All cat owners have had to clean up feline vomit at some point. It’s never a fun job, but that’s a price for owning one of these lovable furballs.
Despite its commonality, no one wants to hear that dreaded hacking sound! If you’re like most animal lovers, seeing your cat in any distress is worrying.
Throwing up is a guttural response you can’t help but empathize with while watching. It looks painful, and many of those heaves and lurches appear to take a lot out of your cat!
But as you watch in horror and worry with every heave, your cat suddenly passes the vomit and goes about its way like nothing even happened. What gives?
There are many reasons why cats throw up. The good news: If your cat is throwing up food but acting normal, there’s likely no major cause for concern. The bad news: You still have a mess to clean up!
So, why does this happen?
Understanding why your cat throws up is essential.
While you usually have no reason to be alarmed with an occasional upset stomach, there’s still a chance that the response could result from medical issues.
You can never be too careful, so knowing the root cause of this issue is a must.
12 Possible Reasons Why Your Cat is Vomiting
Cats aren’t the easiest animals to read. Watching them go from hurling their guts out to walking away totally fine is something that leaves many cat owners scratching their heads. But it’s not as out-of-the-blue as it seems.
Here are some of the most common reasons cats throw up but act normal.
This is, by far, one of the most common reasons why cats throw up seemingly out of nowhere.
Pay attention to your furry friend’s behavior, and you’ll quickly realize how much they groom themselves.
Cats are meticulous about their hygiene and will spend hours licking themselves. Their tounges have tiny keratin barbs. You may feel them whenever your cat licks you. The barbs create a tough texture that pulls out a good amount of hair as your cat grooms itself.
Cats inevitably swallow hair that accumulates in the stomach. It can’t pass through the digestive system, so it must come out the same way it came in!
Cats will throw up cylindrical clumps of compacted hair. Some fluids and possibly food usually accompany it. Throwing up hairballs occurs occasionally, but it’s relatively normal and doesn’t seem to harm cats too much.
Some cats may experience Hair Gastritis. When this happens, the hair causes the stomach lining to become inflamed. As a result, your cat might throw up food and other fluids before the hair comes out.
2. Fast Eating
Does your cat have a habit of scarfing food down quickly? They’re not alone. Cats love to eat, and they’ll try their best to consume everything available as soon as possible.
While some felines will take their sweet time, those not used to the luxury of having regularly available food will take extreme measures to get what they think is a rare meal.
For example, feral cats must rely on hunting, so provided meals are a rarity. You might also see quick eating from cats in a multi-pet household. Feeding becomes a competitive sport in those cases!
Either way, cats often regurgitate food if they eat it too fast. They might cause the food to hit the esophageal sphincter, resulting in a guttural reaction.
Alternatively, they might take too much air in and lose it all due to gas. It’s not uncommon to see cats eat the vomit right back up, so be wary of that!
Overeating can be an issue, too. Cats tend to eat beyond their means. Like before, the problem is more evident in cats that have to work or fight for food.
In multi-cat households, you might see one cat eat their entire meal before trying to eat another’s! Again, it comes down to that feeling of food being a rarity.
It’s essential to stick to scheduled feedings. Free-feedings can cause your cat to eat too much too quickly.
The result? Your cat will fill their stomachs to the point where it can’t hold anymore, causing them to throw up shortly after.
4. Allergic Reactions
We focus so much on humans being allergic to cats that we fail to remember that these animals can have their own allergens to avoid.
Food sensitivities can develop at any age. Your kitty might spend its entire life eating a common food ingredient like chicken. However, sudden allergic reactions make them sensitive to it moving forward, forcing you to find alternatives.
Allergic reactions can vary in severity.
The most common symptoms are stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Because your cat doesn’t know any better, it’s your job to fix this issue.
Consult with your vet and work on developing a diet that avoids those allergens.
5. A Lackluster Diet
Sometimes, it’s the diet itself that’s the problem.
