The Vomiting Cat

Cat with green eyes and long hair

Every cat owner has experienced their cute little kitty vomiting. Whether it be the occasional hairball, Christmas tinsel, or the food they just destroyed, cats are known to upchuck from time to time. The question is, why are they doing this and when should you be concerned? Here are a few pointers to help guide you through this unpleasant act.

Tip #1

Vomiting 101. Vomiting is the act of evacuating your stomach of its contents. It requires a hefty abdominal compression to heave-ho the gastric contents out into the world. You will commonly HEAR your cat vomiting before seeing it due to the classic gagging they produce before vomiting. Cats will present themselves in a crouched over appearance, heaving, and then retch up a pile of awful. Commonly confused, cats that are coughing look just like a cat vomiting!! The difference is that the COUGHING cat does not retch up a pile of awful. Rather, they crouch over and just heave.

Tip #2

Hairballs? Hairballs are quite misleading because SELDOM do they actually present as a ball. Instead, they look like a long-twisted tootsie roll of hair (sorry Tootsie Roll!). Cats are heavy groomers and constantly are licking themselves to keep their haircoat in order. In doing this, they consume a fair amount of hair. The hair can accumulate in the stomach or pass through the intestines. It is not digested. In one way or the other, it has to come out (vomit or in stool). Long haired cats tend to have more issues with hairballs compared to short-haired cats; however, both will vomit a few hairballs in their life without batting an eye. If your cat is vomiting up hairballs multiple times in a week, you may want to consider a hairball remedy. One of my favorite remedies is using Laxatone. Laxatone is flavored petroleum jelly that your cat will eat daily to help lube up the hair in the stomach and push it on down the line to be passed with the next bowel movement. Some cats will lick it off your finger, while others won’t. If they don’t eat it willingly, you can smear a dab on their paw, and they will absolutely lick it off! Cats HATE to be dirty ?

Tip #3

UVO?? My little spin-off UFO…is Unidentified Vomited Object; you find a pile of awful material and literally have no idea WHAT is it or WHERE it came from! Cats have been known to eat things that we as humans would never consider ingesting. Stray stings, toys, buttons, Christmas tinsel, plastic caps/rings, house plants… the list could go on and on. The bottom line is, if your cat has produced a UVO, it’s worth a call to your trusted vet for medical advice. Unfortunately, the GI tract can become blocked with these pesky items that result in emergency surgery. The sooner the diagnosis, the better outcome for your critter. Fun Fact- the strangest foreign object I removed from the intestine of a cat was a sewing needle attached to a long piece of thread!

Tip #4

Food??? It looks like they literally swallowed the food whole and moments later they vomited it back up. Interesting enough, cats minimally chew their food and typically DO swallow their food whole! The most common reason for vomiting food IS NOT because they ingested it too fast (a widespread misconception). Instead, Inflammatory Bowel Disease is the most common reason your cat vomits up food. A common cause of IBD in cats is a food allergy. However, other disorders such as kidney disease, liver disease, hyperthyroidism, urinary blockage, and even intestinal cancers can cause your cat to vomit.

The bottom line is, if your cat is vomiting, it warrants a call to your trusted vet. They are the best navigator to help you solve your kitty’s vomiting dilemma and save your carpets.