Why is My Cat Throwing Up? A Definitive Guide to Cat Vomiting!

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By: Fabiana Piñeda Updated: April 17, 2020

cat vomiting bile

Cats do vomit occasionally, just like humans and other animals! Vomiting in cats differs from regurgitation. Although a cat vomiting up a hairball may seem unproblematic, long-term vomiting in cats may be due to an underlying medical condition.

Vomiting in cats can be caused by digestive issues, kidney or liver failure, nervous system disorders, or pancreatitis. So here’s what you need to know about your cat throwing up!

SUMMARY VERSION: Wondering how to get your cat to stop throwing up? Try this!

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Honest Kitchen Perfect Form Herbal Digestive Supplement$7.99
The Honest Kitchen Perfect Form Herbal Digestive Dog & Cat Supplement supports the normal healthy functioning of your dog or cat’s digestive tract. This pet nutrition supplement combats gas, facilitates regularity, firms up loose stools, and soothes and protects the GI Tract. Perfect Form is ideal for pets with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Colitis or occasional digestive upset (diarrhea or vomiting). Use in conjunction with a grain-free diet for best results. It can be fed directly or mixed with food.

Feline Emesis: What is Cat Vomiting?

Short-term cat vomiting may be occasional, and is usually not associated with other abnormalities. That said, long-term vomiting is usually associated with the following symptoms: 

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Electrolyte imbalance

Short-term cat vomiting can be the result of hairballs, and will occur occasionally. You can tell if a cat is about to vomit if you hear gagging followed by the forceful ejection of food or fluids from the stomach or small intestine.

Type of Vomiting in Cats

There are three reasons why a cat vomits: on occasion (also known as feline vomiting), acute feline vomiting, or chronic feline vomiting.

On Occasion 

Occasional cat vomiting can be controlled by identifying, and getting rid of the cause. You should also allow for your cat’s digestive system to recover. That said, if you cat has been vomiting for a couple of days, but no longer than 4 days, and there are no other symptoms present, you’ll usually be fine by just relieving the symptoms. Treatment for short-term vomiting usually entails withholding food for 24-hours, and limiting water.

On the other hand, if your cat is suffering from kidney or heart disease, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your cat may need to stay at the veterinary clinic for intravenous treatment. Feeding cats small amounts of food after they’ve stopped vomiting for 24-hours with small amounts of water usually helps. 

Acute

Acute feline vomiting typically appears very suddenly, and is not pleasant for your cat. It can also involve a significant amount of vomit or projectile vomiting. This usually occurs because they’ve eaten something unpleasant, or may be due to a sensitive stomach. Symptoms may be severe, and usually present in the following ways:

  • Continuous vomiting
  • Pain & distress
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Bright blood in vomit (hematemesis)
  • Dark blood in stool (melena)

Chronic

Chronic cat vomiting occurs more often than once, and can also damage the esophagus, sometimes causing ulceration. It’s important to look out severe complications that result from chronic vomiting in cats because your cat may not be getting all the necessary ingredients that he needs. Food could also be ingested into the airways. This can lead to your cat coughing, and possibly, even to pneumonia. Your cat may also be in pain.

sick cat keeps throwing up at vet

Products for a Cat Throwing Up

If your cat seems uncomfortable and has abdominal pain, feels out of sorts, and is vomiting, it’s always important to have a veterinary consult to make sure that your cat is not suffering from any underlying medical conditions. Long-term vomiting, which is vomiting that occurs more than once or twice daily and may be accompanied by blood, fever, weakness, and dehydration, may need to be treated for these conditions.

Although you should always consult your vet for recommendations, you can start by looking into preventative products that can help your cat’s digestive and immune health.

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VetriScience Hairball Bite-Sized Cat Chews, 60 count$9.00
VetriScience Hairball Bite-Sized Cat Chews provide safe, effective hairball relief using pure and highly researched ingredients. This powerful hairball formula supports your cat’s overall digestive wellness with psyllium, a soluble fiber that helps maintain the G.I. tract. It also keeps your cat’s coat in top condition with omega-3 and 6 to hydrate the skin along with biotin and zinc to contribute to skin and coat health.

While some products are as quick and simple as chews, there are a variety of other options to consider. Depending on the causes of your cat’s symptoms, the type of treatment and dosage will vary.

