Cats are lovable yet mysterious animals – their curiosity and intrigue are what make them such fun pets! Domesticated thousands of years after dogs, cats are notoriously more difficult to read and still have much in common with their ancestors. In addition, they hide stress and discomfort particularly well.
Therefore, it is no surprise many cat owners are baffled when they throw up on the middle of the floor, seemingly out of the blue. This article will discuss the different reasons a cat might throw up food, when it is time to be concerned, and when to head over to your veterinarian.
It is important to note that there is a difference between vomiting and regurgitating. Vomiting is a more forceful release of stomach contents, can last several minutes, and the cat may display symptoms of feeling unwell (such as excessive drooling or heaving).
The regurgitating typically happens suddenly and without symptoms; a common example of regurgitating is when your cat abruptly regurgitates undigested food. Keep an eye out on whether your cat is vomiting or regurgitating, as it is helpful knowledge to provide to the veterinarian.
For this article, the primary term used below is vomiting, but note that vomiting or regurgitating can occur for most of the noted issues.
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What causes our feline friends to vomit/regurgitate, and when should we begin to suspect something is wrong? There are a variety of reasons your cat may be throwing up. Below are some of the most common explanations:
Cats are creatures of habit and can experience many different types of stressors in the home. If you bring a new pet into the home (whether it is a cat, dog, or any other animal), the cat may feel stressed by the dramatic change.
Another stressor is packing up and moving to another home. Cats need time to adjust, and changing up their surroundings can be a significant source of stress. If you and your family find yourselves away from home more often, this could also trigger stress-induced nausea and vomiting in your pet cat.
It is a myth that cats prefer to be alone – while most cats do not always need to be held and pet, many cats want to be nearby their owners and can experience separation anxiety if their owners are away for long periods. Even smaller changes can impact a cat’s physical wellbeing and may lead to an upset stomach, although it is much less common.
These smaller changes include changes to the litter box (such as changing the type of litter or moving the box to a different area in the house) or moving furniture.
To avoid stress-induced vomiting and reduce general stress and anxiety, implement small, incremental changes, so your cat has a longer period to adjust. For new pets, be thoughtful of how you introduce them to your cat and make sure your cat still has a private area it can retreat to.
When moving into a new home, make sure to unpack familiar items your cat enjoys (like their bed or a comfortable blanket) so that they feel calmer and more relaxed.
Since most household cats eat the same food every day, it is best to slowly introduce new food. Switching to a new type or food brand requires an adjustment period to avoid your cat experiencing an upset stomach and vomiting.
Start by mixing in a small amount of the new food with the old food, and slowly increase the amount of new food each day until you have fully replaced the old food within 1-2 weeks. This will help minimize vomiting and an upset stomach.
Typically vomiting due to a new food is not serious, but it is still uncomfortable for the cat and relatively easy to avoid. If your cat is vomiting from the new food frequently, is not adjusting, and/or there is blood in the vomit, take your cat to the veterinarian right away.
Food allergies could be another reason your cat is vomiting. Be sure and feed your cat a high-protein, balanced diet (ideally a mix of dry and wet food) and avoid over-feeding treats. If you struggle to find a diet that works for your cat, consult your veterinarian about a special, personalized diet for your cat’s needs.
One reason your cat may be throwing up is that the cat has hair stuck in its esophagus and needs to clear its airway (hence, you have a hairball on the ground). This is relatively common, particularly for long-haired cat breeds.
Still, if your cat is throwing up hairballs more than once every couple of weeks or exhibiting an unusual frequency of hairballs, then it may be time to visit the veterinarian.
Cats may also over-groom themselves if they are stressed or anxious, leading to excess hairballs thrown up. One way to avoid hairballs is to brush your cat with a slicker brush regularly – this removes the hair they would have removed themselves during grooming and can reduce hairballs.
If your cat is still throwing up hairballs frequently, the veterinarian may suggest an over-the-counter hairball remedy to help your cat pass the hair through its digestive system.
4. Eating Too Quickly
The size of a cat’s stomach is only around the size of a ping-pong ball, and it is easy for cats to simply eat too much too quickly and vomit undigested food onto the floor.
To help alleviate this issue, try purchasing a ‘slow feeder’ food bowl, making it more difficult for your cat to inhale quickly.
Additionally, be sure and feed your cat at regular intervals, so they are not exceedingly hungry when food is delivered.
5. Household Toxins
Cats are naturally curious animals and often find themselves getting into all types of mischief around the house. Therefore, it is extremely important to make sure household chemicals and cleaners are safely stored out of reach so cats cannot access them.
Additionally, some cats are interested in the food we eat and want to try some human food on their own time – be sure to throw away any unfinished meals and secure the pantry so you do not have access to anything they shouldn’t put in their mouths.
6. Toxic House Plants
Munching on indoor plants is a common reason cats throw up because many common household plants are toxic to cats. Cat owners can easily access information on which plants are toxic and safe through a quick online search.
Some toxic household plants to cats include peace lilies, aloe vera, pothos, snake plants, and jade plants. Since cats have different personalities, some may be interested in munching on plants, and some may leave plants alone entirely. Here is a list of plants that are toxic for cats:
- Peace Lilies (Spathiphyllum)
- Aloe Vera
- Monstera Deliciosa
- Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
- Jade Plants (Crassula)
- Snake Plants (Sansevieria trifasciata)
- Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
- English Ivy (Hedera helix)
- Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)
It is important to know your cat – if there is a chance your cat may chew on and eat plants, then only purchase plants that are non-toxic to cats. If the plant is highly toxic to cats, then avoid having it in your house altogether.
7. Foreign Material
If your cat is throwing up, it may have ingested a foreign object that must exit the body. Your cat may or may not be able to expel the object on its own, so if you suspect your cat ate a foreign object, take them to the veterinarian immediately for an exam.
Since most household cats are indoors and/or receive treatment to avoid parasites, this is mostly a problem with kittens or stray cats. If you see worms in your cat’s vomit, take them to the veterinarian immediately for treatment.
Treating the parasites typically resolves the vomiting as well.
As a furkid parent, you must be aware of how much cat food cost? And what to feed a cat when out of food? As well as if you have multiple pets at your home cats, and dog, then know how to stop dogs from eating cat food? And how to keep cat food away from dogs? It is necessary to ensure your kitty gets what you fill in her bowl.
10. Medical issues
Your cat may be suffering from an undiagnosed medical issue with vomiting as a symptom. Chronic illnesses that lead to vomiting include kidney disease, pancreatitis, and hyperthyroidism. The cat must first be diagnosed with the medical issue and then receive treatment to alleviate the vomiting.
Many chronic illnesses will require a lifelong treatment plan, but treatment will reduce vomiting and make the illness more manageable. Cancer in the digestive tract can be another cause of vomiting.
If your cat is displaying other symptoms such as discomfort, lethargy, and general malaise, take them to the veterinarian for an exam.
It is normal for your cat to throw up occasionally, and many instances of vomiting will resolve on their own. However, typically, when there are noticeable changes in the frequency or amount of vomiting from your cat, it is time to take your cat to the vet, as this is a sign there is an underlying issue at hand.
Cats do a phenomenal job of hiding pain. Even if your cat does not act sick, if they are throwing up more frequently or exhibiting worrisome vomiting, it is best to have a veterinary professional make sure there’s no serious underlying illness at play.