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No pet parent likes to hear that sound: the hacking noise from the other room that tells you are going to have a mess to clean up. When your cat starts gagging, the first thought that might go through your head is: "Oh no, what did they get into now?" There are many reasons why your cat might throw up, some of them more serious than others. For example, occasional vomiting may simply be down to natural changes as your cat ages, but regular vomiting might indicate a problem or abnormality. Whether you're a new or seasoned cat parent, it's important to know the reasons your cat may be vomiting and when it warrants a visit to the veterinarian.
Hairballs: A Common Cause of Cat Vomiting
Cat vomiting might be due to eating something they shouldn't, like part of a houseplant or a toy, but your cat can also get an upset stomach from ingesting hair during grooming. This most often resurfaces as a hairball.
Although a cat vomiting up a hairball every so often is normal, there are times when you may need to be concerned. Hairballs shouldn't be painful, frequent or difficult for your cat to pass. Untreated hairballs can also go the other way and, according to the PDSA, can cause painful intestinal blockages.
Keep track of your cat's normal routine and watch out for signs of constipation, lethargy, and loss of appetite if they have not passed a hairball in a while. If your cat has a consistent hairball problem, you might want to look into a cat food that is formulated for hairballs.
Cat Vomit Diagnostic Hacks
A hairball every now and then (often with foamy or yellow liquid) may not be a reason to call your vet. However, if your cat starts vomiting frequently or the hairballs are large and seem to be causing your pet discomfort, you may want to take your feline friend in for a checkup.
Your vet will first try to determine if the vomiting is caused by hairballs or if your cat has ingested any harmful objects or substances in the home. If the vomiting is long term or severe, the MSD Veterinary Manual says that the vet may conduct investigations like blood, faeces or urine tests, abdominal ultrasounds or x-rays, or endoscopic (internal camera) evaluation.
It's helpful to know that most vets will approach cat vomiting this way so that you can gather useful information prior to your appointment. When you visit your vet, be prepared to describe your cat's recent surroundings, activities, and the frequency and appearance of their vomiting.
Other Reasons for Cat Vomit
If your cat vomits but resumes regular activities, continues to eat, and seems otherwise healthy, you may not have much to worry about. For example, sometimes cats vomit undigested food shortly after eating. This can happen when your pet eats the food too fast. In these cases, you may just need to feed your cat smaller, more frequent meals.
However, in some cases, frequent or excessive vomiting may be the result of a serious condition. A number of different diseases such as kidney and liver disease can cause vomiting. Food allergies, intestinal parasites and infections can also result in vomiting. Testing is needed to help determine the cause and find the best solution to help your cat.
Some cats can also experience digestive turmoil from food sensitivities. Pay close attention to any behaviours your cat exhibits before and after eating. Besides vomiting, do they have diarrhoea, bald patches or itchy skin? Discuss these observations with your vet and take your vet's advice on food changes and medications that your pet may need.
Do not attempt to diagnose your cat's food sensitivity at home, since changing their food on your own could end up upsetting your cat's stomach more if not done properly.
Always err on the side of caution, and if something doesn't seem right, get your cat to the vet immediately. Every cat is different and your vet is the person best qualified to diagnose the underlying issue that is causing your cat to throw up.
Ways to Prevent Cat Vomiting
Wouldn't all pet parents love to know the secret to eliminating vomiting? Or even a way to train your cat not to do it on your bed or carpet? Unfortunately, there's no magic trick, but there are a few things you can try to ease your cleanup and your kitty's discomfort.
If your cat is vomiting hairballs, make sure to brush your cat regularly, keep them active, and feed them a properly balanced food designed to help cats with hairballs.
To help keep your cat’s stomach happy, give them the type and amount of food recommended by your vet and have clean, fresh water available at all times. If your cat eats too quickly, you can try a puzzle feeder or a dry food with large, crunchy pieces to slow them down. If your veterinarian recommends medications or therapeutic foods, it's important to follow their instructions in order to keep your cat healthy. Be sure your cat sees the vet regularly and discuss your concerns.
Though cleaning up messes and bodily fluids is something all pet parents will experience at some point, following these tips and knowing when to seek the help of a professional can hopefully make these experiences few and far between.
Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.