Frequent Vomiting in Cats

Cat with veterinarian
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It is not normal for a cat to vomit daily, or even on a somewhat frequent basis. This may be due to a simple issue like hairballs or eating too fast, but it might also indicate your cat has eaten a poison or has a serious illness. For that reason, it is strongly recommended that you consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. Only after a thorough examination can you get an accurate diagnosis and learn about your treatment options.

Why Do Cats Vomit Frequently?

A number of different conditions and circumstances can cause a cat to vomit repeatedly. It can either be a passing thing or a symptom of a serious condition. In any case, the key to correcting the issue is to identify the cause.

Eating Too Fast

One possible benign cause is simply that your cat is eating too much food too fast. This can happen to any healthy cat because their stomach may not be ready for a sudden onslaught of food. The cat often vomits shortly after a meal and it will include dry food that was barely digested.

If this occurs regularly, you might want to check with your vet. However, quite often the solution is as simple as forcing your cat to slow down at mealtime. Offering less food more frequently and changing what you serve it in can help significantly.

Food Allergies

Corn is one of the most common food allergies for cats and wheat is another known allergen. Unfortunately, both of these are often found in dry food, sometimes appearing in several different forms. These ingredients are unnecessary in cat food because cats are carnivores and do not need grains of any kind to thrive. This is likely why so many cats have issues with foods that are not grain-free.

Poisoning

Sudden vomiting can also be caused by poisoning, which is a veterinary emergency. If you suspect your cat (or any pet) has eaten something that is poisonous, call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline immediately.

There are several potential sources of toxins that cats might ingest in the average home:

  • Antifreeze: The ethylene glycol in antifreeze is attractive to cats and dogs because of its sweet taste. The symptoms include nausea and vomiting. When buying antifreeze, look for those that use propylene glycol as an agent, which the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has labeled as non-toxic. Always store antifreeze and other toxic products safely and make sure there are no spills on your garage floor or driveway. In addition, it's best to keep your cats out of the garage at all times.
  • Other Home and Yard Toxins: Human medications, toxic cleaners, insect sprays, and weed and pest sprays for the yard all have the potential to poison your pets. Be sure to keep these substances locked up and out of kitty's reach.
  • Recalled Cat Food and Treats: Whenever you hear news of a pet food recall, take notice as these can potentially contain fatal toxins. Read about the affected brands of food, then check to ensure you do not have any in your home. If you do, follow the recall instructions and dispose of it immediately.

    Feline Irritable Bowel Disease

    Feline irritable bowel disease (or irritable bowel disorder, IBD) is another source of vomiting. It can occur anywhere in a cat's intestinal tract, including the stomach (gastritis), the small intestine (enteritis), or the large intestine (colitis). Treatment includes medication and a limited diet cat food is recommended to eliminate food allergies. Raw food diets are also often recommended.

    Pancreatitis

    Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, which is part of the endocrine and digestive system of the cat. Along with any number of other potential symptoms, one of the indications of possible pancreatitis is vomiting.

    Chronic Renal Failure (aka CRF)

    Eventually, most aged cats develop chronic renal failure (CRF), as the kidneys are often one of the first organs to fail. Symptoms of CRF often include vomiting.

    Feline Diabetes

    Diabetes is another disease of the endocrine system that can affect cats. As with pancreatitis, vomiting is a common symptom of diabetes and often one of the first signs that something's wrong.

    Hyperthyroidism

    Frequent vomiting that occurs along with increased appetite and weight loss are strong potential indicators of hyperthyroid disease. This is another disease of an endocrine (thyroid) gland.

    Hepatic Lipidosis

    Although vomiting is not a primary symptom of hepatic lipidosis (commonly known as fatty liver disease), it sometimes presents as a symptom. This disease can be fatal, however, it is reversible, provided it is quickly diagnosed and treated.

    Hairballs

    Although cat caregivers often joke about hairballs, they really are no laughing matter. If hairballs are not vomited up, they will work their way down the intestinal tract, and may eventually pile up in one place or another. This can cause a sort of fuzzy "logjam" and the dangerous bowel obstruction may have to be removed surgically.

    Treatment & Prevention

    The treatment for your cat's vomiting will depend on the underlying cause. Your vet will guide you through the options and help you make an informed decision based on your cat's specific needs.

    There are also things you can do to prevent the things that cause a cat to vomit:

    • When your cat seems to simply be devouring their food too quickly, try to slow things down. You can feed smaller meals more frequently or offer the food on a paper plate rather than in a bowl. If the cat still vacuums up the food then throws it up, put a few small pebbles among the food. The cat will eat around the pebbles to pick out the food, forcing it to eat much slower.
    • If you suspect food allergies, it might be time to switch what you're feeding your cat. Look for a grain-free cat food and be sure to read the ingredients carefully.
    • Regular veterinary exams are always a good idea. Your vet can often see signs and symptoms of medical conditions in the early stages, which can help with the treatment.
    • If you notice that your cat is vomiting for more than one day in a row, give your vet a call immediately for guidance. They will likely ask you a few questions that will help them determine if it's a medical emergency or something you can observe at home.
    • To prevent the possibility of poisoning any of your pets, always be sure to keep toxic chemicals, medications, and other potentially hazardous items out of your pet's reach. Keep in mind that cats are curious and can get into or jump on things you might not suspect. It's a good idea to pet-proof your home on a regular basis so you don't accidentally miss anything.
    • Regular grooming can prevent many hairballs. Using a good cat brushing tool such as the FURminator will go a long way in preventing a veterinary emergency.