Why Is My Cat Vomiting?

Posted in: Cat Health - Last Updated: April 28, 2021 - Author: Sara Beth Redding
Posted in Cat Health 
Last Updated: April 28, 2021  
Author:  Sara Beth Redding
cat-vomiting

Is your cat vomiting? There are many reasons that for a cat throwing up. This could be something as straightforward as your cat ate something that they shouldnt' have, but they may, on the other hand, have a severe illness. If your cat keeps throwing up, it is best to see your vet as soon as possible. Vomiting can cause many other life-threatening issues and should be treated right away.

These are some common reasons that your cat is vomiting.

  1. 1
    Hairballs
  2. 2
    GI Foreign Body
  3. 3
    Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  4. 4
    Cancer
  5. 5
    Toxin Exposure
  6. 6
    Medications
  7. 7
    Sudden Change in Diet
  8. 8
    Liver Diseases
  9. 9
    Kidney Disease
  10. 10
    Pancreatitis
  11. 11
    Hyperthyroid
  12. 12
    Diabetes

While many of these issues can easily be treated, some can be very serious. If your cat vomits for more than 24 hours, it is best to see your vet right away. We will go into more details of these reasons why your cat may be vomiting below. We will also discuss things you can do to help stop them from cat vomiting at home.

12 Reasons That May Be Causing Your Cat to Vomit

1. Hairballs

One of the most common reasons that your cat may be vomiting is hairballs. Hairballs are perfectly normal and in this case your cat is just vomiting to get this undigested clump of hair out of its digestive system. Hairballs are very common in cats with long hair. There are hairball treats and diets that you can give to your cat to help them quickly pass these hairballs.

2. GI Foreign Body

Cats are curious animals and tend to taste anything that they encounter. This could easily be a string or cat toy. Once your cat ingests these objects, they can easily obstruct their intestines.  

The most common sign of a GI obstruction is your cat vomiting and not eating. If your cat does have an obstruction in their intestines, they will most likely need surgery to remove the blockage. Very rarely can obstructions be relieved with just medications and IV fluids.

3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD is a reaction to foreign material in your cat's stomach and intestines. IBD can cause your cat to vomit or have diarrhea. It can be caused by:

  • An overgrowth of bacteria
  • Parasites
  • Food Proteins

Depending on what is causing your cat's IBD will depend on the treatmen, which is likely to be fixed by a combiantion of a bland diet, vitamins, and steroids.

4. Cancer

Like with people, as cats get older, they have an increased risk for cancer. Cats commonly get three types of cancer; they are:

  1. 1
    Lymphoma
  2. 2
    Squamous cell carcinoma
  3. 3
    Soft-Tissue Sarcoma

Lymphoma is the most common type of cancer seen in cats. Signs that are commonly seen in cats with cancer are:

  • Cat vomiting
  • Not eating
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargic

If you see any of these signs in your cat, your vet can examine your cat and help determine what is causing these symptoms.  

There are certain diagnostic tests that can be performed to see if your cat has cancer. While cancer is not the diagnosis that you want to hear, there are different treatment options for you to consider. Your vet can discuss the options with you to help your cat live as long and pain-free as possible.

5. Toxin Exposure

There are things in your house that may be toxic to your cats. Lilies and antifreeze are two common things that cats love to eat but which are seriously poisonous to them. If your cat does get into something toxic, it can cause them to cat vomit.

It's best to get an idea of what foods cats can't eat as well as other non-food stuffs that can be harmful to their health if eaten. That way you can work out if there is a chance they have managed to eat something toxic to them if your cat keeps thrpwing up.

6. Medications

If your cat is taking any medication such as antibiotics, chemotherapy, or anti-inflammatory, they may vomit. Certain medications will cause your cat's stomach to be upset, especially if you give them these medications on an empty stomach. It is always best to offer your cat a small amount of food with their medications to prevent them from vomiting.

cat-throwing-up
7. Sudden Change in Diet Can Cause Cat Vomiting

If you switch your cat from one diet to another, it is best to make these changes gradually.  Suddenly changing your cat's diet from one thing to another can cause your cat to vomit or have diarrhea.  

It is always advised to take 7 to 10 days to change your cat's diet gradually.

