Australian poet Pam Brown once wrote, “Cats can work out mathematically the exact place to sit that will cause the most inconvenience.” They seem to have the same knack for vomiting—as virtually every cat owner has experienced a hairball in the shoe, ‘snarf and barf’ on the landing, or melodious retching on the bed in the wee hours of the morning. Why have cats—some of them at least—made vomiting a part of their daily lives? While heaving can sometimes be a sign of serious illness, most vomiting is relatively harmless. Consider these common causes of cat retching and what to do about them.
Cats are fastidious groomers, and those little barbs on her tongue grab loose hairs from her fur. Of course, she can’t spit, so she swallows them. Most pass through her digestive tract without issue. However, some may stay in the stomach, clumping into a hairball. Hacking, gagging and retching are common hairball symptoms. You can help prevent them by brushing your cat regularly. High fiber ‘hairball formula’ cat food can also be helpful.
Some cats are notoriously fast eaters, gulping down their food only to vomit a short time later. If you suspect competition between multiple cats is the issue, you can try feeding them from separate dishes or even in different rooms. Cats who try to beat the clock at dinnertime may also benefit from a food bowl, such as the brake-fast, designed to slow their eating.
Switching cat food brands can irritate your pet’s stomach if you do so too quickly. Moving from a dry food diet to canned only can also cause stomach upset. The best way to make any diet transition is to do so gradually. Mix the old food with the new for several days, slowly increasing the ratio of new to old. This should prevent vomiting issues.
Cats are meat eaters, but some still seem to enjoy the occasional snack of grass or houseplant. If they consume a large amount, it can cause vomiting. Remove any toxic plants from your home, keep the rest out of kitty’s reach, if possible, and consider providing her with a small planter of cat grass (wheatgrass, rye, oat or barley) to nibble on instead.
Worms, stomach obstructions and poisoning are all serious causes of vomiting that warrant an emergency trip to the veterinarian for your furry feline. If you notice worms in her vomit, suspect she may have swallowed a foreign object (rubber band, string, paperclip, etc.), or has consumed something toxic, call your vet immediately.
How often does your cat vomit? Did you find a likely cause in the list above? Share your stories in the comments.