Rated 4.50/5.00 by Certapet
Honest Kitchen Perfect Form Herbal Digestive Supplement$7.99
The Honest Kitchen Perfect Form Herbal Digestive Dog & Cat Supplement supports the normal healthy functioning of your dog or cat’s digestive tract. This pet nutrition supplement combats gas, facilitates regularity, firms up loose stools, and soothes and protects the GI Tract. Perfect Form is ideal for pets with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Colitis or occasional digestive upset (diarrhea or vomiting). Use in conjunction with a grain-free diet for best results. It can be fed directly or mixed with food.

Combining a healthier or adjusted diet and supplements will probably make a big difference in your cat’s health. Regardless, making a vet’s appointment first cannot be stressed enough. After all, we want the best care for our four-legged children.

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VetriScience Fast Balance G.I. Paste Calibrated Tube, 35-cc$20.00
VetriScience Laboratories’ Fast Balance G.I. Paste contains a specialized, mannan oligosaccharide-rich yeast extract that is derived from the cell wall of yeast. It also includes probiotics in several strains, fungal-derived enzymes, and B vitamins, which work together to help normalize the G.I. tract. Fast Balance is recommended for garbage gut, nervous gut, and food sensitivities, as well as stress, quick normalization of digestion, and older pets in need of digestive support.

Sensitive Stomach Cat Food and Probiotics: Dinovite for Cats and Pet Ultimates!

Understanding the importance of a veterinary visit for a complete diagnosis is important. Your veterinarian may prescribe a special cat food for sensitive stomachs, and may also recommend feeding your pet a diet of soft food, that is also low in fat and fiber. This is usually done with small and frequent mini meals for your cats. 

 If your cat is suffering from a serious case of inflammation of the esophagus caused by acid reflux, your veterinarian may recommend feeding with a feeding tube that is surgically placed in the stomach. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to combat a bacterial infection. 

Cats on a commercial diet do best with a bland diet. Today, there are numerous pet food brands that have formulated high-quality prescription cat food diets for cats with sensitive stomachs. These diets are effective for many health issues in cats that are related to hair ball ingestion, stomach sensitivities, itchy skin, and more.

According to Veterinary Practice News, nutrition plays a key role in helping resolve and manage gastrointestinal issues in pets. The study adds that “Collectively, in a complete and balanced diet, the clinical impact and performance of these ingredients on the GI tract was not well understood. The approach of assessing the synergistic impact of how ingredients deliver nutrition, and ultimately a positive clinical outcome, is appropriate to what veterinarians eventually recommend to their patients. In addition, evaluating gut microbiome changes, fecal metabolite concentrations, and gut immune outcomes in response to a collection of ingredients as the test/stimulus would certainly advance our scientific understanding of nutrition’s role in combating GI disease,” via Veterinary Practice News. 

Consult with your veterinarian for the best advice as to the beneficial ingredients in certain cat food formulas for cats with sensitive stomachs. These formulas offer highly digestible ingredients with additional essential nutrients to prevent digestive issues and vomiting.

Pet Ultimates Probiotics for Cats and Dinovite for Cats are great beginners when dealing with your cat throwing up if you begin to notice their illness. However, as you’ll learn later in the article – sometimes it’s natural! Gross but true.

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Pet Ultimates Probiotics for Cats$32.95
Each tasty scoop of PetUltimates Probiotics for Cats contains five billion bacteria known to support regular digestion, healthy skin, renewed vitality. The army of protective microorganisms in our Probiotics for Cats guards the feline colon against mucosal inflammation and infections by yeast, toxic bacteria and other opportunistic microorganisms. Among the benefits are less litterbox smell, reduced shedding, firmer stools, and suppression of allergic symptoms such as itching, scratching and hot spots.

Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Natural Adult Dry Cat Food and Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Cat Food can help if your cat has regular stomach issues. If you do suspect your cat has a sensitive stomach, always consult your vet. You never know if it will mean something serious or not.

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Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Natural Adult Dry Cat Food$41.50
BLUE for Cats dry cat food recipes are made with the finest natural ingredients enhanced with vitamins and minerals. Starting with real meat as the 1st ingredient, they include wholesome grains, veggies and fruit, plus our exclusive, antioxidant-rich Life Source Bits to support your feline’s overall health and well-being. BLUE for Cats has formulations to meet all of your cat’s life stage and lifestyle needs, from hairball and weight control to sensitive stomach and healthy aging recipes. BLUE for Cats is a product of the Blue Buffalo company. Based in the United States, Blue Buffalo makes premium-quality pet foods.
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Hill's Science Diet Dry Cat Food, Adult, Sensitive Stomach & Skin$53.99
Your cat's stomach health is a vital part of his or her everyday life, which is why Hill'sNULL Science DietNULL Sensitive Stomach & Skin dry cat food provides optimal digestive health while nourishing skin & promoting a lustrous fur. Using prebiotic fiber, this dry food fuels your adult cat's beneficial gut bacteria, helping support a balanced microbiome for lifelong health. The easy-to-digest ingredients allow your feline friend's stomach to process nutrients quickly – a process that allows for easier stool pickup as well. Finally, this cat food made with natural ingredients provides vitamin E and omega-6s to nourish your grown cat's skin and support a healthy fur coat. There’s more to love with the new look of Science DietNULL. Some of our products also have new names, new kibble shapes & new formulas.

