Every cat owner knows the feeling of getting up, taking a few steps and stepping in cat vomit.
It’s pretty much a universal experience for anyone who has a cat.
While it isn’t exactly normal, vomiting is something that commonly happens with cats. Why? There are many reasons, and we’ll take a look at them, but first let’s take a closer look at cat digestion and diet.
Quick Look : Best Cat Food for Cats Who Throw Up in 2019
Cat Digestion Basics
While we can easily digest and get nutrition from both animal and plant-based food sources, the same is not true for cats. They are obligate carnivores, which means their bodies can only obtain nutrients from meat. That doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy fruits and veggies, as many do and they don’t do any harm.
However, cats NEED meat, and it is a primary ingredient in almost all cat food, beef, and chicken being the most common ones used, followed by fish. Many brands also use duck, turkey, venison, rabbit and even quail. Trying to make a cat subsist on a vegetarian or vegan diet will not end well!
Adult cats should be fed twice a day and given a high quality diet. If you offer treats, they should be given sparingly and only in small portions. Avoid off-brand treats as they could contain ingredients that will upset your cat’s stomach.
A cat’s digestive system is much like our own, encompassing the mouth, teeth, esophagus, intestines, pancreas, stomach, liver and gallbladder. However, unlike ours, a cat’s system is equipped to break down every part of the prey it eats, from beaks and feathers to bones. They do not chew their food; they swallow it in big chunks, which can contribute to vomiting issues. It takes about 20 hours for food to pass through your cat’s system.
Most of the time this system is very efficient, and in the case of indoor cats, doesn’t have to work quite so hard, but things can and do go wrong.
When that happens, and your cat vomits, pinpointing the cause can be difficult. Sometimes the reason will be right there in the vomit in the case of parasites or eat something they shouldn’t, but in others, you’ll have to dig.
So why do cats vomit? There are a lot of reasons, some no big deal and some that need a visit to the vet. Now that you’ve got the basics of a cat’s digestion and nutritional needs down let’s take a closer look at the reasons cats throw up.
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Yes, sometimes the reason your cat vomits is a good one. Vomiting is the body’s way of saying “hey, this doesn’t belong here and needs to go!”. This is true for both humans and cats, so if you cat eats something she shouldn’t, chances are it will come right back up.
For example, if your cat likes to nibble on your houseplants, or like many cats, is the expert bug hunter and gobbles them up when they catch them., the chances are good that at some point, their stomachs will object. This is a defense mechanism designed to help them survive in the wild.
Another thing sure to make a cat vomit is spoiled food. Although their bodies are equipped to eat raw meat and stuff like bones and feathers, cats do not enjoy spoiled food any more than we do, and their bodies will reject any they ingest by vomiting and sometimes diarrhea as well.
Prevention is simple, check food for freshness before giving it to them, and keep houseplants up out of their reach of they like to use them as a personal salad bar. Since some plants are toxic to cats, this is an especially good idea. You can find a list of poisonous plants here.
Hairballs are a part of life with cats, and for the most part, they are harmless. Messy, but usually nothing to worry about. Cats get hairballs because they are so fastidious. They love to be clean, and they will spend hours and grooming themselves.
Unlike humans though, the only tool they have is their tongues. That means they can’t help but ingest a lot of their fur, as well as that of any cats they may share the house with. Not all cats groom each other but most that get along do at least occasionally.
Over time that hair will build up in their stomachs as it’s not digestible. Sometimes it passes through and winds up in the litterbox, but more often it sticks around until the stomach has had enough and vomited it back up. It’s not uncommon for cats to throw up hairballs a few times a month, according to the Cornell University Feline Health Center. This is good because in some cases the hairball doesn’t come back up or pass through to the litterbox. Instead, it gets caught in the intestines and causes an obstruction.
Signs of obstruction include lethargy, loss of appetite and repeated episodes of retching with no production. If your cat is showing these symptoms, get them to the vet right away. Only surgery can correct an obstruction, and it is an emergency.