Walk through any pet store, and you’ll see aisles of commercial cat food products. Unfortunately, not all of them are healthy options. Many inferior products don’t meet your cat’s nutritional needs.
Those cheaper kibbles can contain a high concentration of carbohydrate fillers. Cats need about 52 percent protein and 36 percent fat.
When you replace those requirements with simple carbs, don’t be surprised when your cat’s system doesn’t agree with the food.
Vomiting is a common reaction to cheap fillers. Please take it as a sign that you need to make a switch!
6. Eating Something They’re Not Supposed To
Are you guilty of giving your cat food made for humans every once in a while? We won’t tell, but you should stop doing that.
Cats can’t handle human foods. As mentioned in the previous section, felines have specific dietary needs.
They require high protein levels, a decent amount of fat, and few carbs. Anything outside of that could cause trouble. That includes human food.
Human-grade snacks contain processed ingredients, synthetic dyes, preservatives, and other things cats shouldn’t have. While your body can process those additives, cats aren’t so lucky.
7. Sudden Changes in Nutrition
In some cases, cats will respond negatively to changes in theirs. That’s not always the case; some cats are more sensitive than others. But you should always exercise caution when transitioning to a new dry or wet food.
Maybe you found a product that’s healthier than the old one. That’s great news! However, you need to introduce the food slowly.
Replace a small percentage of each meal with the new food. Increase that percentage daily over a week, and your cat’s system will adjust.
If you give a new food all at once, your cat’s stomach may not like it.
8. Upset Stomach
Ideally, your cat would eat their meals and not have any issues at all. But that’s not the reality. Upset stomachs, also known as gastroenteritis, will occur.
There are many reasons why gastroenteritis might happen. It could be something your cat eats, a bit of mold on the food, or a wide range of other things.
Upset stomachs can cause vomiting, but the issue is usually pretty mild. Symptoms tend to pass quickly, and cats might not even exhibit discomfort outside of the vomiting.
Related: Why Won’t My Cat Eat Wet Food?
9. Parasitic Infections
Here’s an issue no one wants to deal with when owning cats. Cats are prone to parasitic infections. They’re one of the most common animals to spread tapeworm and other types of invasive parasites.
When cats have worms, they can experience reduced hunger, digestive pain, and more. Throwing up can be a symptom, too. What’s worse is that you might see the worms in the vomit!
Seek veterinary help if that happens. Worms are pretty easy to treat, but the issue can be severe in young cats and kittens. Don’t forget to get your cat on preventative medicines to avoid problems in the future.
10. Airway Obstructions
Cats get into trouble frequently. Their naturally inquisitive nature puts them in sticky situations that could be fatal. Take, for example, airway obstructions.
Obstructions occur when a food item or inedible object gets stuck in the throat. Yes, airway obstructions can cause your cat to choke and die. But before that happens, it’ll trigger a strong vomiting response.
Vomiting is the body’s way of trying to eliminate the obstruction and clear a path for air to come in.
It’s successful in most cases, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the problem. Your cat will go about their business without even realizing it almost died!
Do your best to keep choking hazards away from your cat.
11. Swallowing Non-Edible Objects
So, what happens if your cat tries to swallow something inedible and it passes without getting stuck?
Typically, it’ll sit in the stomach! Your cat’s system will try to process it as if it were food. But of course, it’s not, so issues will pop up.
Vomiting is a common reaction to foreign objects in the body. The digestive system rejects the object, sending it back up for regurgitation. This can happen after only a few minutes.
Sometimes, smaller items will pass through and come out when your cat uses the litterbox.
Either way, it’s best to avoid this nasty problem altogether by keeping small toys and other choking hazards far away from your curious feline.
Related: What Can you Feed Stray Cats?
Finally, there’s poisoning. We wish we could say that poisoning is a rare occurrence. But thanks to their curious habits, it’s not hard for cats to encounter toxic substances.
