Why do cats vomit?
Unfortunately, there’s not a simple answer to this question. Indeed, it can be purr-fectly normal behavior (up to a point!) for cats to vomit. So a good place to start is by deciding if your cat is healthy but happens to vomit, or is a “sick” cat (to pardon the pun).
Happy vomiters are those cats that are merely doing as nature intended. To understand this, consider how a cat eats in the wild.
Kitty hunts a mouse and she eats pretty much the whole thing, including the bones, fur and stomach contents (to stop other cats from stealing her supper). Anything she can’t digest she gets rid of out of her system later by vomiting. Her physiology is geared towards vomiting easily, hence it can be perfectly normal for cats to be sick from time to time.
Indeed, some cats even eat grass or plants to stimulate this urge to cleanse their systems. If your cat is otherwise healthy and from time to time she eats grass and vomits, then the chances are she’s just doing what nature intended and she’s a ‘happy vomiter.’
If, however, your cat is sick regularly, such as several times a week or more, or she shows other signs of ill health, then you need to take the problem more seriously.
A Symptom, Not a Diagnosis
Vomiting is not a diagnosis in itself, but a sign of a problem.
Sometimes this problem is directly related to the stomach, such as a foreign body lodged in the stomach or a gastric ulcer. Indeed, a foreign body doesn’t have to be something dramatic like a swallowed toy, but can be a simple hairball. Also, not to be forgotten is the irritation worms cause to the stomach lining.
Other times the sickness is a secondary effect of disease elsewhere in the body. Of these, the top causes are pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), kidney disease, liver disease, overactive thyroid glands, cancer or a complication of diabetes. This requires a vet to investigate in order to get to the bottom of the problem. You can play your part as a responsible owner by recognizing when the cat needs to see the vet.
Your cat has vomited daily for the past few days, and you’re in a quandary as to whether she needs to see the vet or not. If she’s bright and cheery, rubbing round your ankles and asking for food, then ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is she Dehydrated?
A big worry for a persistently vomiting cat is fluid loss. The cat that vomits and can’t keep fluid down must see the vet – as must any dehydrated pet. But what about when things aren’t so clear-cut and you’re not sure?
Check if your cat is dehydrated by lifting the skin of her scruff and the releasing it.
In a fully hydrated pet, the skin springs straight back into place. In the dehydrated animal, the skin takes a second or two to fall back into place, which is your signal to call the vet.
2. Is Anything Chewed or Missing?
Have a look round for half-chewed cat toys or missing knitting yarn. Specifically, be on the alert for objects which when swallowed could get stuck in the stomach and cause vomiting. If you find such evidence then it, along with the cat, should head to the vet.
Whilst vomiting is unpleasant, a foreign body which passes down into the intestine can be fatal, and it’s best to catch the problem before it reaches this stage.
3. Is the Cat Vaccinated?
Non-vaccinated cats are at risk, even if they live indoors. Viruses such as the feline panleucopaenia virus (feline distemper) can be transferred into the home on the bottom of your shoes. If the cat was quiet and refusing food prior to vomiting, then a timely vet check could save your tears.
4. Has the Cat been Wormed Recently?
Worms irritate the stomach lining and can cause sickness. Those pesky worms also rob vital nutrients, which can make the cat’s coat dry. If your deworming schedule has slipped but the cat is otherwise well, then get a good multi-wormer from the vet. However, if the cat is dull, listless or refusing food – you guessed it – check with the vet.
5. Is My Cat on Meds?
There’s always a slight risk of side effects, so if your the cat is on meds, give your vet a call. If the medication is a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), usually prescribed for pain relief, then STOP the med and call the vet, as gastric ulcers are a recognized side effect of this treatment.
Signs to See the Vet
Clues your cat are giving you that she needs to see the vet include:
- Persistent Vomiting: This varies depending on the circumstances. A cat that vomits hourly for four hours should see the vet, as should the cat that vomits once a day for four days.
- Appetite Loss: With simple problems such as a fur ball, the cat is usually eager to eat. If kitty loses her appetite, this is more serious.
- Depression or Listlessness: If kitty is acting out of character, take that as a clue that help is needed.
- Blood: Blood in the vomit (or stool) means an urgent trip to the vet.
- Dehydration: Check using the scruff method mentioned above.
- Toxin Ingestion: Seen kitty drinking antifreeze or brushing against lily pollen? These are both toxic to cats, so get to the vet ASAP.
- Worry: If you’re worried or concerned, trust your instincts: You know your cat.
Clearing up the Evidence
OK, kitty just boffed on the best carpet. How to clean up the evidence?
If the vomit is solid (such as kibble), don latex gloves and use paper towel to scoop up the offending objects. Then use a pet-safe deodorizing cleaner to finish the job, first testing the carpet for color-fastness.
If the vomit is liquid, use disposable paper towels to blot up as much as possible. Then clean the area with a deodorizing cleaner.
Two good standby products are:
- Biological washing powder, which can be mixed with water to make a great cleaner
- Bicarbonate of soda
The latter absorbs odors, so you can apply it on a dry carpet. Sprinkle it liberally onto the stain, gently brush it into the pile, then vacuum out before using a liquid cleaner.