in cats. Though some cat owners have turned to over-the-counter medication for nausea, these options are actually unsafe for our feline friends to consume.

The only safe treatment option for vomiting in cats is a prescribed medication from your cat’s veterinarian. 

Even though there are no at-home treatment options for cat vomiting, there are a few at-home tricks to help soothe their stomach.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you want to pull any food and water when your cat vomits for the first time. Since nausea can trick your cat into drinking more water, it’s important to remove these items and give their stomach a break. 

When your cat has recovered from its nausea and is ready to eat again, it’s best to offer them a bland diet option until their symptoms resolve. Your vet can either prescribe a low-fat diet from their office, or you can offer a bland diet of boiled chicken breast and white rice.

Boiled chicken breast and white rice is easy on a cat’s stomach and can be a tasty treat to offer when they are feeling under the weather. 

RELATED: Human Food that Cats Can Eat

Treating Vomiting In Cats

So how do you treat vomiting in cats? Each case will vary, but your veterinarian will likely turn to a few common treatment options. First, it’s important to get to the source of nausea.

This may involve performing blood work, radiographs, and any other diagnostics that your vet thinks is necessary. Based on the results of these tests, your veterinarian can come up with a plan of action. 

If your cat’s vomiting does not have a serious cause and has just begun, then your veterinarian will likely be able to rehydrate your cat with fluids under the skin and offer them medication for nausea control.

However, if your cat’s vomiting has resulted in serious dehydration, your cat will likely need to spend time in the hospital as they recover. During their stay, they will receive IV fluids, medications for nausea, antibiotics, and any other treatment that your vet feels is necessary. 

The treatment options vary based on how serious your cat’s symptoms are. In order to offer your cat the best prognosis, it’s important to see your vet as soon as you notice the first sign of abnormal behavior. 

As you can see, vomiting in cats is always a symptom of another cause. Be sure to review the information we discussed above, and you will know exactly what to do the next time that your cat vomits!

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