8. Liver Disease

As your cat ages, they can have begin to suffer liver issues. If your cat has liver disease, you will notice that the whites of their eyes and inside of their ears are a yellow tint. Many times, these cats are also vomiting. Cause of liver issues in cats are:

  • Parasites
  • Bacteria
  • Inflammation
  • Viral Disease
  • Endocrine disease

If your cat has liver issues, it is best to see your vet right away. They will start your cat on medication to help treat what is affecting the liver as well as a supplement

9. Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is commonly seen in older cats. As your cat ages, your veterinarian will want to run blood work to check for kidney disease or other diseases in your cat. Kidney disease is commonly found in older cats. Signs that your cat has kidney disease are:

  • Drinking more water
  • Urinating more
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargic
  • Foul odor coming from their mouth
  • Not eating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you notice any of these signs, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. They can help you figure out if your cat is suffering from kidney disease. If you're using health monitoring litter you may see something in the change in Pretty Litter colors, as we cover in our full review of that here.

When your cat is first diagnosed with kidney disease, they may need IV fluids and a stay in the veterinary hospital. These fluids will help flush their kidneys and get them back to functioning correctly.

If your cat has kidney disease, there are some things that you can do to help your cat live a long and happy life. Many cat food brands make a diet specifically for cats with kidney problems. Feeding your cat, one of these diets will help them live a long life. Look for brands that specifically claim to be the best cat food for urinary health.

There are also kidney supplements that your cat can take. By feeding your cat these special diets and giving them supplements, their kidneys can continue to function correctly, and your cat can live a long and happy life.

cat-throwing-up-bile
10. Pancreatitis

Inflammation of the pancreas is called pancreatitis. Some common signs of pancreatitis include:

  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Not eating
  • Losing weight
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing

Your cat vomiting and abdominal pain are some of the first signs of pancreatitis. These signs are more common in dogs with pancreatitis than in cats. Cats who have fatty liver disease simultaneously can have pancreatitis. They can also be jaundiced and have yellowing of the gums and eyes. Even symptoms such as lethargy and decreased appetite should be a clear sign that you need to see your veterinarian. The earlier the signs are detected and treated, the better your cat's prognosis.

11. Hyperthyroid

Hyperthyroid is a disease seen in older cats. As they get older, their thyroid gland will over function. This causes increased thyroid levels circulating in their body. Signs in cats of hyperthyroidism are:

  • Weight loss even though they may be eating more
  • High heart rate
  • Unkempt coat appearance

Your veterinarian can run bloodwork to see if your cat has any thyroid problems. 

There are 3 different treatment options for hyperthyroid.

  1. 1
    Daily medication. You can give your cat a tablet every day to decrease the thyroid levels in their bodies. This would be a lifelong medication
  2. 2
    Surgically removing the thyroid. A veterinary surgeon can remove your cat's thyroid.  Usually, only one thyroid gland is removed, and the other is left to produce thyroid hormone for the body. In some cases, both glands need to be removed. The side effects of surgery are that cats may become hypothyroid and need a daily supplement.
  3. 3
    I-131 radiation. Your cat can receive radiation to destroy the overworking thyroid cells. They would have to spend a week at a specialty hospital while undergoing radiation treatment. 

Your veterinarian can discuss the pros and cons of each treatment and help you determine the best treatment option for your cat.  Cats with hyperthyroid can live a long and healthy life.

12. Diabetes

As cats age, they can develop diabetes. Diabetes is caused by high blood sugar levels in your cat's body. This is because the pancreas is not producing enough insulin to decrease blood sugar. The common signs that your cat is suffering with diabetes are:

  • Cat vomiting
  • Drinking a lot of water
  • Urinating more than normal
  • Lethargic
  • Losing weight

Your veterinarian can run bloodwork to check to see if your cat is diabetic. If your cat has diabetes, they will prescribe your cat insulin to take every day. This decreases their blood sugar levels in their body. Cats that have diabetes will need an injection twice a day to manage their blood sugar levels. 

There are things that you can do to help prevent your cat from getting diabetes, such as:

  • Keeping your cat at a healthy weight. Obese cats are more prone to becoming diabetic than healthy weight cats.
  • Do not overfeed treats. Cat treats are high in sugar, which can lead to diabetes.
  • Feed a good quality diet. Your cat needs foods high in protein and low in carbs. High carb diets can lead to diabetes.
  • Schedule regular checkups for your cat. Your vet can help you detect illnesses early in your cat.

