Why Is My Cat Throwing Up?
If you're a cat owner, you know the sound. (Admit it - you get chills just thinking about it.) And you also know that somewhere in your house, some poor, unsuspecting carpet or bedspread is in imminent danger. Your cat is throwing up… yet again.
Unfortunately, vomiting is something many cats do on occasion. Usually in the presence of dinner guests. However, that doesn't mean you should just reach for the carpet shampoo and forget about it. It's important to know why cats throw up, and when you might need to consult your veterinarian.
WHAT'S GOING ON IN THERE?
Throwing up, or vomiting, happens when the stomach decides it really doesn't want something the cat has swallowed. It shows its displeasure by forcefully contracting and literally throwing its contents up and out. (Hence the term "throwing up.")
This is different from regurgitation, which doesn't involve all that strenuous muscle contracting. Regurgitation is also seen in some cats, and usually happens minutes to hours after eating. Think of it as a commentary from your feline food critic, delivered in the form of undigested stuff stuck in her esophagus.
81% of cat owners say their cat(s) have had digestive issues, either recently or within the past 6 months.
Source: Nielsen BASES Factors for Success research. Dec 2012.
When cats throw up, the process is much more physical. And audible… involving lots of neck extending and strained gagging. At this point your cat might seek you out - after all, a performance like this certainly deserves an audience. The cause of all these theatrics? Usually it's gastric irritation. This can happen if your cat eats too much food, or scarfs it down too quickly.
When kittens dash off to play after a big dinner, the activity can result in vomiting. If you have more than one kitten, feeding them separately or giving your kitten smaller meals usually takes care of the problem.
Sometimes cats eat indigestible stuff (such as grass), which can cause vomiting. Spoiled food is another culprit, as is wet food that's too cold. (If you serve your cat refrigerated wet food, try letting it come to room temperature first.) And of course, no discussion about this delightful topic would be complete without a mention of that uniquely feline vomit catalyst - hairballs. In essence, if it irritates the stomach lining, it's got to go. And if things are working right with your cat's digestive system, it will.
VET-WORTHY TUMMY TROUBLES
So when should you be concerned (and not just grossed out) by your cat's vomiting? If your cat throws up only once or twice and appears normal before and after, it's probably not serious - unless a Persian rug is involved. If your cat has definitely eaten something dangerous, call your veterinarian immediately. Ditto if she is throwing up frequently, not just after meals and seems listless or puny, as this can be a sign of an illness or disease, or a parasite issue.
If you see blood in your cat's vomit, it's a sign of bleeding somewhere between the mouth and upper small bowel. Also, if your cat's vomit is even more yucky than usual because it looks and smells like poop, it could be a sign of something serious. In both of these cases, make an emergency call to your veterinarian.
The good news is that most of the time, vomiting is caused by something common and treatable. While this doesn't make it less offensive, it does mean that very likely, with the help of your veterinarian, your cat will recover both her health and her dignity quickly. Hopefully, the same will be true for your carpets…
- Siegal M. The Cornell Book of Cats. 1989: 229.
- Brunner D. The Cat Owner's Manual. 163.
- Shojai A. The Purina Encyclopedia of Cat Care. 1998: 406-407.