Learn what most vets say about cats throwing up and causes below!

A Symptom of a Bigger Problem? What Causes Vomiting in Cats?

Sometimes cats will eat too fast, and this causes them to vomit, and to have an upset stomach. Regurgitation is a passive motion where you cat expels fluid and food that has not been digested. Most times this has a cylindrical shape like that of the esophagus.

 

Also, as cats are meticulous groomers, they will swallow some of the loose hair from their coat. That said, hair cannot be digested, so it will stick together in the stomach, and form a hairball. Most times your cat will throw this up. Nonetheless, it can also build up into a dense mass, and could block the digestive tract causing a serious medical problem.

 

Regurgitation may not seem to be an issue, and a veterinary consult will allow for an accurate diagnosis to rule out the following conditions:

 

  • Dehydration
  • Digestive tract obstruction
  • Disorders of the stomach and intestines like inflammation
  • Constipation
  • Feline enteric coronavirus
  • Inflammation of the stomach
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Malabsorption
  • Bacterial disorders
  • Salmonella infections
  • Parasitic infections

Lack of Appetite in Cats with Vomiting

Lack of appetite in cats can come about from constipation, inflammation, feline coronavirus, hairballs, obstructions, inflammatory bowel disease (IBM), ulcers, and more. Your cat could have also ingested something poisonous, or be suffering from malabsorption due to a lack of enzymes from the pancreas.

With malabsorption your cat will have fluid accumulation in the stomach and other tissues. Your veterinarian will do a full examination to check for dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, cancer screenings, anemia. If there are thickened bowel loops or enlarged abdominal lymph nodes, your veterinarian may also recommend lab tests to help check for metabolic diseases like hyperthyroidism.

A diet change will be implemented which will limit protein sources and levels of fats and carbs. Cats with inflammatory bowel disease will have more issues with their diets. Hence, the importance of taking your cat to the veterinarian for digestive and stomach issues. Single protein sources tend to work well when dietary sensitivity is an issue. 

Chronic diseases that may affect your cat’s appetite may include the following:

  • Colitis
  • Kidney failure
  • Gallbladder inflammation
  • Gastritis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer

Commonly diagnosed disorders in cats that vomit and have a lack of appetite may be debilitating for your cat. All of these require testing and a diagnosis so that your cat can be treated. Additionally, it’s important to make sure that your cat does not become dehydrated.

cat hairball due to cat throwing up foam

Sometimes Vomiting is Normal! Enter Cat Hair Balls…

If you’ve ever had a cat, you are absolutely familiar with cat hairballs. Hairballs are undigested, wet wads of fur – and almost every cat gets them.

Hairball vomiting is typically followed by hacking noises and spasms – and then the vomiting of the said hairball. While most hairballs expel easily, if your cat can’t get it out, bring them to the veterinarian as it could cause intestinal blockage.

Cancer in Cats That Vomit

According to a study, cancer in cats is prevalent, but treatable. Cats with cancer will have numerous symptoms and digestive issues. They will also have side effects from cancer treatments like weight loss and vomiting. The study adds that 30% of cats that are ten and older will develop cancer. Cancers of the digestive system in cats is not common, and affects around 1% of all cancers in cats. Intestinal tumors spread fast, and are usually malignant. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Vomiting (sometimes with blood)
  • Diarrhea (with blood)
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Weight loss
  • Straining
  • Abdominal infection
  • Anemia

Why Does My Cat Vomit Up Bile? 

Most cats will usually vomit up bile before eating in the early morning and late evening. This is made in the cat’s liver, and stored in the gallbladder. Bile is released in the small intestine to help with digestion. The cause may be gastritis or inflammation of the intestine. 

Cat Throwing Up Food

This is common, but if it happens all the time, consult with your veterinarian. Cats do throw up undigested food, and this could be due to eating too fast, or consuming too much food in a short period of time. A change in diet could also be the cause, or your cat could be allergic to certain ingredients in the cat food formula. That said, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian, and to possibly get a prescribed cat food formula for sensitive stomachs.

cat puking food

Cats throwing up undigested food is quite common and often harmless. When cats vomit their food, it is often because they ate too much, too fast.

