What to do when your cat throws up?


Everyone who has ever pet parented a cat has experienced the horrible feeling of being awakened in the dead of night by the sound of the cat barfing. Here’s what you should know about cat vomiting.

Dr Ashwani Kumar Singh

Kitty vomiting is never pleasant, but it’s not always an emergency either. Sometime it will be self-limiting and not life threatening, but sometimes dangerous and it is important to know which causes are likely to be emergent. Finding the cause for the vomiting can be a challenge, though, as there could be dozens of reasons why kitty is vomiting. But here we help you to check the cause of vomiting in cat.

How can I differentiate between Regurgitation and Vomiting?
Regurgitation is the passive ejection of contents from the oesophagus. The cat will lower his head and food is expelled with little or no effort. The food is usually undigested, may have a tubular shape, and is often covered with slimy mucus. Cats will also attempt to eat the regurgitated material.

Vomiting is an active process. Cats will often vocalise, be apprehensive and retch to vomit. If food is present in vomit, it is

Dr Kumar Mangalam Yadav

partially digested and can also contain a yellow fluid (bile).

What are the reasons of vomiting in my furry feline?
You have probably seen your cat vomits from time to time without much concern. Usually, a cat vomits because he ate something disagreeable, ate too much or played too soon after dinner. There are a number of possible causes of vomiting cats, which include the following:

Hairballs cause vomiting in cat: Hairballs play major role in cat vomiting. A hairball is formed when cats accidently ingest loose hair while cleaning their fur. The fur that is not digested accumulates in the stomach, forming a hairball. If you’re not sure, whether your cat is dealing with hairballs or not, then look for cylindrical plugs that appear on your floor in a pool of fluid.
Kitties with long hair and who groom themselves and every other cat in the house, need to be brushed regularly. Also, brush other kitties in the house. Clinical signs of hairballs may include decreased appetite, constipation, and vomiting. In the worst case scenario, the hair passes through the stomach and lodges in the small intestine, result is an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract which can be life threatening.

Never feed your kitty with milk: This is a misconception that cats love to feed on milk. Your lovable kitty may find it difficult to digest milk and it may result in vomiting.

Check before buying food: Whenever you buy cat food, check all the ingredients and then only decide to buy it.
Be choosy in selecting treats for your cat: Sometime even if you feed your kitty with very healthy and good quality food, it can result in vomiting. So, check the treats as well. Cat’s treats contain various chemicals or emulsifiers like propylene glycol, etc which cause gastro-intestinal disturbance, resulting in vomiting. So, next time when you suppose to buy any treats for your furry feline friends please have a look in label for such chemical agents.

Don’t let your cat gobble food: This is a very common reason why your kitty throws up. This seems to be a special problem where there is more than one cat in a house. Chances are you’ve got at least one gobbler, and when you put down the food bowls, he eats his own portion in a flash and starts checking everyone else’s bowl to see what else he can snatch from others. If this is happening in your house, you need to feed your kitties in separate areas or rooms so they can’t see or hear the others eat. It’s best if you can close the door behind each kitty, because it won’t take long for your gobbler to figure out where the rest of the bowls are if he can still get to them. If you’ve got just one kitty but he’s a gobbler, you may need to split his meals into smaller portions and feed him more often.

Check whether your kitty ate something strange: When your cat eats something that is not a food item, like a string or a toy, it can result in serious health problem. As indigestible items pass through the stomach and bowel, they can cause profound irritation at the very least and they can completely block the bowel.

If your cat is vomiting and acting sick, don’t delay. If he has foul smelling, projectile vomit and is not even able to hold down clear liquids, it is an emergency.

What are the signs of serious health concern?
If the vomiting is more than an isolated incident, or if you notice following signs in your feline friends then a trip to the veterinarian is necessary:

  • If your cat vomits repeatedly.
  • If the vomit contains blood.
  • If the vomit is foul smelling.
  • If the cat appears listless and unwell.
  • If the abdomen is bloated.
  • If your cat is drooling.
  • Change in drinking pattern.
  • Any other signs of ill health or change in behaviour.

What to tell the vet?
If you observe any serious problem with your feline friend, then immediately make a visit to a veterinarian with the following information:

  • Colour, smell, and appearance of vomits.
  • When did he start vomiting?
  • How many times he vomits?
  • When was the most recent episode?
  • Any medication your cat is taking?
  • Any change in food, environment, etc.
  • If your cat has diarrhoea, then bring a sample.
  • Any recent accident or injury.

Treating vomiting
The most common course of action is to withhold food and water until vomiting has stopped for 12 to 24 hours. Afterward, water is introduced slowly, followed by a balanced diet.

(Dr Ashwani Kumar Singh and Dr Kumar Mangalam Yadav are interns at Government Veterinary Hospital, Bharatpur, Rajasthan).