One phrase we hear a lot is “it’s not normal for cats to throw-up”. If your cat is vomiting, you’re probably worried. But don’t panic yet as single-incidences that aren’t common at all can be normal. When your cat vomits it can mean so many things, and it’s easy to rush to conclusions. Make sure that you’re not too reactive because this could lead you to miss important clues for what the real cause might be.
With cats it’s very easy to mix up throwing up and regurgitation, but they are, in fact, different! Vomiting is the cat’s body actively ejecting contents from its stomach. In contrast, regurgitation is a passive motion where contents are expelled from the stomach, esophagus or nasal passageway. Another thing cat owners often mix up is coughing, which is quite similar except nothing is expelled.
If you’re confused and it’s happening often, take a video when you consult a professional! Now we can move on to assessing what the possible causes are for your cat throwing up and how to deal with the situation.
Assessing Your Cat’s Vomiting Habits
In order to assess why your cat throws up, the first question is: How often is it happening? If it's rare, then it might be an acute issue that won't cause long term issues. Cats will naturally regurgitate food from time to time but animals that are vomiting chronically could be dealing with something more serious.
The next question is: What happens when your cat vomits? Let’s run through some possibilities...
a) Do they seem better afterwards and go back to their happy selves?
If yes, then the crisis is averted. Continue to observe them closely but if all is well, continue on! If not, keep reading....
b) Do they continue to vomit and look nauseated for several hours?
If yes, be sure to give them a break from food. Fasting for 12 hours can really help cats in this situation. Be sure to have lots of options for water though! Monitor closely over the next 24 hours. If vomiting continues, it's a good idea to book a wellness check with your vet.
c) Do they have any GI troubles like diarrhea or constipation?
If yes, your cat might have eaten something funny or might be constipated. Monitor closely and follow step "b" instructions.
d) Are they lethargic or refusing food?
Lethargy can be a sign of dehydration and that your cat really isn't well. Time to call the vet! IV fluids can make a big difference in helping your cat recover. Also, did you know that antibiotics can exacerbate the issue? Opt for fluids first before administering unnecessary, potentially harmful drugs to your cat's GI system. If antibiotics are necessary, be sure to have a plan for restoring the gut afterwards. Otherwise, you can end up on a tummy-upset rollercoaster.
f) Are they vomiting after drinking water?
If your cat is vomiting even after drinking water accompanied by lethargy after 24 hours, it's important to get to the vet. This is a sign that there might be something more serious going on.
6 Reasons Your Cat May Vomit
1. Grass Eating
Does your cat have access to grass? They will naturally use grass as a roughage to cleanse the digestive tract. Sometimes it goes out the back end and sometimes it comes up the front end. Cats that live indoors and don't have access to grass might not be getting the benefits of the fibrous benefits of eating plant matter. Consider buying organic cat grass!
If they throw up after eating a lot of grass, it doesn't always mean there's something wrong. If it's a chronic thing, it might be worth offering some extra GI support in the form of herbs, pro & prebiotics. But did you know that grass is actually an awesome prebiotic too? If your cat is happy and healthy other than eating grass, continue on!
Some people think hairballs are a normal thing that cats do. But it's not! It can be a real problem for cats and can even get so bad that it causes GI obstruction. If your cat isn't easily able to pass hair through their GI tract, it's a sign that something is wrong. Long haired cats may experience more hairballs in the spring and fall when they shed out their seasonal coats. This is a great time to start them on gut support to help them pass the hair since they will ingest more of it during these times of the year. If your cat is heavily shedding, this is another sign that their health might be suffering. Excessive shedding can be a sign of nutritional deficiency or underlying disease and should be investigated.
3. Eating Too Fast
Do you have a cat that literally "wolfs'' their food down? Eating too quickly can cause tummy upset. If your cat inhales their food and then vomits on a regular basis, consider a slow-feeding system that encourages them to eat in a timely fashion. With cats that are ravenously hungry, this could also be a sign of hyperthyroid disease. Be sure to check with your veterinarian if your cat is seemingly hungry all the time, scarfing their food and/or losing weight.
4. Chronic Vomiting
If your cat vomits several times per week, this is a sign that there might be a serious issue going on. If they have recently had antibiotic treatment or have a history of antibiotic use, they may need some support to get their gut healthy again since antibiotics can disturb the microbiome.
NSAID drugs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) can also disturb the gut so it's important to support your pet daily if they need to have this type of medication. Other things that can cause frequent vomiting: an inflammatory diet, allergies, stress or underlying illness including irritable bowel disease, allergies, pancreatitis, gastroenteritis, kidney or liver disease and more. All of these possibilities should be explored with your vet.
5. Food Safety
Make sure you're using HACCP certified raw foods. This will virtually eliminate the risk of pathogens and allow you to stay worry-free while feeding raw. Also, tell your vet about our HACCP food safety program so they can understand that you're not just feeding any old thing.
6. Don't Always Blame The Food
Vomiting is a disturbance in the gastrointestinal system which doesn't always relate directly to food. Make sure you view the entire picture before deciding what to do next.
Whatever is happening, try to stay calm! This helps you logically assess the situation and not get stressed out. Your cat will appreciate it as well since they can sense your energy.
Importance of Finding A Raw-Friendly Vet!
If your vet isn't raw-friendly, they may blame vomiting on the food instead of investigating further into your cat's case. If you're choosing to feed raw, it's important that your vet supports this and understands the raw food diet in its totality.
If you don't already have one, you can check out our Find A Vet page where we are happy to recommend a reputable vet in your area!