It doesn’t take much for cats to get sick. Ingesting even a small amount of toxins can lead to stomach problems or death. Cats can’t process toxins, so it ends up in the liver and kidneys.
Poisons wreak havoc on those filtering systems, eventually leading to organ shutdown in extreme cases.
Vomiting typically occurs before any of that happens. If your cat is lucky, vomiting will entirely rid its stomach of the toxin, and it can go on its merry way.
The most common household toxins that cause rouble are antifreeze, alcohol, chemical-based cleaners, insecticides, and yard sprays.
The best thing you can do to avoid poisoning is to lock up potentially noxious substances.
Your cat is cunning and can get into tight spaces, so be extra vigilant and keep those items secure.
Health Issues That Could Cause Vomiting
Those were the most common reasons why cats throw up but act normal.
If your kitty’s behavior doesn’t change much after vomiting, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the issue. But in some cases, the throwing up could signify one of the following health issues.
Feline diabetes is more common than you think. It’s more likely to occur in overweight pets. Typically, diabetes causes vomiting, increased thirst, changes in urination, and other distinct symptoms.
Cancer is a scary word, but it’s a medical issue that affects cats. There are many types of cancers. However, most will interfere with your cat’s digestive system and cause vomiting.
Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease is when the intestinal tract reacts negatively to food. It can swell up, causing irritation that leads to throwing up.
Pancreatitis is a serious s disease that could threaten your cat’s well-being. It happens when the pancreas experiences inflammation, making it difficult to aid digestion.
Kidney disease is common in older cats. The kidney is a critical filtering organ that filters waste from the blood.
Without a properly functioning kidney, cats can experience a range of adverse symptoms, including vomiting.
Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland, an organ responsible for hormones and metabolism, overperforms. It can cause irritability, stomach issues, and a wide range of health complications.
Fatty Liver Disease
Also known as Hepatic Lipidosis, fatty liver disease occurs when an abnormal amount of fat accumulates in the liver. It can be fatal, and early symptoms include vomiting.
Excessive vomiting may play a role in the disease’s development, too.
When Should You Worry?
Seeing your cat vomit is always an alarming sight. It doesn’t matter what the initial cause is; most cat owners will worry to some extent.
But when does it cross the threshold from normal, no-need-to-worry vomiting into a red flag that something more serious is going on?
There are a few things to pay attention to when gauging the seriousness of your cat throwing up. The first is frequency. It is not normal for a cat to throw up every single day.
At most, what most experts consider “normal” is vomiting once or twice a week.
– When to Seek Medical Attention?
Cats are natural hunters, and they always get into weird foods.
Not everything will agree with their systems, and they’ll throw up to get some relief. That’s normal, and once or twice a week isn’t going to cause lasting problems.
But if it persists beyond that, seek medical attention. Daily vomiting isn’t the standard and could indicate a serious health problem at play.
You may also notice your older cat vomiting more than once or twice a week. Should you be concerned?
Senior cats vomit more because they’re more susceptible to underlying diseases.
Old cats can develop allergies, suffer from weakening kidneys, experience a mild form of hyperthyroidism, and more.
Whatever the case, taking your senior dog to a vet is always a good idea if vomiting becomes too much of a regular thing. Catching those underlying health issues early is the key to managing them.
When Should You Feed Your Cat Again?
So, your cat threw up all their food and looks perfectly fine. Should you give them more food?
It’s best to wait at least four to six hours after the throw-up session. Vomiting can irritate the esophagus. Feeding them too early could result in more issues.
Give your cat plenty of time to recover a bit. Provide easy access to lean water and hold off the food for a few hours.
Your cat can throw up for a myriad of different reasons. The most important thing is to pay attention to how they act afterward. If they seem to be behaving as if nothing happened, there’s a good chance it’s not a major cause for concern.
It’s only when vomiting becomes a frequent thing that you should worry.
Look out for additional symptoms. If you even remotely suspect that the throwing up isn’t normal, don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet. It’s better to be safe than sorry!