When Does My Cat Need to See a Vet for Vomiting?

There are two different types of cat vomiting seen in cats – acute and chronic vomiting.

Acute Cat Vomiting

Acute cat vomiting is when your cat has been vomiting recently and does not have any other signs. Most of the time, the treatment involves supportive care and fluids. Your cat will usually need a very short period without any food and then feeding a light and bland diet. When more severe signs are seen or conservative treatment fails to resolve the problem, your cat may need further workup.

Chronic Cat Vomiting

Chronic cat vomiting is seen when vomiting persists for a long time, and this term is used when the cat throwing up has been going on for usually about a month. However, you should not wait anywhere near that long - that's just how vets will use the term.

If your cat keeps throwing up for any more than a few days, this is when further workup is needed, and you need to get them to the vet. Your vet may then diagnose one of the causes we've covered, but will also note that your cat is suffering from chronci cat vomiting attributed to thre underlying condition.

cat-vomiting-diagnosis

Diagnosing the Cause of Vomiting in Cats

If your cat is vomiting, your vet will want to run some diagnostic testing to see what is causing these issues.

These are some tests that your vet may want to run to see why your cat is vomiting.

Bloodwork

Your vet will run a Complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel. This tells your vet how your cat's kidney, liver, thyroid, and other organs are functioning. It also checks for diabetes or electrolyte imbalances.

X-ray

If you think that your cat may have an obstruction or intestinal mass, they may want to take x-rays or do a barium study. A barium study is where they will give your cat a white liquid to drink and take a series of x-rays to watch the liquid move through your cat's intestines.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound is very useful for seeing your cat's abdominal organs. This will tell your vet if there are any masses in their abdomen that may be causing them to vomit.

Exploratory Surgery

Depending on what is causing your cat to vomit, your cat may need surgery. This can help diagnose the issues as well as fix any issues. If your cat ate something that they should not have, the best way to remove this object is surgery.

Treatment of Vomiting in Cats

The treatment for vomiting will usually depend on the reason that your cat is vomiting.

Acute Cat Vomiting

If your cat just started vomiting, your vet may send home anti-nausea medication and a bland diet to feed for a few days. You can try feeding your cat a very bland diet or cat food for cats with sensitive stomach that you can buy from the pet store or online.

Chronic Cat Vomiting

If your cat has been vomiting for longer than 24 hours or fyour cat keeps throsing up no matter what you have tried at home, your cat needs to see your vet.  After determining the cause of the cat vomiting, they may recommend that your cat stays in the hospital for a few days to receive IV fluids and medications to help them return to normal.

At-Home Treatment for Vomiting in Cats

If your cat is vomiting, there are a few things that you can do at home to help. You can feed your cat a bland diet such as boiled chicken, scrambled eggs, and white rice. This bland diet will help calm your cat's stomach.

When your cat vomits, they are disrupting the normal gut bacteria. Probiotics can also help your cat quickly recover from cat vomiting. A great choice for probiotics is Proviable KP.

Proviable KP is a multistrain probiotic that is designed to reestablish a helthy intestinal balance in your vomiting cat.

Final Thoughts on Cat Vomiting

If you discover your cat vomiting, it's best first to try to figure out what is causing them to vomit as fast as possible so you can correctly treat them for vomiting. While there are many reasons your cat may be vomiting, there are things that you can give to your cat at home to help straightaway.

We recommend trying the dietary and probiotic soultions detailed abpove iommediately and if there's no improvement in24 hours, take your cat to the vet for diagnosis.

Many causes that are beind your cat throwing up will pass quickly with no lasting health issues, but some are serious conditions that need early diagnosis and treatment.

Don't delay wheny your cat is sick.

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About the author

Sara Beth Redding (née Ochoa), graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (‘DVM’) from St. George’s University Veterinary School in 2015, and has since worked at a small and exotic animal practice in Texas. In her home life, she cares for four ‘fur kids’; two dogs, Ruby a schnoodle, and Bug a Japanese Chin, one cat named OJ and a leopard tortoise named Monkey.

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