When a cat is vomiting up food, diet change can be to blame – especially in cats with sensitive stomachs. Furthermore, food allergies can be to blame. For example, a cat can be intolerant or allergic to a particular ingredient in their food. Common cat allergies include fish, beef, eggs, milk, and wheat.

My Sick Cat is Vomiting Up Blood?

There’s nothing worse than noticing blood in your cat’s vomit. Hematemesis can be caused by numerous health issues. These may be due to the following conditions:

  • Trauma
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Ulcer
  • Inflammation
  • Campylobacter Infections (bacterial) 

Digested blood may look like coffee grounds, and can also look like fresh blood and blood clots.  A diagnosis needs to be made based on a thorough examination that includes a physical with abdominal ultrasound scans, x-rays, and possibly biopsies. Your veterinarian will determine the best form of treatment, so that the disease or illness can be treated or controlled. This may also be done with a combination of a controlled diet and medication.

My Cat is Vomiting Up Foam

As cat parents, we’ve all come across this, and perhaps wondered why cat vomit includes foam. It is also accompanied by a hacking sound that sounds like your cat is in distress or choking. While this may be linked to stomach inflammation or a change of diet, it may also be the precursor to throwing up a hairball. You’ll see this if there’s a mass of hair, and what usually happens is that the liquid foam is thrown up first.

Inflammatory bowel disease in cats will also cause your cat to vomit up foam. Cats that suffer from indigestion with vomit up yellow and white foam. Reducing feed to smaller amounts throughout the day may be beneficial with this condition. That said, if your cat is throwing up bile or blood with white foam, you’ll need to consult with your veterinarian.

cat throwing up food

Cats Will Vomit If Stressed Out 

Cats will vomit for a variety of reasons. One of those just may be stress. If you’ve recently moved home or have a new furry best friend, your cat may be stressed and anxious. According to a study, stress may be detrimental to cats. The study adds “Regardless of how cats display signs of stress, it has a detrimental effect on their welfare and can also increase the incidence of disease. Minimizing or eliminating stress is thus important,” via Science Daily.

My Cat Keeps Throwing up! When to Visit a Vet

It’s time to see your vet if your cat is continuously vomiting or if they are suffering from diarrhea, dehydration, lethargy, weight loss, there is blood in their vomit or if they have a sudden change in appetite or are not drinking enough water.

Veterinarians can evaluate your pet and quickly determine the seriousness of the issue. You can chat with a veterinarian online at the newly launched CertaPet Veterinarians here. However, for serious cases, we advise you to visit a clinic near you for a thorough examination. When it comes to your pet, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Some Veterinarian Clinics on the CertaPet Veterinarians Platform:

Vet Clinics in Houston, TX

Banfield Pet Hospital Willowbrook
Emancipet

Vet Clinics in Los Angeles, CA

Animal Medical Center Hollywood
Park La Brea Veterinary Care

Vet Clinics in New York, NY

Gotham Animal Clinic
Pure Paws Veterinary Care of Hells Kitchen
West Chelsea Veterinary Hospital

Vet Clinics in Phoenix, AZ

Animal Care Hospital of Phoenix
Dreamy Draw Cat Hospital

Vet Clinics in Chicago, IL

Animal Medical Center of Chicago
Metropolitan Veterinary Center
Premier Veterinary Group Chicago

A Barfing Cat: Here’s What Your Vet Will Do

Your vet will most likely perform various tests such as X-rays, blood tests, sonograms, or a fecal examination to make a diagnosis. This will also depend on your cat’s age, their medical history, and their specific symptoms.

Veterinarians will typically recommend removing food and water until vomiting has stopped for at least two hours. Then, slowly introduce water followed by a bland diet – such as rice, cooked, skinless chicken, and boiled potatoes.

Some situations will require antiemetics-drugs or fluid therapy in order to help the vomiting.

In the event your cat’s vomiting is due to food allergies, your veterinarian may suggest removing different ingredients from your cat’s diet in order to find the culprit. If your cat is vomiting up their dry food, your vet could recommend switching foods to see if that helps.

While sometimes scary, cat vomiting is quite common and often harmless. They could be vomiting simply because they are eating too quickly or have a hairball. However, vomiting can also be a sign of something more serious. If they are consistently throwing up or throwing up blood, it’s time to take your cat to the vet.

Common Questions

Why is my cat throwing up?

How do you know when you need to take your cat to the vet for vomiting?

What are hairballs?

What does it mean when my cat is throwing up blood?

 

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