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Cat Health Problems: Why Is My Cat Throwing Up

Updated on July 18, 2013

If you own a cat, or more accurately, if a cat owns you, then sooner or later you're going to find yourself cleaning up cat vomit. That doesn't mean your cat's health is in jeopardy. There are a lot of things that can cause cat vomiting, and most of them are not threatening to a cat's health. It's often caused by eating too much, eating too fast, or playing too soon after eating. Some cats are even subject to motion sickness that can be set off during a ride in the car.

Hairballs and Vomiting Cats

Hairballs are one of the most common causes of feline vomiting; especially if you have a medium or long haired cat. It's not a big threat to cat health, but it's also not pleasant for the cat or the owner. As your cat grooms herself, hairballs occur naturally, but there are a few things you can do to help control them.

Outdoor cats eat grass. It not only helps to bring up hairballs, but provides vitamins, and roughage to aid digestion. But, with more cat owners making the responsible decision to keep their cats indoors, that's not always an option. For indoor cats, there are hairball formula cat foods that are effective on some cats. For the best chance of success you should stick to high quality brand, like Science Diet or Iams. You can also try high fiber cat treats; but they're not always completely effective.

One of the best ways to control hairballs is with petroleum jelly. Spread a tiny bit on your cat's paw once a week, and he'll instinctively lick it off. The Jelly coats hair that gets swallowed during grooming, and helps to keep it from forming balls. If Kitty won't take the plain petroleum jelly, it's also available in a malt flavor that most cats will eat.

Why Is My Cat Throwing Up

If your cat is suffering from chronic vomiting, or the vomiting is accompanied by diarrhea or blood, you should definitely get him to a veterinarian. These can be signs of serious cat health issues. Vomiting and diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration, which can be deadly for cats; so don't wait too long.

Keep an eye on your cat's behavior, as well. It's important to give detailed information to help the veterinarian diagnose the cause of your cats vomiting. Some questions the vet is likely to ask include:
• How has the cat's health been, in general?
• Is the cat lethargic?
• Is he losing weight?
• Does your cat vomit after eating? If so, how long afterward?
• Is he coughing or having trouble breathing?

These questions are designed to help your vet determine whether your cat is vomiting, or regurgitating, which is entirely different. Feline regurgitation is usually a result of a gastrointestinal disorder.

Reasons That Cats May Vomit
Reasons That Cats May Vomit

More Serious Causes Of Cat Vomiting

Intestinal parasites not only cause vomiting, but can be a serious threat to cat health. Along with vomiting, parasites can cause diarrhea and numerous other symptoms. You may even see your cat vomit up a worm. Other signs of intestinal parasites include:
• Potbelly
• Weight loss
• Loss of appetite
• Poor coat condition

Some worming medications can also cause vomiting, so keep your vet up to date on any changes in your cat's behavior and diet.

Chemical Hazards Could Be The Reason Your Cat Is Throwing Up.
Chemical Hazards Could Be The Reason Your Cat Is Throwing Up.

Foreign Objects and Cat Health- Cats are notoriously curious. Sometimes they get a little too curious, and swallow something they shouldn't. Often, the object will pass naturally. But sometimes a foreign object can cause vomiting and, if it's large enough, can result in an intestinal obstruction. This happens more often with kittens than adult cats but, regardless of your cat's age, it's best to err on the side of caution. Keep small objects put away where your cat can't get to them.

Poisons- This is another good argument for indoor cats. Some poisons, like anti-freeze, taste like candy to some cats. Since they like to eat grass, they're also vulnerable to eating weed killers, pesticides, and other chemicals that are often sprayed on lawns. These can all cause cats to vomit or worse.

Older Cats- For elderly cats, vomiting tends to be more frequent. Like humans, aging cats' organs become less efficient. They often have digestive problems, and near the end of their lives, failing kidneys can also cause nausea and vomiting.

A Healthy Cat Is A Happy Cat
A Healthy Cat Is A Happy Cat

Know Your Cat

Cats can be playful, loyal companions from kittenhood, right on through their golden years. If you pay attention to their habits, you can usually tell when something isn't quite right so you know when to take action. They have a way of communicating with you when they want to be loved, when they want to be left alone, and when they're not feeling well. It's up to you to learn their language, and by doing so, you'll keep your furry little buddy happy, healthy, and in charge of your house for many years.

