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Why is my Cat Vomiting Frequently?

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Photo of Veterinarian & Assistant Examining Cat

Photo of Veterinarian & Assistant Examining Cat

Photo Credit: © iStockPhoto_Dennis Guyitt
Question: Why is my Cat Vomiting Frequently?

I'm worried about my eight year old kitty, Bosco. He's been in pretty good health all his life, and he's had all his vaccinations, and was neutered when he was a kitten. But all of a sudden, he's started vomiting pretty regularly, It started two days ago, and he doesn't seem to be getting any better.

He's been eating the same kind of food as always, and it's never made him sick before. I can't take him to my vet until I get paid in two weeks. Do you have any ideas what might be causing his vomiting, and what I can do to help him?
Your Faithful Reader, Linda

Answer:

Dear Linda,

Vomiting in cats can be caused by a number of different conditions and/or circumstances, and can either be a passing thing or a symptom of a serious condition. I can only offer general information about the possible causes, along with a strong recommendation that you take Bosco to your veterinarian for a thorough examination, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Relatively Minor Causes of Vomiting by Cats

  • Eating Too Fast
    One possible benign cause is simply that the cat eats too much, too fast. I encountered this problem originally with my Bubba, several years ago. Bubba at that time was a healthy cat with few problems, but I sometimes found evidence of his vomiting barely digested dry food. I took him to our veterinarian, who gave him a thorough examination to eliminate any serious causes. Satisfied that he was in good health, Dr. D. explained to me that sometimes cats just eat too quickly, and the sudden dumping of a large quantity of food into the stomach is just as quickly rejected. The "cure" for this problem may sound strange, but costs are negligible, if any.
    • Feed smaller meals more frequently.
    • Feed on a paper plate rather than in a bowl.
    • If the cat still "Hoovers" 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 him to eat much slower.
    These tips worked quite well for Bubba, and his vomiting magically stopped right away. Again, please have your veterinarian check Bosco out first, to eliminate more serious reasons for his vomiting, as I did with Babba
  • Food Allergies
    One of the most common food allergies for cats is corn, which is often present in dry food in several different versions. I learned this when we first adopted Jaspurr and Joey as kittens. I was feeding them dry food at that time in which corn was a main ingredient. Little Joey was vomiting from the time we came home, so I switched him to another, better food with no corn, and the vomiting cleared up almost immediately.

    Wheat is another known allergen for cats. Cats are Obligate Carnivores and really don't need grains to thrive. With that in mind, I now only fed my cats grain-free cat foods.

More Serious Causes of Vomiting

Poisoning

Sudden vomiting can also be caused by poisoning, a veterinary emergency.

  • Antifreeze Poisoning in Cats
    Caused by ethylene glycol in the antifreeze, which is attractive to cats because of its sweet taste, symptoms include nausea and vomiting. When buying antifreeze, look for those using propylene glycol as an agent, which the American Food and Drug Administration has labeled as non-toxic. Always store antifreeze and other toxic products safely away, and make sure there are no spills on your garage floor. Better yet, keep your cats out of the garage at all times.
  • Other Toxins in the Home and Yard
    Follow my suggestions in the article, Consistent Habits to Practice for a Cat-Safe Home These are som of the substances to look for and lock up:
    • Human Medications
    • Toxic Cleaning Substances
    • Insect Spray
    • Yard Spray for Weeds and Pests
  • Recalled Toxic Cat Food and Treats
    In the Diamond Pet Food Recalls of 2012, vomiting was one of the symptoms of cats and dogs who ate the toxic foods, according to Phyllis Entis, MSc., SM(NRCM), of EFoodAlert.

Vomiting Caused by Diseases and Conditions

  • Feline Irritable Bowel Disease
    Also called "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" or "Irritable Bowel Disorder," IBD can occur anywhere in the intestinal tract of the cat, including the stomach (gastritis), the small intestine (enteritis), or the large intestine (colitis). Treatment includes medication and often 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, 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. As with pancreatitis, vomiting is another common symptom of diabetes.
  • Hyperthyroidism
    Frequent vomiting, along with increased appetite and weight loss are strong potential indicators of hyperthyroid disease, which is yet another disease of an endocrine gland, the thyroid.
  • Hepatic Lipidosis aka Fatty Liver Disease
    Although vomiting is not a primary symptom of 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.

A Word About Hairballs

Although cat caregivers often joke among ourselves about hairballs, they are really 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, causing a sort of fuzzy "logjam;" a dangerous bowel obstruction which may have to be removed surgically. Regular grooming with a tool such as the FURminator, shown in the second photo, will go a long way in preventing this kind of veterinary emergency.

Linda, I know I have given you much to think about. I've done that, not to scare you, but to help you understand the potential seriousness of Bosco's vomiting. The fact is that two weeks is too long to wait for Bosco to be examined and treated. However, since you are short on funds, you may be able to arrange some way to pay your veterinarian. You can learn more by reading Financial Help for Pets' Veterinary Emergencies. Personally, if I didn't already have pet insurance, I'd likely look into Care Credit. My personal veterinarian displays applications in her office. Her assistant told me the other day that the option for "interest-free six month pay" is by far the most popular among their patients.

Because I always worry when readers email me about their sick cats, would you please let me know what your veterinarian finds when you take Bosco in?

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. Your own veterinarian should always be your first source for treatment and care advice for a sick cat, regardless of the nature of the illness. This article is meant only to give you a starting place to do your own research so you can make an informed decision, should it ever become necessary.

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