a cat that feels sick and seems to vomit

Part of being a cat parent means dealing with possible health conditions and illnesses. This is probably one of the worst parts of owning a cat, as we don’t want to see our pets experiencing pain or any kind of discomfort.

At some point in your cat’s life, they will vomit. If you’re worried about your cat vomiting or just want to learn more about why your cat might be throwing up, we discuss the most common reasons here. We also go over a few methods that you can use to help your cat.


The 12 Reasons That My Cat Is Vomiting

1. Hairballs

One of the most common reasons that cats throw up is due to hairballs. It’s usually obvious that your cat is throwing up hairballs because you’ll see a long tubelike mass of fur in the vomit. Most of the hair that cats ingest is pooped out, but hairballs are formed when it accumulates in the stomach.

While throwing up the hairballs is normal for most cats, hairballs can sometimes build up in the cat’s stomach and lead to an obstruction, which requires surgery to remove.

Most cats throw up hairballs about once or twice a month, but if your cat seems to throw them up more frequently, you might need to visit your vet. You can also give your cat a supplement and food designed to help reduce hairballs. You can also regularly groom your cat to decrease excess fur.

young cat sitting on wooden table with hairball
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 2. Eating Too Fast

When a cat eats too fast, it could lead to vomiting. This can happen to any cat, healthy or otherwise. The usual sign that this might be the case is if your cat vomits immediately after eating and the food looks like it hasn’t been properly digested.

There are a few methods that you can use to slow down your cat’s eating, such as using a slow feeder or an interactive toy feeder. These options will help your cat slow down and can even provide extra exercise as an added benefit.


3. Eating Something Toxic

This is much more of an emergency situation and in most cases, will require immediate treatment. Signs that a cat might have ingested something toxic include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Common poisons that cats might get into include house plants, medication (especially aspirin), household cleaners, pesticides, and antifreeze.

If there’s a chance that your cat ate something toxic, you need to go immediately to your vet’s or an emergency clinic. Bring what you believe that your cat ate with you, so your vet knows how to administer the right treatment.

Cat eating crumbs
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4. Food Allergy

One cause of vomiting is food allergies. The symptoms typically include skin rashes and itchy skin but also gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea. Food allergies can occur at any time in a cat’s life, even if they’ve been eating the same food for years.

The most common allergy triggers for cats are beef, chicken, and dairy. For treatment, your vet will start by feeding your cat a novel ingredient diet (food not found in most cat foods, like venison or duck), and if the symptoms disappear, the vet will prescribe a special diet.


5. Diabetes

One of the early symptoms of diabetes is vomiting. There is also increased hunger, thirst, and urination, as well as muscle weakness, lethargy, and weight loss.

A visit to your vet is in order. If your cat stops eating, this final symptom requires immediate veterinary care (in addition to the other symptoms).

Your vet will prescribe a diet change, a weight-loss program (if your cat is obese, which can result in diabetes), and possibly, insulin injections about twice a day.

Sick cat medicines
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6. Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) does have chronic intermittent vomiting as one of the symptoms. Your cat may also show symptoms that include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas
  • Blood in the feces
  • Gurgling sounds in the stomach
  • Unkempt fur

This disease occurs in the stomach, small intestine, or large intestine. While IBD is incurable, it can be managed through treatment at home with the use of antibiotics, immunosuppressive drugs, and diet.


7. Kidney Disease

The symptoms will vary depending on how severe the kidney disease is. Common symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Mouth sores
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Inability to urinate or incontinence
  • Bad breath

Kidney disease is managed through diet, medication, and hydration. This can be in the form of giving your cat subcutaneous fluids and increasing your cat’s water intake (sometimes, using a cat fountain is an effective way to encourage your cat to drink more water).

sick cat with feline disease
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8. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the cat’s pancreas, which affects the digestive and endocrine systems. When symptoms pop up, it’s usually an acute case, and your cat should be seen by your vet.

Symptoms include:
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Abdominal pain

Your vet will treat your cat with IV fluids, as well as anti-nausea and pain medications. They also need to address the underlying problem that caused pancreatitis in the first place, which could be an infection, an underlying disease (like diabetes or IBS), medication, and obesity.

At home, it can be managed through medication, a change in diet, and frequent visits to the vet.


9. Hyperthyroidism

One of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism is frequent vomiting. It’s caused by an overactive thyroid gland, and other symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Aggression
  • Weight loss
  • Unkempt coat
  • Ravenous appetite
  • Lump on the neck (enlarged thyroid gland)
  • Difficulty breathing

Hyperthyroidism is treated with radioiodine or daily medication and a diet low in iodine. Sometimes, the thyroid needs to be surgically removed.

Sick cat in animal hospital
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10. Parasites

Intestinal parasites, particularly roundworms, can cause vomiting. In fact, if your cat throws up and you see what looks like moving worms in the vomit, a visit to the vet is in order. One of the main symptoms is a swollen abdomen, diarrhea, and lethargy.

Usually, treatment is medication, but surgery might be required for cases that are too far advanced. After the treatment, your cat will need to visit the vet for a checkup to ensure that the worms and larvae have been eliminated.


11. Cancer

Some cats experience cancer of the digestive tract, which can cause vomiting and digestive issues. Certain cancers in other parts of the cat’s body can make the cat feel unwell and can also lead to vomiting.

How the cancer is treated depends on what kind is present in the cat, but most are treated with surgery and possibly, radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

sick cat with feline disease
Image Credit: Kittima05, Shutterstock

12. Foreign Body

When a cat eats a foreign object, it can lead to a blockage in the GI tract, which can then lead to vomiting. This situation requires the immediate attention of your vet.

In some cases, it might pass harmlessly through your cat’s feces, but in others, it could require surgery to remove. It’s best to supervise your cat around small objects, particularly string.


When Should You Worry?

If your cat seems to suddenly vomit more frequently, you should speak to your vet. This is even more important if the vomiting is accompanied by these symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Changes in the use of the litter box

Any worrisome change in your cat’s behavior and health should be addressed by your vet.


Conclusion

If your cat vomits randomly but doesn’t have any accompanying symptoms and doesn’t throw up again, they’re probably fine. You can always take note of it so you can speak to your vet about it at your next appointment.

But if there are other symptoms or your cat is throwing up hairballs more than once a week, you should schedule a vet appointment. It’s best not to treat it yourself at home, as there could be a more serious underlying issue going on, so be sure to follow your vet’s instructions. Hopefully, your cat will bounce back as frisky as ever!


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