Vomiting in Cats

Vomiting in cats can have many causes.

You’re relaxing on the couch when you hear that familiar retching noise: “Huk, huk, huk…” Part of you hopes that whatever Cleo is bringing up will land on the tile floor rather than the rug, but you also feel that niggling worry; is she okay? Most people who live with cats have some experience with cleaning up vomit, but what when is there cause for concern? And if Cleo has to see the veterinarian, what sort of information would be helpful to have, and what testing may be performed?

Should My Vomiting Cat Go to the Veterinarian?

Your cat may vomit once or twice but then seem just fine, with normal behavior, energy, and appetite. The vomiting may be self-limiting and respond to home treatment (see box below). However, prolonged vomiting may lead to dehydration or indicate a more serious problem. The following are reasons to call your veterinarian right away:

If you have any doubt, call your veterinarian right away because vomiting can be a sign of serious illness.

Causes of Vomiting in Cats

There are many causes of vomiting in cats, and this article is meant as a brief survey of these. The following are some of the more common ones.

At the Vet’s Office with Your Vomiting Cat

Home Care for Vomiting in Cats

If your cat has only vomited once or twice and is acting otherwise fine, it make sense to try some symptomatic home care.

If vomiting persists despite these measures, consult your veterinarian.

The most important item (besides your cat) to bring to the veterinarian is a thorough history. Your veterinarian will want to know the following: how long has the vomiting been going on, how frequent is it, does the vomit consist of food, clear liquid, bile, or blood, have there been any recent diet changes, are there other signs of illness, and how is your cat’s appetite and attitude? Is it possible your cat ate anything (string, rubber bands, ribbon, plants) or got into something (household chemicals, antifreeze, the trash) that she shouldn’t have? There are so many causes of vomiting that a thorough history is essential to help your veterinarian narrow down the search.

A complete physical examination is the next step. Sometimes the history and examination yield enough information that a treatment plan can be made. Other times, your veterinarian may need to gather more information by running some tests. These may include:

Treatment depends on diagnostic findings and severity of signs. Cats that are bright, alert, and have normal physical findings can often be treated on an outpatient basis with subcutaneous fluids and injectable medications. Those presenting with fever, abdominal pain, or with abnormal test results may need hospitalization and further intervention.

“Yerk!” Phew- it was only a hairball this time, and Cleo managed to make it to the kitchen. From now on Cleo will get her hairball medicine.

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