Is My Cat’s Stomach Upset?

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/14/20242-4 minutes
cat with woman with red hair

As human beings, we’ve all experienced the symptoms of an upset stomach, and, not surprisingly, our cats can also share some of the same types of issues. Whether your cat needs something simple like a tweak to their cat food formula, or something a little more complex, there are ways for a cat owner to answer the questions, “Is my cat's stomach upset?” and “How can I treat my cat’s upset stomach?”

Cat Digestive Issues

Anyone who owns cats knows they occasionally experience tummy upset and sensitive digestive tracts. Cat digestive system problems can be minor or indicative of more significant issues that need to be addressed by a veterinarian. 

Causes of Cat Digestive Issues

Some of the more common reasons why a cat may be having issues with their digestive health include hairballs, parasitic infection, improper diet, stress and inflammatory diseases. While some digestive issues don’t usually cause for alarm, if you’re worried it is a good idea to talk with your veterinarian.

Cat Vomiting

Vomiting is one of the most common problems cats can have. Many cats may throw up occasionally to get rid of hairballs. 

Another common cause of cat upset stomach is eating too quickly. When cats eat too fast, they often swallow their kibble whole and end up gagging. The easiest way to slow down an overeager feline eater is to feed them a larger kibble size that takes longer to chew and swallow, but that’s not the only option. You can also try feeding smaller portions more often or using a food distributor ball. It can also be useful to give them food in a slow feeder bowl or on a flat plate instead of a bowl, so the kibble is more spread out.

Rapid eating can be caused by competition around the food bowl. If you have multiple cats, you may want to try feeding them in separate areas. 

If the problem continues, call your veterinarian. 

One potentially serious problem to be on the lookout for is cats swallowing string, especially after playing with them. This can cause intestinal blockage, which is not only unpleasant for the cat, but can result in a hefty veterinarian bill for you.

Symptoms of Cat Digestive Distress

While vomiting and diarrhea are two of the most obvious signs a cat is having some form of digestive distress, they’re not the only ones. When a cat’s digestive system is out of whack, chances are you could see at least one of the following symptoms, if not more:

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Tender abdominal area
  • Changes in haircoat

Because each of these symptoms can be caused by many different factors,  it can be difficult to tell what’s wrong when a cat experiences digestive trouble. The best thing to do is contact your veterinarian and seek the advice of a professional since some serious conditions can result in pain, distress and potentially life-threatening complications. 

Foods to Support Cat Digestive Health

Sometimes the answer to calming your cat’s digestive issues revolve around finding the proper diet. Some cats have particularly delicate digestive systems and can benefit from a food for cats with a sensitive stomach, many of which also help promote immune health.

If the problem is hairball-related, your veterinarian may suggest a hairball control cat food. Cats can also experience stomach upset if their diet suddenly changes, so it’s important to know how to switch out your cat's food and do it gradually. 

We hope these cat digestion tips help you better understand potential digestive problems and what to do if they arise. For more information on cat health, diet, behavior and more visit our Pet Expertise page and hear from our experts.

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