What does it mean when your cat is throwing up? According to experts, cat throw up can signal a variety of things, from eating too fast to eating unnatural things to sickness. Indeed, there is such a thing as normal vomiting, which is something to not be too concerned about. This type of vomiting could happen a few times a month and could just mean that your cat is recovering from a virus or something in their stomach that is not sitting right. There is also abnormal vomiting, which signals that something is wrong.
One mistake that cat owners make when their cat has thrown up is to ignore it. Cats handle physical ailments much differently than humans do, and so most owners will see their cat throw up, look normal, and move on. Often, they will blame the sickness on the fact that their outdoor cat eats too quickly or that they like to eat stuff out in the yard that makes them sick. The most important thing to remember is that vomiting is not normal in cats, and it is something that should be monitored closely.
There is an important distinction here between vomit and regurgitation, according to IAMS. Vomit is the forceful ejection of the contents of their stomach. Regurgitation is a passive motion that expels undigested food. This is usually signaled by difficulty breathing or coughing.
What are the causes of vomiting?
Vomiting in cats could be caused by a large number of things, which is why it is sometimes so difficult to accurately diagnose what the root cause is. Vomiting is a symptom of a number of diseases, as well as issues with the liver, gall bladder, kidney and pancreas. Curiosity is also a cause of vomiting, and those triggers can include:
- Toilet papers
- Toy parts
Gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines, is one of the most common causes of vomiting. It can be triggered by a sudden change in diet or if the cat ingested trash or some sort of material they should not consume. This infection includes both vomiting and diarrhea, or in some cases both. In order to treat this, try changing your cat’s diet slowly, incorporation small amounts of the new food into the old food and increasing the new food until the old food has been phased out. This is an infection that typically resolves itself, so just have patience.
Persistent vomiting could also be a signal that your cat is suffering from a food allergy or food intolerance. This happens when your cat’s immune system reacts to something in their food, typically some sort of animal protein. Food allergies are also signaled by itching or scratching, or the appearance of irritated skin. In order to treat food allergies, it is important to consult with your veterinarian. Your vet may recommend that you try an elimination diet in order to determine the exact cause of the allergy. Once you have determined what the issue is, you will be able to introduce new food that is free of that allergen, and the vomiting should subside.
Another cause of vomiting could be Bilious Vomiting Syndrome (BVS), which is a sensitivity to the bile in their stomach. This could happen especially if your cat has not eaten in some time. With BVS, the cat’s stomach bile causes inflammation and intestinal reflux. If your cat is vomiting frequently around six hours after their last meal, it could mean they are suffering from BVS. This vomit is generally yellow and free of food, which means it is just stomach bile coming up. The best way to avoid this is to feed your cat more frequent meals, especially late at night.
Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, can also be a cause of vomiting. This condition usually happens when a diet has been introduced quickly and contains higher fat than normal. Cats may also be predisposed to this condition, which is more difficult to prevent. If your cat has vomiting as well as a hunched back, bloating or a distended stomach, this may mean that they are suffering from pancreatitis. You should absolutely visit your vet if you are concerned your cat may have pancreatitis. It is likely they will recommend a careful, highly observed diet.
When a cat eats a living creature, such as a beetle or cockroach, they can easily ingest an uncommon stomach worm that could also cause vomiting. Other microscopic parasites such as giardia are also a concern, and can cause vomiting. The best way to prevent parasites from causing vomiting is to have frequent visits to your vet for deworming and fecal examinations.
While medications can be very helpful in keeping your cat healthy, there are a few situations in which drugs can actually cause vomiting. For example, cats may have a negative reaction to oral flea or tick medications or non-steroid drugs intended to manage pain. Cats who are taking medication for allergies may also experience vomiting as a side effect.
How do you diagnose the cause of vomiting?
When you bring your cat to the vet after it has been throwing up, make sure you are prepared. Your vet will want to know a number of things, including how often your cat is throwing up, what times of day it is occurring, if there was a certain type of material in the vomit, their diet and any other symptoms observed. Having this information ready will help your vet diagnose the issue much more efficiently.
Your cat will likely have to have blood and urine tests done in order to make a proper diagnosis. In some cases, X-rays or ultrasounds may also take place.
Chronic vomiting in cats is also cause for concern. This long-term vomiting is generally accompanied by blood, dehydration, weigh loss or fever. Chronic vomiting could be cause by a number of things, including systemic illness, intestinal inflammation and uterine infection. This is a generally treatable disease and if addressed quickly can be eliminated.
