Frequent Vomiting in Cats

Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Veterinarian examining black cat.

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It's abnormal for a cat to vomit daily or even several times a month. If your cat is vomiting frequently, it could be from a simple issue such as hairballs. It could indicate your cat has eaten a toxic substance or has a serious illness. Whatever reason you suspect, see your vet as soon as possible. A thorough exam can give an accurate diagnosis and provide treatment options.

Warning

If you suspect that your cat (or any pet) has eaten something poisonous, call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline immediately.

Many conditions and circumstances cause cats to vomit repeatedly. It could be a passing thing or a sign of a serious health concern. The key to correcting the issue is to identify the cause.

Eating Too Fast

One possible benign cause for frequent vomiting is that your cat eats too much food, too fast. This can happen to any healthy cat. You will notice your cat vomits barely digested or undigested food immediately after eating.

Food Allergies

The most common food allergens in cats are beef, fish, and chicken. Other ingredients can lead to allergies as well. Cats with food allergies are treated with special diets containing ingredients they haven't been exposed to before.

Poisoning

Sudden vomiting can also be caused by poisoning, which is an emergency. There are several sources of toxins in the average home:

  • Antifreeze: Ethylene glycol is a poisonous ingredient in antifreeze. It is attractive to cats and dogs because its tastes sweet. Signs of poisoning include nausea and vomiting. Choose antifreeze with propylene glycol, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has labeled as non-toxic.
  • Other home and yard toxins: Human medications, toxic cleaners, insect sprays, and yard and garden sprays to control weeds and pests all have the potential to poison your pets.
  • Recalled cat food and treats: When news of a pet food recall breaks, take notice. Some recalls are because the food contains dangerous toxins. Read about the affected brands of food, then check to ensure that you don't have any in your home. If you do, follow the recall instructions and dispose of it immediately.

Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Feline inflammatory bowel disease is another cause of vomiting. It is usually accompanied by diarrhea and weight loss. This disease can occur anywhere in a cat's intestinal tract, including the stomach (gastritis), the small intestine (enteritis), or the large intestine (colitis).

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which is part of the endocrine and digestive systems. Cats with pancreatitis show vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, fever, and an unwillingness to drink water or eat.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is common in older cats. Kidneys filter waste from the blood. They balance nutrients and play a role in controlling blood pressure. Signs of CKD include vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, weight loss, and increased water consumption. While CKD is a progressive disease, earlier intervention can lead to better outcomes.

Feline Diabetes

Diabetes is another endocrine disease. As with pancreatitis, vomiting is a common and often one of the first signs something is wrong. Other signs include increased thirst, hunger, and urination as well as weight loss and muscle weakness.

Hyperthyroidism

Frequent vomiting along with increased appetite and weight loss are also indicators of hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid gland, which is part of the endocrine system. You can also look for signs such as irritability, diarrhea, weakness, and excessive thirst. Additionally, your cat's fur may appear as if it's not being groomed as normal.

Hepatic Lipidosis

Hepatic lipidosis is also known as 'fatty liver disease'. While not a primary cause of vomiting, persistent vomiting can lead to hepatic lipidosis. This disease can be fatal. However, it's often reversible, provided it's quickly diagnosed and treated.

Hairballs

Although hairballs are common in cats, they're no laughing matter. Hairballs that are not vomited up can cause a bowel obstruction. Surgery is required to remove the obstruction.

Treatment

If your cat vomits for two days in a row, call your veterinarian. They will determine if your cat should be examined. You may be able to treat your cat at home.

The treatment for your cat's vomiting depends on the underlying cause. For instance, treatment for feline inflammatory bowel disease includes medication. If your cat also has food allergies, they need a limited-ingredient diet. If your cat has kidney disease your vet may recommend blood pressure medication and increasing fluid intake. Hyperthyroidism can be treated with surgery, medication, or radioactive iodine.

Your vet will guide you through the options and help you make an informed decision based on your cat's specific needs.

How to Prevent Vomiting

You can also take action to help prevent or decrease the frequency of vomiting in your cat:

  • If your cat eats too quickly, try to slow things down. Feed frequent small meals. Offer food on a paper plate rather than a bowl. Automatic feeders dispense a specific amount of food at a time.
  • If your cat still vomits after eating too fast, put an inedible object (e.g. a golf ball) in their bowl. This forces your cat to eat around the object to pick out the food. The object must be clean and large enough so your cat can't swallow it.
  • If you suspect food allergies, a diet change is in order. Talk with your veterinarian about different options. Be sure to read the ingredient list carefully.
  • Routine veterinary exams are excellent preventative measures against health problems. Your vet can diagnose medical conditions in the early stages. This gives your cat the best prognosis.
  • To prevent the possibility of poisoning, keep toxic chemicals, medications, and other potentially hazardous away from your pet. Remember, cats are curious and can get into or jump on things you might not suspect. Make sure there are no antifreeze spills on your garage floor or driveway. Keep your cat out of the garage. Pet-proof your home regularly.
  • To prevent hairballs, brush your cat and prevent it from over-grooming. Frequent use of a high-quality cat brush or de-shedding tool can go a long way toward preventing a veterinary emergency. You can also try hairball-reducing food that includes more fiber. Mild hairball laxatives are available as well. These are designed to help any hairballs move more smoothly through the digestive tract.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.