Cats vomit for a variety of reasons. Last year I devoted an entire post to the dreaded Trichobezoar. Pronounced Try-coh-Beez-or, that's a complicated way of saying hair ball. This is what most cat owners think of when cat vomitus is mentioned. However, there are a variety of reasons why cats throw up.
Dietary indiscretion is the number one reason for Vivo to vomit. She is the huntress in my household. When a full bowl of food is sitting out with easy access, she will walk past it in order to rip a hole into a bag of the same food. She has been known to scour the bottom of the dishwasher, lick the crumbs from the bread box, and try to take the food from my mouth. Unfortunately Vivo also has a sensitive stomach. Often these behaviors result in vomitus, especially if anything from the dairy family is involved. I try to keep all but her recommended food out of her reach to reduce the occurrences of upset tummy.
Some felines are known by their families for throwing up after a meal. They suffer from what we commonly call “Scarf and Barf”. This happens when the feline consumes too much food too quickly. There a several ways to avoid the barf part of scarf and barf, all of which involve stopping the scarfing. One of the easiest ways is to put an inanimate object in the food bowl. I had a tuxedo cat named Midnight that was an offender of scarf and barf. I got a small bowl and put a golf ball in it. There was less than 1 inch from the ball to the sides of the bowl. Midnight had to slow down and push the ball with her nose to reach the kibble under the edge of it. This worked like a charm until another cat showed her how to knock the ball out of the bowl. You can now purchase interactive feeders shaped with a maze, a hump, or some other divider in the middle to achieve the same purpose.
With fall here and my cats all shedding, I have been finding hairballs around my house. Many of us think this is normal. The reality is vomiting is not a normal cat behavior. A trichobezoar that gets caught somewhere in a cat's digestive system can slow down or stop everything in the works and require surgery. I have seen some cats try for days to vomit a stuck hairball. There are several things a cat parent can try to reduce the occurrence of hairballs. Some cats benefit from brushing, while others require an all-out professional groom to rid them of the excess hair that is shedding. Many cats benefit from a hairball remedy that helps the trichobezoar work its way on through and out. Some cats need a change of food, and this sometimes involves trial-and-error until a food is found that the cat finds palatable and reduces or eliminates the vomiting.
Certain illnesses frequently cause cats to vomit. Just like humans, they can get food poisoning, e coli, salmonella, and a variety of other diseases that disrupt the digestive system. All cats, but especially those that go outside, are at risk for intestinal parasites including tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, giardia, and a long list of other bugs that can upset the GI tract.
One very unfortunate cause of vomiting is renal failure. It is typical for cats suffering from renal deficiency to become nauseous. We now have better laboratory tests to detect problems earlier, and better medications to help alleviate the nausea. Renal failure can be acute or chronic. Whichever it is, the earlier it is detected the easier and less expensive it is to treat. In acute cases, early diagnosis can improve the kitty's recovery since the veterinarian may be able to arrest progression before damage reaches the point where the problem will be chronic.
Let's face it. Vomiting for any reason is not a sign of a healthy cat. A cat that is suddenly vomiting, vomiting more than normal for that individual, or vomiting on a regular schedule should be seen by a veterinarian. The vet can help determine the cause and recommend solutions to try to solve the problem. Not only will your feline friend feel better, you will not have to be cleaning up all those nasty piles of puke.