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Vomiting in Cats - What Can I Do?

Vomiting in Cats - What Can I Do?

It can be scary to watch your cat vomit. You may wonder if your cat’s suffering from a life-threatening issue, and what you can do on the spot to help. This article will explain what vomiting is, the potential causes of vomiting, and what you can do about it.

What is vomiting?

To clarify, “vomiting” refers to the act of actively and forcefully expelling the stomach contents up the gullet (oesophagus) and out of the body. Do note that “vomiting” is different from “regurgitation”. Compared to “vomiting”, “regurgitation” is a passive action. “Vomiting” and “regurgitation” are not diagnoses. They are clinical signs that require a licensed veterinarian to investigate.

Regurgitation tends to happen right after a meal, and regurgitation also does not involve the “heaving” motion that accompanies vomiting. Having said that - if your pet is throwing up, always double-check with a vet to see whether it is vomiting or regurgitation. Please do not self-diagnose, as the treatments for vomiting may differ from the treatments for regurgitation, and the treatments will depend on the cause. To help the vet differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation, it will be good to take a video of your pet throwing up and show the video to the vet.

Potential causes of vomiting

There are plenty of causes, and it is impossible to provide an exhaustive list. Therefore, this article will group the causes into general categories and provide a few examples for each category. Do note that these categories of causes are not the only causes of vomiting, and there are other causes. Without further ado, here are some common categories:

1) Swallowing foreign substances

This is a huge category by itself, so we’ll divide it into sub-categories:

*Unfamiliar food/treats

Sometimes, a new food or treat doesn’t agree with your cat’s tummy, and your cat may respond by vomiting it up.

Foreign substances also include things from the environment (e.g. dead leaves) that your pet shouldn’t be eating. It’s less common for cats to eat strange things off the round than dogs, but it still happens. For instance, cats love playing with strings. If a cat swallows string, it is life-threatening (more on that soon).


Hairs in hairballs can irritate the inside of the stomach, causing a cat to vomit. Hairballs are pretty common in cats, to the point where you may wonder if they’re even something to worry about in the first place. The answer? It’s fine if your cats rarely get hairballs. However, frequent hairballs aren’t good. Hairballs can dry out and cause life-threatening gut blockages (read on to find out why that’s bad)

To minimise hairballs in your cat, brush him or her every day. You can also consider a cat hairball gel, such as Bolo via palatable paste or PetAg Hairball Natural Solution Gel for Cats

*Foreign objects that cause gut blockage/rupture

When swallowed, some foreign objects are more life-threatening than others. For instance, it can be very risky if a cat swallows a piece of string. The string may pass through the digestive tract and get pooped out, or the string may do a “see-saw” motion and cut through the stomach or intestines every time the cat swallows. This will cause gut contents to leak into the abdominal cavity, which will cause a life-threatening infection (sepsis).

Top tip - if you see a piece of string poking out of a cat’s mouth, do not try to pull it out! The pulling motion will cause the string to cut through the cat’s intestines! Bring the cat to a vet asap, and the vet will remove the string under anaesthesia.

Other foreign objects (e.g. bones) can get stuck in a cat’s intestines. They can puncture a cat’s gut, or they can cause a gut blockage and cut off circulation to the gut tissue, leading to sepsis in the end. Signs of foreign object ingestion include (but are not limited to) frequent vomiting, vomiting right after eating or drinking, reduced activity etc. If you notice any of these clinical signs in your cat, consult a vet straightaway!


Common household poisons (e.g. bleach, ammonia) can burn a cat’s throat and cause organ damage. Human medications can also be extremely toxic to cats. For instance, even a tiny amount of panadol will kill cats as they damage the cat’s red blood cells. Therefore, do keep your human medications high out of your pet’s reach. Several types of plants are poisonous to pets. For instance, cats will develop kidney damage when they eat lilies. Therefore, try to minimise the presence of plants in your house. If you absolutely must keep plants, keep these plants out of your cat’s reach.Some types of food (e.g. chocolate, grapes) are safe for humans but poisonous to cats. Always ask a vet whether it’s safe to feed a food item to your cat!

General signs of poisoning in pets include (but are not limited to): vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, seizures and so on. Seizures are life-threatening. If you notice signs of poisoning in your pets, contact the vet immediately.

2) Organ function/ Endocrine issues (e.g. liver problems, kidney problems)

Many organ/endocrine diseases cause nausea, which can lead to vomiting in cats. Examples of these include kidney failure, liver failure, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and so on. These conditions can only be ruled in/ruled out with diagnostics like blood tests that are conducted by a veterinarian. Also, only a vet can prescribe treatments/management plans for these conditions.Do note that the list of conditions mentioned above are not the only endocrine/metabolic/organ function issues that can cause vomiting in cats.

Generally speaking, kidney issues in cats are managed with prescription diets and fluid therapy. Your vet may prescribe medications for renal complications (e.g. amlodipine for hypertension). You can also consider kidney supplements such as Renacor and Azodyl. Diabetic cats are generally managed with insulin injections. Diet also plays a huge role in management of diabetes, so do consult your vet regarding the best diet for your diabetic cat. Hyperthyroidism is managed with medications like methimazole or felimazole. Transdermal versions are also available. Management of liver disease is multimodal, with many liver supplements (e.g. MaxxiSame, Livermarin, Samilyn for you to ask your vet about. Vets usually manage IBD with a hypoallergenic diet trial at first. If medications are needed, vets may prescribe steroids, and/or antibiotics like metronidazole or tylosin

The signs of these conditions are vague and may overlap. Signs include (but are not limited to):

-Less activity
-Excessive drinking/ urination
-Reduced appetite
-Seizures (in very severe cases)

Therefore, if you notice any of these signs in your pet, please consult a vet! Seizures are medical emergencies that need immediate attention.

3) Parasites

Large burdens of parasites (e.g. roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms) can cause a variety of symptoms in cats such as vomiting, diarrhoea and so on. These burdens can also cause anaemia (low red blood cell count). Some of these worms can be transmitted to humans, especially children. Children are more likely to mess around with poop, and less likely to wash their hands after playing with cats.

Parasites can be easily addressed in developed countries, which have access to antiparasitics. Ask your vet about Drontal Allwormer for Cat or Nexgard Combo. (Nexgard Combo also takes care of heartworm, fleas and ticks).

*What can I do about vomiting in my cat?

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure! While some causes of vomiting are unavoidable, others (e.g. foreign objects) are preventable. In these cases, prevention is better than cure! Deworm your cats regularly,keep them away from plants and don’t leave foreign objects lying around on the floor. Also, check with your vet before introducing any new food to your cat.

If your cat is already vomiting, it is tempting to try a home remedy on the spot. However, contact a veterinary provider before administering any home remedies. Some home remedies will cause more harm than good.

Once your cat is at the vet, they will perform diagnostics to figure out the root cause. On top of managing the root cause, they will also provide supportive care for chronic conditions (e.g. fluid therapy). Cerenia may be prescribed off-label if the vet feels it is appropriate.

We hope that this article has shed more light on vomiting in cats. Consult a vet if you need further advice!
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