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  • mslizzee profile image

    elizabeth 6 years ago from Buncombe County, NC

    Up chucking frequently has become a way of life in our house. I have two cats, one throws up all the time and the other never does. They are both healthy, and been to the vets. I guess I just do a lot of mop up. If she would just hit the hard flooring rather than the rugs.

  • volcanogirl profile image

    volcanogirl 6 years ago from Gig Harbor, WA

    This is a great hub! I recently wrote one about my cats throwing up. Another tip for readers...vets are the best bet when your cat throws up a lot. Ours was doing the same thing and we found out that she had Hyperthyroidism (with malignant thyroid tumors). She is fine now, but it was a learning experience for us!

  • Hollanda profile image

    Hollanda 6 years ago

    Another very useful hub. My short-haired mummy cat (I'm in the UK!), Stolichnaya, often gets hairballs, but her little kitten Magic (we kept one and sold the rest before getting her spayed) has never had one yet.

    My personal trick, which seems to work, is a small amount of cooking oil (only a minute quantity) mixed in with their food (they both eat from the same bowl, no matter how hard we tried to separate them!), seems to work and Stolly very rarely gets them now. We've moved house, and where we are now it is just not wise to let them outside, so they are now safely (and happily) indoors, content to do all their jumping over our furniture and carpets! :)

    We must be doing something right as they spend most of their time purring, sleeping and playing (when they are not eating!).

    Thanks again!!!

  • lindaadams37 profile image

    lindaadams37 6 years ago

    I like cats but never ever thought of keeping it in home as a pet. But nice to read some interesting stuff about them.

  • profile image

    santi 6 years ago

    like my lovely kitty... :D:D

  • profile image

    Marly 6 years ago

    My poor cat of nearly 12 years has been throwing up at least once a day for the past two weeks almost. Took her to the vet last week Tuesday. He thinks its not serious. Suggested we get her I/D food for gastrointestinal prob's. She's still throwing up once a day. Decided to give her much smaller portions: one spoon a feeding, so far up to three X's a day. Hope this works! I feel terrible for my poor lil' furbaby!

  • profile image

    Rebecca 6 years ago

    Hi rmr, thanks,this is the most helpful article I've found regarding this subject. I was hoping that maybe you could point me in the right direction? My 12 year old cat started vomiting 3 months ago, a little at first, then none and he lost weight and was very week. We took him to the vet and they said his white blood cell was high and gave him an antibiotic. He's much stronger now but he's been throwing up a couple times a day. Petromalt does not seem to help and started giving him dirreah so we reduced it to only once a week. We started giving him pepcid twice a day 10 mg, which is helping a little but it's more than the 5 mg every other day that the vet has prescribed. He's not gaining any weight and is still throwing up about once every 24 hrs but he's drinking water and in very good spirits...

  • rmr profile image
    Author

    rmr 6 years ago from Livonia, MI

    Hi Tammy. It's good that you were able to identify Domino's problem and fix it. I still wonder why, with my cat, it's always the bedroom carpet. I guess I should just be grateful it's not the bed lol.

  • Tammy L profile image

    Tammy L 6 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas

    Hello rmr. Enjoyed the hub very much. If you've read my hub about my cat, you'll know who Domino is and he only coughs when he's discharging a possible hairball but he does vomit when he eats too many treats at one time. I don't give him many treats at one time and I've had to not give him any when we leave town. I used to put a larger portion of treats down for him when we leave town so he'd have some to munch on while we were gone. Only for us to come home to find his "gift" on the bedroom carpet. He doesn't get motion sickness. He actually enjoys a car ride as long as he can look out the window while he's in the car.

  • rmr profile image
    Author

    rmr 6 years ago from Livonia, MI

    Hi Peggy. I can't explain it, but my cat does the same thing. When he's going to be sick, he walks out of the tiled kitchen, across the hardwood floor in the living room, and does the deed on the bedroom carpeting. It usually makes for a nasty surprise in the middle of the night!

    Thanks for coming by and commenting!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

    Our cats occasionally throw up and usually we can see the hairballs. Have tried the special hairball formulas and we seem to be having a little better luck right now with the senior diet as they are both over 10. Good thing we own a carpet cleaner! Rarely do they choose the floor that would be easier to clean. Ha!

