Cats get sick, throw up or vomit for a variety of reasons that range from the insignificant to life threatening. While it is impossible to cover all the possible reasons, the article aims to cover the most common causes.
One of the many benefits of cat ownership is the minimal amount of grooming that is required. But grooming can lead to the development of hairballs. Self-grooming causes hair to end up in the stomach, where it collects and develops into balls of hair. With any luck this wad of hair stays small and continues on through the stomach and intestines to be passed out withing your cats pooh!
But when this doesn’t happen the hairball stimulates vomiting, until it’s expelled. Sometimes a cat with a large hairball will vomit a few times, before actually getting the hairball out. Before you decide that your cat’s vomiting is due to hairballs, you need to actually see your cat come up with one. Continued vomiting without producing a hairball is either due to another cause, or the hairball has gotten so large it won’t come out. You can help reduce the development of hairballs by brushing your cat regularly to remove loose hair. There are also lubricating products to feed your cat that help lubricate hairballs so that they pass through the stomach & intestines easier.
More and more we are realising that cats can have allergies to the ingredients in commercial cat foods. These cats can often display no additional symptoms other than chronic vomiting, but many do have skin issues including itching or scratching and/or diarrhoea.
Feeding your cat an allergen-free diet can resolve chronic vomiting problems. Ask us for help with this, as these diets are typically only available with a prescription. There are diets that can be purchased in pet shops that are labeled “hypoallergenic”, but typically the companies that make these diets do not guarantee them to be completely free of potentially allergenic ingredients. It’s similar to the situation of a child with a severe peanut allergy. You would not feed your child foods that are labeled “produced in a facility that processes peanuts”. If your cat has a severe food allergy, even a tiny amount of the allergen may cause a reaction.
Many cats do eat very fast, especially when fed dry food. There are many theories on this, but it’s likely that when cats eat fast, they take in a considerable amount of air. Their relatively tiny stomachs distend rapidly, and possibly this stimulates vomiting.
There are a couple of ways to slow down the speed at which your cat devours its dry food. There are pet bowls designed with “knobs” built into them. The knobs make your cat eat around them, which slows them down. There are also play/feeding balls that are designed to hold kibble, dispensing it slowly as the cat rolls the ball around the floor. These balls are good stimulation or distraction activities for your cat
It is unusual but not unheard of for cats to eating something other than food. When this happens, these items can oftentimes get stuck in the stomach and pass no further. This object is likely going to continue to cause problems until it’s removed. Even worse, it might make it out of the stomach where it will likely lodge in the intestines, causing a serious obstruction.
It’s very important for us to take either X-rays or an ultrasound scan of any chronically vomiting cat. Foreign bodies in the stomach need to be removed either surgically or with an endoscope as soon as they are diagnosed.
Many serious diseases start with chronic vomiting. The cat seems fine, or mostly fine, except for a little vomiting every now and again.
Cats with early kidney or liver disease may vomit intermittently as well, even though they appear pretty normal otherwise. Some intestinal parasites can cause vomiting only, without diarrhoea. And inflammatory bowel disease, a serious gastrointestinal disease that is similar to irritable bowel disease in people, can often cause chronic vomiting with no other symptoms.
So if your cat is vomiting regularly, and especially if it’s not producing hairballs when it does so, call us straight away to rule out serious diseases.