To prevent hairballs, comb or brush your cat regularly. This is especially important for long-haired cats. For short hairs, a session once or twice a month should be plenty, but long-haired cats should be combed weekly. Feed a high-quality food that contains natural fiber to help hairballs pass through more easily.
Specially formulated treats can be helpful as well but follow the directions carefully. If you notice your cat is trying to cough up a hairball, try putting a bit of butter or petroleum jelly on their paw or fur. They’ll lick it right off, and it will help grease things up if the hairball needs some help. Again though, if your cat continues to have difficulty, call your vet!
Vomiting can be a sign of food allergies. The most common allergens for cats are chicken, beef, fish, and eggs. While it is possible for cats to be allergic to corn, soy, and gluten, those allergies are relatively rare.
Are you uncertain if your cat has food allergies? Here are the symptoms to look out for:
- Excessive grooming
- Hair loss
- Bald patches
- Hot spots
- Digestive issues
- Inflamed skin
If your cat has any of these symptoms, talk to your vet. It’s important to rule out any other causes, such as fleas or anxiety first. Once other causes have been ruled out your vet will probably have you start your cat on an elimination diet. This involved removing one potential allergen at a time and watching to see if the cat’s symptoms improve. Once the allergen is found, you can go back to your cat’s previous diet, minus that food. There are many foods out there with alternate protein sources.
It’s important to note though that cats tend to develop allergies to the protein sources they eat most often, so finding a brand with a variety of different protein sources is a good idea.
Cats are creatures of habit. They love their food and will happily eat it every day without complaint. They aren’t picky for the most part. But if you need to change their diet for any reason, chances are good their stomachs will get upset, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.
To minimize this, don’t switch to the new food all at once. Instead, add a small amount to the old food and continue to increase that amount gradually over a few weeks until all the old food is gone. Doing this will allow your cat’s digestive system to slowly adjust to the new diet.
Remember how our moms would tell us not to run around and play or go swimming for an hour after we eat so we wouldn’t get sick? Well, it turns out that’s a thing for cats too. If they decide to get into some rough and tumble play action right after they eat, vomiting can result.
If you notice your cat throwing up during or right after a play session, this could be the reason why. Encourage your cats to relax for a while after they eat to give their meal time to settle and start digesting.
Poor Quality Food/Eating Habits
We want to give our cats the nothing but the best, right? Sometimes we end up unintentionally doing the opposite. This is especially true with new cat owners, who may think the food they’ve been giving their cat is just fine. The price is right, Fluffy loves it, and he’s doing great except for the fact he keeps throwing up.
Poor quality food can irritate a cat’s digestive system because it’s often made of inferior ingredients. Stick to well-known brands and avoid generics. Check out reviews and always read the list of ingredients carefully.
Poor eating habits can also cause vomiting. It’s not uncommon for cats to eat much too fast, mainly if they were previously feral, came from a hoarding situation, or otherwise had to fight for every meal.
Cats who have been in such situations will gobble down their good at lightning speed because they are so used to not knowing when the next meal will be or have to keep from having food taken by other cats. If your cat throws up shortly after eating and mostly undigested food, eating too fast is the cause.
Fortunately, this can be treated. Feed your fast-eating cat smaller portions more often, and provide a quiet place away from other cats. Another trick is to use a puzzle feeder or put a clean golf ball in the center of her food. These things will make them have to work a little harder to get the food, which will naturally slow them down.
Sadly, sometimes vomiting is a sign of a serious medical issue. Some of the most common are:
- Thyroid disease
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Pyometra (uterine infection)
- Kidney or liver disease
- Feline panleukopenia virus
- Inflammatory bowel disease
If your cat vomits up blood or worms, obviously they need to see the vet right away. Other signs that vomiting is more serious than a simple upset tummy or hairballs are the loss of appetite, loss of interest in grooming, sitting in a hunched over position (a classic sign of a cat in pain), lethargy, weakness, and crying. If your cat exhibits any of these or other signs of serious illness, don’t delay in calling the vet!
