Why Does my Cat Vomit?

Dec 9, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Cats are amazing, not just because of all the warm and fuzzy stuff they bring us, like their kisses and purrs, but because they have an incredible ability to hide signs of disease.  It breaks my heart when a loving, concerned owner brings me in a cat that doesn’t look very well and the owner’s response to the questions I ask tell me that this cat has had issues for a lot longer than it should.  Most often the owner thought some of the behavior was normal.  One of those behaviors is when cats vomit.

It is widely accepted that cats can vomit when they are very healthy.  Most often, cat owners associate vomiting with the peaceful grooming most cats love to do.  Yes, it is true that cats can bring up hairballs when they are grooming more than they usually do and they ingest a lot of fur, but cats are meant to groom, so their gastrointestinal tract was designed to handle most of the fur they swallow.  I like to think of the cats’ GI tract as having great housekeeping capabilities.  So, when I find that a cat is vomiting a lot, I am not likely to accept it as normal.  I am not saying that every time a cat vomits there is something very wrong, but I think a cat that vomits regularly, likely needs some help.

Simple causes of vomiting can be the way a cat eats – some almost inhale food!  Many times, moving a cat from canned food to dry food will help since it slows some cats down, or the other way around.  I also ask owners to use bowls like the Brake-Fast bowls, or have owners put a small ball in the cat’s dish which usually get the cat to eat slower.  Cats can also develop sensitivities to a cat food’s ingredients, so trying different foods might be all that is needed to stop a cat from vomiting.  Keep track of how often your cat brings up food or fluid and whether it vomits just after eating (referred to as regurgitation) or whether it can happen hours after eating.  If you make changes in the way you feed and try different diets but vomiting continues, it is time to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

The cause of vomiting that I think is most often missed by owners because their cats seem perfectly fine despite vomiting regularly, is a condition called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  IBD is a very complicated condition, because the level of inflammation in the cat’s GI tract that one cat has can be very different than the level of inflammation another cat has.  Along with the difference in the severity of inflammation is the fact that our GI tract and cats’ GI tracts have architectures that are very specific.  The GI tract has an important job, so changes in the architecture due to smoldering inflammation that eventually alters the main function of the GI tract, which is to absorb nutrients, can lead to devastating consequences that can also involve other important organs. When inflammation occurs, the changes are not always the same, so the treatment can vary. This means that your veterinarian is likely to recommend diagnostic tests that will figure out what the best way is to treat your cat.

So, if your cat vomits regularly or a friend tells you their cat vomits regularly, remember that it really isn’t normal for a cat to vomit often.  I think that cat needs to see a veterinarian as soon as possible!

Dr Diane Eigner

Diane Eigner graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School in 1980. Dr. Eigner established her exclusively feline practice, The Cat Doctor, in Philadelphia in 1983, and began offering house call services at the Jersey Shore in 1991. She is a past president of the University of Pennsylvania’s Veterinary School Alumni Society, a Past President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and is a member of the advisory board of Harcum Junior College’s Veterinary Technical School. Diane has been the consulting veterinarian for the Morris Animal Refuge since 1983. Doctor Eigner’s column “Ask The Cat Doctor” appeared in the Cat Fancier’s Almanac from 1996-2000. Diane joined the Catalyst Council’s board as the American Association of Feline Practitioner’s representative in 2009. She is now serving as the immediate past-chair of the Catalyst Council.

An avid Sailor, Diane loves nothing better than to be at the Jersey shore where she keeps her sailboat, Purrfect, and where she has a second home. Since meeting her husband, Fred Turoff, Temple University’s Men’s gymnastics team head coach, her family life has been dominated by men’s gymnastics. Her son Evan is a level ten gymnast that competes nationally and will join her husband’s division I men’s gymnastics team in the fall.. Diane also shares her life with three very entertaining cats. Though she shouldn’t have a favorite, her Sphynx cat, Velvet, which she rescued at the shelter where she consults, is the cat love of her life. Her integrated home also includes a Welsh Corgi named Twinks, two Cornish Rex cats, Naui and Padi and a Russian Tortoise.

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535 North 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Phone: (215) 561-7668
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