cat throwing up and panting
Cat Health and Wellness

7 Reasons Why Your Cat is Vomiting (Not Eating or Drinking)!

Feline vomiting happens regularly, but it can still be very worrying for a pet owner. While vomiting caused by a hairball or mild stomach irritation is perfectly normal, health issues that last for many weeks are not. Chronic sickness can sometimes be a sign of a serious medical condition.

Pay close attention to your cat when it does show signs of sickness because it is unable to tell you that it’s unwell. If your cat lacks energy, refuses to eat or drink, vomits blood, and is having bouts of diarrhea, then you instantly know that action needs to be taken.

In this guide, we are going to take a look at the causes of vomiting in cats. We will also let you know when it’s most likely to be a sign of a severe health problem that requires veterinary attention.

Acute Vomiting vs. Chronic Vomiting

The core difference between acute vomiting and chronic vomiting is the frequency. If your cat vomits suddenly (due to a hairball, for example) and doesn’t vomit again for another ten days, that could be an example of acute vomiting.

More times than not, acute vomiting is normal. Occasional vomiting is to be expected. This is undoubtedly true if you have a long-haired cat who’s an expert groomer.

Chronic vomiting, on the other hand, is an ongoing issue. Daily vomiting, hourly vomiting, etc. If your feline vomits every 2-3 hours, then this could be a sign of a serious medical condition rather than a hairball, upset stomach or a minor obstruction.

Although acute vomiting can be a sign of disease, chronic vomiting is often the result of something serious and long-term. Pancreatitis, liver failure, kidney failure, toxicity, and gastric tumors are just a few examples or causes.

Is Vomiting Normal for Cats?

Vomiting is perfectly normal for cats. Most normal vomiting often produces food, hairball(s) or bile. Many times, a foamy liquid will be produced if your cat’s stomach was already empty.

Monitor your cat in the hours following an episode to make sure they’re feeling okay. If they resume eating, drinking, grooming, and playing then chances are the occurrence was the byproduct of a minor irritation.

Common Reasons Why Cat’s Vomit

The cause is typically stomach irritation and unease. Something (food or drink) is not sitting right, so they feel unwell.

There are some common medical issues that felines face that can be very serious and shouldn’t be ignored.

Hairballs

The byproduct of loose hairs becoming stuck to the tongue and mouth, it is common for cats to swallow the fur. If the fur cannot be digested, it will result in irritation. It is during this period that your cat will begin to feel unwell and vomit.

Most hairballs are shaped like a cylinder and are the same color as your cat’s natural coat. If your feline has dark fur, it can be easy to mistake a hairball for feces until you’re able to get a closer look.

After producing a hairball, most felines are a bit sluggish for a few moments and will curl up and relax. This has more to do with the trauma of the physical act of vomiting than a serious health issue.

After a few moments, your cat should be right as rain and be acting as though nothing happened. They may even wish to eat following the event.

  • If you see loose hair flying around while your cat is grooming, it’s important to take action. Remove loose hairs with your hands, brush or grooming glove. You may have to remove hair from your cat’s lips. The more hair you can dispose of the less likely your feline will be to consume it and encounter a problem in the hours to follow.

Eating Too Fast

When cats decide to eat or drink, they can get a bit carried away. Too much consumption can lead to vomiting.

Although harmless, you never want vomiting after a meal to become commonplace. By limiting the food available and squishing canned food (rather than leaving it in large chunks), it will force your cat to lick it up rather than consume large portions.

The cycle of eating too fast can also come on the heels of affection. Some cats run to the food after being petted. Regardless of hunger, your feline’s desire to please you (by eating all of their food) could be a problem.

Grass and Plants

Cats enjoying munching on leaves. Many times, this action can be a problem for your cat. Coming in contact with rotting leaves or leaves sprayed with chemicals can make your cat feel unwell. This can lead to bouts of acute vomiting.

While most grass and plant consumption is harmless, it’s still vital to monitor your cat’s behavior. You don’t want your cat feasting on the waste in your backyard. That is not healthy and increases the likelihood of a major issue occurring.

  • Plant an edible garden for your cat. Through the use of cat grass, your feline can munch their own greens and leave yours alone. This is a much safer option. You can purchase cat grass at any leading pet supply store.

New Foods

Switching food can introduce new ingredients that can unsettle your cat’s digestive system. Many times, the transition from dry to wet food can be the harshest.

Because canned food often has a richer taste and more complex ingredients, your cat’s system may struggle to cope.

Cats require nourishing meats that are high in protein. Although a dietary change could be the culprit, it’s vital to feed your cat a proper diet. Switching to wet food could prove to be the best solution for moving forward.

You should also be aware that certain human foods can be toxic to cats. Don’t share your meals with them!

Parasites

The ingestion of infected birds, feces, fleas, rats, mice, skin contact, and transmission from an infected mother’s milk are the most common ways that cats get parasites. The presence of a parasite can cause vomiting as well as a host of other issues.

Some of the most common parasites include…

  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Lungworms

Cats that stay outdoors and hunt and eat prey are the most vulnerable to parasites. Felines that carry an abundance of fleas are more inclined to get tapeworm specifically.

Kittens who do not receive any form of professional health care are also at risk. Lack of immune support can lead to many complications that are introduced by internal parasites.

