Frequent Vomiting in Cats

Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Veterinarian examining black cat.

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Frequent vomiting is a problem for some cats, and the cause can be tough to track down. It could be caused by hairballs or a sign of a serious illness. Occasionally, cats vomit on a semi-regular basis for no identifiable reason at all. Complications of frequent vomiting can include malnutrition and esophageal irritation, so this condition shouldn't be ignored. A thorough veterinary exam can help determine an accurate diagnosis and treatment options.

Warning

If you suspect that your cat has eaten a poisonous substance, call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline immediately.

What Is Frequent Vomiting?

Frequent vomiting is a general condition in which a cat vomits several times in a short period of hours or days, or in which a cat vomits chronically on a semi-regular basis (such as after meals).

Symptoms of Frequent Vomiting in Cats

The primary symptom of this condition is just what the name describes: vomiting. Identifying when the vomiting occurs and any identifying characteristics can help determine the underlying cause. Watch for these clues to learn why your cat is experiencing stomach trouble:

Symptoms

  • Vomiting food after meals
  • Expelling hairballs
  • Vomiting bile
  • Vomiting repeatedly over the course of hours
  • Frothing saliva
  • Dry heaves (no vomit)

Causes of Frequent Vomiting

There are numerous potential causes of frequent vomiting in cats, some of which are benign and easy to treat. Other causes may require medical investigation and more intensive treatments.

  • Eating Too Fast: One common cause of frequent vomiting is eating 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 non-allergenic ingredients.
  • Poisoning: Sudden vomiting can also be caused by poisoning, which is an emergency. There are several sources of toxins in the average home, including antifreeze, human medication, household cleaners, pesticides, and certain house plants.
  • Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease: This condition 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: Inflammation of the pancreas, which is part of the endocrine and digestive systems, can cause vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, fever, and an unwillingness to drink water or eat.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD): Signs of CKD include vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, weight loss, and increased water consumption.
  • Diabetes: Vomiting is 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.
  • 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.
causes of frequent vomiting in cats illustration

The Spruce / Katie Kerpel

Diagnosing Frequent Vomiting in Cats

If your cat vomits repeatedly in one day or vomits occasionally for more than two days in a row, call your veterinarian. Because there are so many different potential causes of frequent vomiting, your vet will request a thorough history, including your cat's current and past diet, eating habits, exposure to chemicals, and behavior (excessive grooming or eating too fast). If a diagnosis cannot be made on history and physical examination alone, your vet may opt for laboratory blood and urine panels as well as a fecal test to check for abnormalities or parasites. X-rays or ultrasounds may be necessary if an obstruction is suspected. Occasionally, a diagnosis will be attempted through dietary change to see if a food allergy or intolerance caused the vomiting.

Treatment

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

Prognosis for Cats with Frequent Vomiting

The prognosis for most cats that experience frequent vomiting is good because a simple change in diet does the trick. Toxic exposures and diseases are more serious and not as easily treated, and the prognosis for each cat varies on the individual circumstance.

How to Prevent Vomiting

You can take action to help prevent or decrease the frequency of vomiting in your cat in various ways, including:

  • Feed frequent small meals.
  • Spread food on a plate rather than piling it in a bowl.
  • Try an automatic feeder that dispenses a specific amount of food at a time.
  • If you suspect food allergies, talk with your veterinarian about different options. Be sure to read the ingredient list carefully.
  • 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 can go a long way toward preventing a veterinary emergency. You can also try hairball-reducing food that includes more fiber.
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.
Article Sources
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  1. Vomiting. Cornell University College Of Veterinary Medicine,