Why is my cat being sick?

Updated: Feb 10

There are so many reasons for cats being sick, some are mild and some more serious. They can eat something that could bother them or it can be related to a gastrointestinal condition or even an underlying health condition.

I am going to try and include some of the main causes and explain about each of them, but can't cover every possibility in this blog.


ragdoll cat blue eyes


Causes of sickness


Your cat may start vomiting if it ingests something that irritates its stomach or intestines, or prevents a blockage stopping stomach contents from moving along. Here are a few examples.

cat hairball, furball
Cat hairball
  • Eating a new or unusual food

  • Hairball

  • Eating too quickly

  • Eating a foreign body like string or toy

  • Allergic reaction

  • Parasites

  • Eating toxic substance (eg antifreeze, paracetamol)

  • Health condition (eg kidney disease, diabetes)

  • Pancreatitis

  • Heat stroke

  • Virus

  • Gastritis -inflammed stomach

Cats that have vomited a couple of times for less than 24hrs and it resolves itself is often not a cause for massive concern.


Longer term vomiting of a day or more is far more concerning or if they are vomiting frequently within 24hrs. If your cat will not eat or drink they can rapidly become dehydrated I would always advise contacting your vet if you have concerns.


How do you know if your cat feels sick?


There are a few signs that owners can notice that can signal your cat feels sick.

cat feels sick, vomiting cat

  • Swallowing excessively

  • Licking their lips

  • Drooling

  • Reduced appetite

  • Eating grass

  • Retching

What can you do?


If your cat is bright and active with no other signs of being unwell and has only been sick a couple of times you could withhold food for a few hours and give just water. Then introduce a small amount of bland food like boiled chicken or white fish and see what happens. If they are no longer sick continue the small bland meals the next 12 hrs then gradually reintroduce their normal food if they continue to be ok.

If they continue to vomit then phone your vet.


There are some occasions where you should phone your vet more urgently:

  • Your cat is vomiting blood or strange substances

  • Your cat is lethargic and in pain

  • The cats gums are pale

  • Your can cannot keep water down and vomits this up too.

  • Cat refuses to eat or drink

  • Cat has diarrhoea also or blood in poo

  • Your cat is young in age

Treatment


cat on drip, vomiting cat, hospitalised cat

Treatment will vary greatly depending on the symptoms and examination by your vet.


Some cases of mild vomiting require no treatment.


If something more serious is suspected, your vet may give the cat medications- often by injection to save you needing to give tablets. The vet may want to do further investigations such as blood tests, ultrasounds, urine samples and X-rays. These tests can help narrow down the diagnosis so the correct treatment can be given.

Some conditions are more serious and require your cat being hospitalised and it may go on a drip or have a feeding tube placed. Some conditions such as a blockage by a foreign body require emergency surgery.

The best treatment is one that addresses the underlying cause of the vomiting, your vet will determine this and get you wee feline friend on the mend.


Some causes of vomiting explained


Hairballs

Hairballs are a collection of fur which collects in the stomach of the cat. Cats are incredibly clean animals so spend a lot of their day grooming themselves. Once it becomes a certain size and causes irritation to the stomach it can be vomited up. There are over the counter formulas and specialist foods to reduce fireballs for example I have had a lot of joy with Katalax (click for link) over the years and this is what I recommend to my clients with cats that suffer from fur balls (click for review).

New food, allergies and eating too fast

Some cats gulp their food and this can cause the sensitive stomach to throw the food back up, the food is undigested.

Cats can have allergies to certain ingredients in foods such as the protein source. The allergy causes frequent vomiting and your vet may advise a special diet.

When changing your cats diet it should be done gradually over a number of days mixed in with the old food.


Foreign body

Cats are curious and love investigating, unfortunately this can led to problems.If a foreign body forms a blockage, this prevents the intestinal contents moving along. This can cause serious consequences and the object needs removed urgently.

I have removed an array of items from mischievous cats intestines. For example rubber bands, needle and thread, string, and a piece of lego!!


Parasites

Round worm in cat, toxocara
Round worm

Roundworms are the most common parasite in cats. They are often infected as kittens. The worms live in the intestine and this causes vomiting- they may even vomit up the worms which is not particularly pleasant. Cats should be wormed regularly to prevent this.

Round worms pose a risk to humans too, particularly children, so keep this in mind!!


Toxins

There are potentially a lot of dangers in the home that a lot of owners may not be aware of that can cause vomiting. Some cause mild symptoms from gut irritation where as others are incredibly serious and can be fatal.

Here are just a few examples of toxin in and around the house, always contact your vet immediately if your cat has ingested something you think it shouldn't. The quicker treatment is given the better the outcome:

pills, toxic, medication
  • Paracetamol

  • Garlic

  • Grapes

  • Chocolate

  • Onions

  • Xylitol

  • Alcohol

  • Ibuprofen

Health problems

There are a number of health conditions that can cause vomiting in cats. Here is a short list of more common examples but the conditions are far more expansive than my list.

  • Diabetes

  • Kidney disease

  • Pancreatitis

  • Liver Disease

  • Hyperthyroidism

  • Cancer

  • Heart disease

Gastritis

This just means inflammation of the stomach lining. It can be both short and long lasting. It is often caused when a cat eats something it shouldn't, but there are numerous other causes and a variety of treatments depending on cause.


As you can see from the blog there are numerous causes of vomiting with a variety of severities. I would always recommend contacting your vet if your cat is vomiting to discuss if it warrants a check over.




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