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What Causes Cats to Vomit?

You have probably seen your cat vomit from time to time without much concern. Vomiting can be a result of something minor, like a cat consuming his meal too quickly, or it can be a sign of a much more serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Usually, a cat vomits because he ate something disagreeable, ate too much or played too soon after dinner. Vomiting can also be associated with gastrointestinal or systemic disorders.

Some causes for a sudden episode of vomiting, or acute vomiting, include:

  • Bacterial infection of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Diet-related causes (diet change, food intolerance)
  • Gastric or intestinal foreign bodies (toys, hairballs)
  • Intestinal parasite
  • Acute kidney failure
  • Acute liver failure or gall bladder inflammation
  • Pancreatitis
  • Post-operative nausea
  • Toxins or chemicals
  • Viral infections
  • Certain medications

What Should I Do If My Cat Vomits Frequently?

An occasional, isolated bout of vomiting is normal. However, frequent vomiting can be a sign of a more serious condition. Please bring your cat to the vet for a complete examination and diagnosis.

Some causes of chronic (ongoing) vomiting include:

  • Colitis
  • Gastritis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Diaphragmatic hernia
  • Diet related (food allergy or intolerance)
  • Foreign bodies
  • Gastrointestinal ulceration
  • Heartworm infection
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Neurological disorders
  • Parasites
  • Severe constipation
  • Toxicity (such as lead)
  • Gastric or intestinal tumors

What Other Symptoms Should I Watch For?

The causes of vomiting are so varied that it can be difficult to diagnose, and so it's important to consider the circumstances.

What to Watch For:

  • Frequency of vomiting. If your cat vomits once and proceeds to eat regularly and have a normal bowel movement, the vomiting was most likely an isolated incident.
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Blood in vomit
  • Weight loss
  • Change in appetite and water intake

When Is It Time to See the Vet?

Please see your vet if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above or if vomiting persists. Depending on your pet's age, medical history, physical examination findings and your cat's particular symptoms, your vet may choose to perform various tests (blood test, X-ray, sonogram, fecal examination) in order to make a diagnosis.