  • profile image

    Jessica 6 years ago

    This really does help alot! I have a persian mixed cat and shes about 6yrs old we adopted her from a shelter almost a month ago but now she seems to be throwing up and I don't know whats wrong with her. Will she be okay? and also what should I do in regards thats she's playful and okay but she has this wet throw up almost twice a day for 3-4 days now. Some say its a hairball or her food digesting quickly but would it last all these days?

  • profile image

    Jake @ Cat Illnesses HQ 6 years ago

    Thanks for the informative article rmr. I would never have thought of using petroleum jelly. I'll definitely try that when one of my cats has a hairball problem again. Your hubs about cats are probably the most accurate and well written on HubPages. :)

  • rmr profile image
    Author

    rmr 6 years ago from Livonia, MI

    Hi Heather. It would probably be a good idea to get your cat to a vet. Cats often spray as a way of telling you there's something wrong. If you add the spraying to the other changes in behavior, it sounds like it could very well be a health issue.

  • profile image

    Heather 6 years ago

    My cat has vomited three times this evening and does not seem to be his normal eating too fast issue. He also drinks a lot - will actually hang out by the water dish (has been tested already for diabetes). He is also always hungry and lately has been spraying in the house.

    Wondering if this could be a possible health issue or just behavioral. We got a dog a little over a year ago and moved four months ago.

  • profile image

    Amanda 6 years ago

    I have a kitten and she vomits right after eating and sometimes I find it throughout the hease it's gross but I love her I think she eats too fast

  • BlogggerOne profile image

    BlogggerOne 7 years ago

    Where did you get that picture of the kitten sticking out

    its' tongue? Sooo cute. Give it a hug for me if you own it! Good article. My cat has very long hair and

    hurls about once a week. But, she seems healthy otherwise.

  • Adwello profile image

    Adwello 7 years ago from St Leonards

    Aw such lovely photos! My two cats live indoors and do occasionally vomit, mainly due to hairballs and sometimes swallowing food too fast then activity too soon after. Your petroleum jelly tip is excellent! It's a good idea to have a small plant container in which you grow grass for an indoor cat: they love it and it provides some vitamins too.

  • thehands profile image

    Jorge Vamos 7 years ago

    I used to have a cat who vomited consistently 1 to 3 times a week for most of the 16 years of her life. She seemed fine otherwise--she just vomited a lot for whatever reason. We could never figure out why.

  • writegirl86 profile image

    writegirl86 7 years ago from Ohio

    you can go to the vet and they'll give you something to put on his paws that is supposed to take care of the hairball problem.

  • DePayne profile image

    DePayne 7 years ago from East Texas

    Great hub. My cat is 6 yrs old and the only time he throws up is when he has a hairball. I will definately try the petroleum jelly. He has medium length hair, but he is serious about his cleanliness so swallows quite a bit of hair. Love the pictures!!

  • rmr profile image
    Author

    rmr 7 years ago from Livonia, MI

    Welcome, CBR, and thanks for coming by!

    Good call with the wet food. Eating too fast will do it every time. We keep a bowl of dry food out all day long. If our cat always knows it's there, he's less likely to try to eat it all at once. Cat's are kind of like people, though. They're all different. I'm glad you found a plan that works!

  • rmr profile image
    Author

    rmr 7 years ago from Livonia, MI

    HI Shalini! Thanks! I'd talk to your vet before giving petroleum jelly to your dog. Their digestive system is a lot different than a cat's.

    If you're not already giving it to him, dry food helps with hair balls in dogs. You can also try grooming more often than you already do. The more fur you brush off, the less of it gets in his mouth.

  • crazybeanrider profile image

    Boo McCourt 7 years ago from Washington MI

    Loved this hub. Mainly because I love cats, and I have two of them. One of them had a problem with throwing up. I evenually figured out she was eating to fast and not chewing her food all the way. So I give her more wet food now. Really great article, and the pictures are super cute as well.

  • Shalini Kagal profile image

    Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

    Hi Rob - great hub! We don't have cats anymore, just dogs but the little one, a cocker spaniel does have a problem with hairballs and I'm just wondering if that petroleum jelly tip might be the answer!

  • rmr profile image
    Author

    rmr 7 years ago from Livonia, MI

    Hi drbj, good to see you again. You're absolutely right; even dog people are powerless to resist the draw of kitten photos.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

    I have to admit I'm a dog person. So I'm not usually drawn in to cat hubs although I have nothing against animals of the feline persuasion.

    But those two kitten photos drew me in. Especially the first of the cat with the semi-black eye. So thanks, Rob, for the instructive read.