Nothing gets you out of bed faster than the sound of a cat vomiting. And no matter how fast you move, you almost always end up scrubbing the carpet. Most cat people accept occasional vomiting as an unavoidable part of life with felines. And while it’s not uncommon for cats to toss their cookies, it’s not exactly normal, either. Cats always vomit for a reason, and it’s never a good thing. The real question you need to answer is: How serious is it?
There is unfortunately a long list of reasons why a cat could be throwing up. It’s a relatively vague symptom, and it’s impossible to determine the cause without veterinary testing. But the good news is, not every pile of puke requires a trip to the vet.
Veterinarians typically recognize two different kinds of vomiting in cats. Chronic vomiting is when a cat throws up on a regular basis—anything from monthly to daily. Acute vomiting, on the other hand, is when a cat that usually doesn’t throw up suddenly starts gagging and puking. They could throw up only once or several times in a short timespan.
Both chronic and acute vomiting can be cause for concern. As far as emergencies go, however, the risk is usually greater with a cat that is suddenly suffering from a fit of acute vomiting.
It’s always difficult to know when a cat needs to see a vet, and this can be an especially tricky decision in cases of cat vomiting. No one can give you a definitive answer on what to do. There are, however, general guidelines that can aid in your decision.
Your cat probably doesn’t need to see the vet if…
they vomit 1-3 times but seem otherwise normal. As long as they are acting normal, don’t seem to be unusually distressed, and are still interested in food and water, the issue is most likely not serious (unless you know for sure they ate something toxic). Continue to monitor their behavior and be wary of any changes.
You should schedule a vet appointment if…
your cat is showing signs of chronic vomiting and you don’t know why. If your cat throws up regularly, either daily, weekly, or monthly, there’s most likely something going on. It’s not an emergency as long as they continue to eat and drink, but it could be a symptom of an underlying health issue.
Your cat needs to see an emergency vet when…
they vomit and show signs of severe distress. If your cat is throwing up and not wanting to move, eat, or drink, they need to be seen by a vet ASAP. It’s also an emergency if you see blood in the vomit. Monitor their breathing and contact your nearest emergency veterinary hospital.
*Remember, this advice is not meant to replace information from a trained professional. If you’re worried something is wrong, call your vet.
Causes of Cat Vomiting
As mentioned above, there are several potential reasons why your cat is vomiting. A lot of people assume cats usually vomit because of hairballs, but that isn’t necessarily true. Dr. William Folger told Iams,
“It’s careless to assume that most cases of vomiting in cats are due to hairballs.”
It’s true that over-grooming can cause a cat to retch up fur, but it doesn’t happen as often as people think. Here’s an incomplete list ranging from mild to severe reasons why cats vomit either chronically or acutely.
Organ dysfunction including liver or kidney disease
Cat vomiting can be concerning, but it’s important to focus on the facts. Does your cat like to bite and chew on things that aren’t food? Did you notice anything concerning about the vomit itself? How are they behaving now that they’re finished throwing up? All of these factors will help you determine if something is seriously wrong. If you’re concerned, or if your gut is telling you something is wrong, always contact your vet. Catching the issue early could be key to ensuring your cat lives a long and healthy life.