When is it an emergency?
There are a number of situations in which you should bring your cat to the emergency room immediately. If you see that your cat is dry-heaving but not actually expelling anything, it could signal a potentially life-threatening situation. If your cat is vomiting and does not want to get up or has collapsed, it is an emergency. Other emergency situations include pale gums, racing hear rate, vomiting more than six times in one day or not being able to keep down any food for 24 hours.
Nobody wants to see their little kitten getting sick! But it is not always an emergency. Kittens are very curious and like to learn about things by eating them. If your kitten starts vomiting, there are a couple of things to keep an eye on before you take them to the vet.
If your kitten only vomits once, and not again, it is likely a sign that they ate something they were not supposed to. This could mean human food that they should not eat, as well as any type of plant material or something they may find around the house. This one-time situation is nothing to be concerned about.
Because they are still learning about the world, kittens are likely to eat anything they have access to. This is why it is very important to keep things out of reach of kittens – and be mindful that they are growing every day. Kittens tend to like to chew on clothes or blankets, especially when they are teething. These types of objects may rip apart and your kitten may consume them, which can cause problems. It is possible these materials could get stuck in your kittens’s stomach or intestines and cause persistent vomiting. Obvious signs that this is a more serious issue include dehydration and low energy. You should bring your kitten to the vet in order to have an ultrasound conducted to look for a stuck object. It is possible surgery may be needed in order to remove the object.
Kittens are particularly susceptible to parvovirus, an infection that includes both vomiting and diarrhea. This is a severe infection, and should be handled right away. Kittens who have parvovirus could become dehydrated very quickly, and will need immediate medical attention. Routine vet checkups are the best prevention against parvovirus.
Does color matter?
In some cases, the color of your cat’s vomit may indicate a more serious problem. Many vets remind owners that the color of their cat’s vomit may be influenced by food or their environment. According to NomNomNow, there are a couple of situations in which the color of your cat’s vomit is indicative of a more serious problem.
Black vomit may look like a very serious thing, but in fact it is likely that you have very little to worry about if your cat’s vomit is black. This color is likely due to the fact that if your cat is an outdoor cat they probably like to dig in the dirt and has likely consumed some soil in the process. However, black vomit could be a signal of digested blood. This vomit resembles ground coffee and can be very dark red. If your cat has black vomit and is also looking unwell, bring them to the vet.
White vomit can be confusing, as it could just as easily be phlegm that your cat has coughed up. When this happens, take a closer look to determine if it is actually vomit. If it is, it could mean that your cat just has an upset stomach, which will resolve itself. It could also mean your cat ate grass, which will come up white if they have not eaten in a while. Or, it could be BVS, as we have already discussed.
Red vomit can be very alarming, as it is likely to be a sign of fresh blood. While it is unlikely your cat will vomit enough blood for it to be a major concern, it is understandably worrisome. Red vomit could be a sign of an irritated stomach or esophagus or gastritis. Typically, there is no reason to be concerned if it only happens once, but if it continues it could be a sign of a stomach ulcer. In this case, you should see the vet immediately.
Green vomit could indicate either that your cat has consumed some sort of plant, or that they are throwing up bile. In the case where your cat has eaten grass and is now throwing up, there is generally nothing to worry about. It is likely not an emergency, and should be monitored. Vomiting bile could be a sign of an intestine obstruction, and could cause BVS. In this situation, it is best to bring your cat to the vet to be checked out. Yellow vomit is also a sign of bile and should be monitored similarly.
Brown vomit typically occurs when your cat has eaten feces. It likely has a very bad smell and texture, which is how you will know. However, it could also indicate that your cat’s intestines are blocked, which would require attention from your vet.
Indeed, there are a number of situations that could cause your cat to throw up. In some cases, there is very little cause for concern. If you have a kitten and are concerned about vomiting, it is important to remember that they are generally healthy and just tend to eat lots of things they should not. As always, keep a close eye on your kitten and take them to the vet if you become concerned that they are unwell. For older cats, there are a number of health issues that could arise, from infections to chronic conditions. In these cases, it is best to maintain consistent visits to your vet for regular checkups and testing. We always recommend consistent diet and exercise, and plenty of attention, especially for very young and very old cats.