  • If your cat has fallen ill due to a parasite, check your cat’s vomit and feces for worms. If you see evidence of a problem, you are encouraged to take your cat to the vet ASAP. Deworming medication and a complete medical evaluation will be in order.
cat ear hematoma

Gastric or Intestinal Obstruction

Cats can often become curious by things that move and things that appear unfamiliar. This is where non-digestible objects can into the fold.

These can include…

  • Plastic bags
  • Toys
  • Rubber bands
  • Small articles of clothing
  • Food ties (Twist ties)

Consumption of a foreign object can cause vomiting, but it can also cause a life-threatening situation. If you suspect that your cat has eaten a foreign object that it has been unable to pass, you should contact a vet ASAP.

  • If you keep your cat indoors (more times than not), it is important to do a floor sweep at every opportunity. Look for coins, plastic bottle caps, cotton swabs, etc. Just the smallest thing falling off a table could become a serious hazard.

Bacterial or Viral Infection

One of the most common types is an upper respiratory infection (URI). Caused by one or more viral and bacterial agents, URI is often the result of the Feline Herpesvirus Type 1. Bacterial causes are often due to Bordetella bronchiseptica and Chlamydophila felis.

Viral infections include…

  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis
  • Feline Leukemia
  • Panleukopenia

Bacterial infections include…

  • Actinomyces
  • Staphylococcus
  • Fusobacterium
  • Pyodermas
  • Spirochete
  • Clostridium

There is a host of bacterial and viral infections that can have a negative impact on your cat’s system.

The ASCPA outlines several of the conditions noted above as well as many other common diseases found in felines. Detailed causes, a symptoms list, and prevention advice are given.

What are the Signs of a Problem?

While acute vomiting typically has no long-term after effects, chronic vomiting can introduce a series of symptoms that require your attention and car. Chronic vomiting and general signs of being unwell can point to a more significant problem.

If your cat is exhibiting any of these symptoms (in addition to vomiting), you should seek professional care ASAP.

  • Although not a common cause, vomiting can be the byproduct of trauma. If your cat has been struck with an object, suffered a fall or gotten into an altercation with another animal, vomiting could be the result of stress, anxiety, and a physical injury. It is important to hold your feline and exam them carefully if you are worried that trauma is playing a role in your cat’s state of unwellness.
cat scratching ear and shaking head

Not Drinking or Eating

The refusal to eat and drink could mean that your feline is dealing with a severe infection, parasite, disease or organ failure. When cats are sick or terminally ill, they often distance themselves from people and all activities.

The refusal to drink or eat should serve as a red flag that your cat is very sick.

Lethargy

Cats are naturally high energy. Even when they are fending off minor ailments, they will still respond to movements and have a desire to eat, drink, and groom.

Lethargy should be viewed as a serious symptom if it continues for days. This level of sluggishness and refusal to interact is not normal.

Weight Loss

Although cats weight often rises and falls during the hot and cold months, a sudden drop in weight can be due to a significant medical concern.

If your cat is eating yet losing weight at a rapid clip, you should consult your vet. This could be the sign of a gastrointestinal parasite.

Diarrhea

Vomiting and diarrhea are two signs of profound sickness. While both are common in feline’s, identifying the cause is crucial.

The most notable causes include…

  • Changes in dietary habits
  • Toxic consumption (Household items, specific human foods, specific plants, etc.)
  • Gastritis and enteritis (Inflammation and irritation of the stomach and kidney lining)
  • Parasites
  • Bacterial and fungal infections (Salmonella, yeast infection, etc.)

Blood in Vomit

Hematemesis can be the result of an ulcer, physical injury, stomach inflammation, or foreign debris in the stomach. Burns and heat stroke may also invoke the appearance of blood in vomit as well as consumption of poison.

Traces of blood in vomit is not normal under any circumstance. If your feline is vomiting frequently and coughing up blood, you should seek urgent care from a vet without delay.

Frequency of Vomiting

Vomiting that is frequent and lasts for several days is a sign of a severe problem. Where many acute ailments will vanish naturally over the course of several minutes or hours, vomiting that is frequent is usually a sign of a health condition rather than an irritation.

If your cat has vomited daily over the course of 2-3+ days, seek medical attention. Finding the cause could save your cat’s life.

how to keep a cat from scratching a wound

When Should You Contact Your Vet?

Chronic vomiting with diarrhea, lethargy, and lack of appetite are just some of the core symptoms that require urgent care.

Pay attention to your cat’s behavior. That alone can be more telling than the actual vomiting. If it appears that your cat is suffering and is displaying unusual tendencies, then you should contact your vet.

What are the Treatments for Vomiting in Cats?

Treatment options will depend on the cause. Take specific actions as a means to assess the situation…

  • Withhold food and water for several hours.
  • If vomiting has ceased, reintroduce a minimal amount of water complete with bland food.

If the vomiting has not eased and the situation has worsened, fluids and drugs may be required to control vomiting.

While most of the causes can be remedied, so much depends on your actions and if you address the situation quickly.  Allowing a frequent vomiting episode to continue for many days can have dire consequences.

You understand your cat’s natural tendencies and unique personality traits better than anyone. This will enable you to identify any worrying trends. Always be alert! Inspecting your cat’s vomit for odd colors and strange particles may sometimes be a necessary evil.

Cats get sick and have bouts of unwellness, just like humans. You need to be proactive, but you also need to avoid overreacting. If you’re unsure what’s wrong or you’re concerned about the health of an older cat, it’s critical that you seek the expert opinion of a veterinarian.