Cats tend to throw up stuff every now and again. If you share your life with a cat, you probably know the picture and the soundtrack, too: your cat meowing loudly in a low-pitched tone, heaving and retching pitifully until some intermediate wet mass comes out of her mouth. Scary as it may seem to cat newbies, your greatest concern is usually with cleaning up the mess, as the cat appears to be much better and walks away calmly.

So, why did it happen? Can it be prevented from happening again? Should you talk to your vet about this?

There can be many reasons for your cat throwing up, some more alarming than others. Here are some of the more common ones:

Hairballs

While technically they are being coughed up from within the digestive system, hairballs are more specific in nature. You won’t be seeing a ball, but a sausage-shaped wad of wet hair, along with some slimy fluids. Read here all about how hairballs are formed and how to prevent them.

Eating Habits

Having too much food in a single meal, or eating it too fast, may trigger vomiting. This is especially true of dry food, which can then easily be seen, only semi-digested, in whatever the cat has brought up. If food regurgitation happens on a daily basis, talk to your vet about it. You may need to monitor meal sizes and spread them out throughout the day.

Objects, Strange Foods and poisons

Some cats, especially kittens, will try to eat things out of curiosity. Or, they may just swallow a piece of a toy when playing. Remember that cats tongues are one-way tracks - once faced with something unpalatable, your cat is more likely to swallow than to spit it out.

The problem begins when your cat either has swallowed something poisonous, or can’t bring up whatever object it was that went in. If you see your cat struggling and retching without bringing up anything - call your vet. If you see any other symptoms as well - it’s time to call the vet and rule out poisoning.

Read and bookmark this article: What To Do If You Suspect Your Cat Ingested Poison

Parasites and vomiting in cats

Severe worm infestations can cause vomiting. This is a particularly gross symptom, but yes, live spaghetti-like worms will be visible in the vomit. Such an advanced infestation requires immediate veterinary attention.

Illness and Diseases

Vomiting is a symptom shared by a multitude of medical problems. Viral infections, Salmonella, liver or kidney issues, cancer... the list is virtually endless and only your vet can narrow it down and find the cause. Whenever your cat vomits and shows other symptoms of illness, call your vet immediately.

And Finally.... Stress

Stress alone can trigger vomiting episodes in some cats. This can actually be a cause for concern, if happening too often. Frequent vomiting is always a medical issue, as it can cause your cat to become dehydrated and lose weight and essential nutrients in the long term.

Read more about stress in cats here -
How to Tell if Your Cat is Stressed Out
Six Surefire Strategies to Reduce Stress in Cats
Potential Stressors in Cats - The Ultimate Checklist

So, what to do if your cat is vomiting?

Check to see if your cat is coughing up hairballs or vomiting something else. If you see hairballs, try lessening the frequency with some of the techniques detailed in our article about hairballs.

Consult with your vet asap if -
  • Your cat is vomiting more than once or twice on the same day
  • Your cat vomits more than once a week, call your vet.
  • You’re seeing anything but digested food in the vomit (parasites, blood, or anything out of the ordinary).
  • Your cat is showing other symptoms such as diarrhea, lethargy, lack of appetite, fever, or any other sign of illness.

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