What to Look for When Buying Food for Your Cat
If you’ve ruled out any serious medical causes, it’s may be time to talk about changing your cat’s diet. If an elimination diet has revealed a food sensitivity or allergy, it’s a must, but even if your cat just has a sensitive tummy, a change in diet can be beneficial.
Start by looking for high quality food with chicken, beef, or fish as the first ingredient. Primary ingredients ending with meal are not harmful, but if your cat has a sensitive stomach you want to give them the best protein sources available.
Some cats do better with food that contains duck or lamb, so consider that when choosing a new food. Grain-free food is not a necessity, but since they do tend to have higher quality ingredients, you may want to try one.
It’s essential to read the labels carefully and to know what you’re reading. The more natural ingredients are, the better. Avoid foods that have a lot of artificial additives and fillers like guar gum and carrageenan.
Reviewed: The Best Foods for Cats Who Throw Up
Now that you’re an expert on cat nutrition and why cats throw up, let’s take a look four top brand of food for cats who throw up. It’s important to remember that each one comes with benefits and drawbacks, so we advise taking this into account before making a choice.
Read labels and reviews from other cat owners and of course, don’t be afraid to discuss any questions you may have with your vet. Lucky for you, we’ve gotten the ball rolling by including the pros and cons of each brand for your review. Remember always to get your cat examined by your vet to rule out any serious issues before making any significant dietary changes.
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Hairball Control Adult Farm-Raised Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Cat Food Buy It
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Hairball Control Adult Farm-Raised Chicken & Brown Rice dry cat food is specially formulated for cats who have issues with hairballs. It provides high quality, animal-based protein, and natural fibers to help minimize distress from hairballs. It contains no corn, wheat, soy or artificial flavors or preservatives, making it ideal for cats with sensitive tummies or food sensitivities.
- Provides high animal protein content
- Made in the USA
- No artificial flavors or preservatives
- No GMO
- All ingredients are carefully sourced from the manufacturer’s network of farmers
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Indoor Hairball & Weight Control Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food Buy It
If your kitty is sensitive to grains, Blue Buffalo Wilderness Indoor Hairball & Weight Control is a great choice. It contains no grain, gluten or by-products, just real chicken enriched with what the company calls LifeSource Bits, a blend of vitamins, minerals, and superfoods that support the immune system, skin, coat, vision and heart health. It also includes a unique fiber blend to aid in digestion and reduce hairballs.
- High quality protein sources
- Made in the USA
- Helps manage hairballs
- Helps maintain a healthy weight
- Designed for cats of all ages.
Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Chicken Recipe Adult Dry Cat Food Buy It
For cats with sensitive tummies, finding food that agrees with them can be a challenge. Blue for Cats Sensitive Stomach Chicken & Brown Rice may be a good option. It contains 100% real chicken, no by-products or fillers. It’s appropriate for cats of all ages and can be served dry or with warm water added to make a gravy. Blue cat foods feature their exclusive LifeSource Bits, a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and other vital nutrients.
- Made in the USA
- 100% chicken is the first ingredient
- Supports healthy skin and coat
- Can help cats maintain a healthy weight
- Contains a lot of grains, so may not be appropriate for some food-sensitive cats.
- Not recommended for cats with urinary tract or kidney issues.
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dry Cat Food Buy It
Hills Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dry Cat Food is specially formulated to be easy to digest for cats with sensitive digestive systems. Since cats with sensitive stomachs may have food sensitivities that result in coat and skin problems, this food includes omega-6 fatty acids and Vitamin E to promote skin and coat health. It’s designed for optimal nutrient absorption in a tasty formula that will appeal to most cats.
- Gentle on sensitive stomachs
- Offers 100% money back guarantee
- Made in the USA
- A portion of each purchase goes to Hill’s Food, Shelter & Love program, which helps feed over 100,000 homeless pets every day
- No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
- Not recommended for cats with grain allergies