Why is my cat being sick?

Anything that irritates your cat’s stomach or prevents the contents of their stomach from moving through the digestive tract can cause vomiting.

Why is my cat being sick is one of the most common questions vets are asked. Short-term cat vomiting (less than 24 hours) is generally nothing to worry about, especially if your cat’s health is otherwise fine. This may be down to a mild tummy upset and should only require withholding food and limiting access to water for 24 hours.

Long-term or severe cat vomiting is a far bigger concern and owners whose cat keeps throwing up should contact their vet or, out of hours, their nearest Vets Now, straight away.

What can I do if my cat is being sick?

If your cat has been sick once or twice but otherwise appears well:

  • Remove food for two hours, but continue to provide water
  • After this time, try offering a teaspoon of their usual food — if they keep this down, offer small amounts every few hours for the next 24 hours, then go back to your usual routine

If this does not resolve the sickness and you are concerned about your cat vomiting repeatedly, call your vet or, out of hours, your nearest Vet Now emergency clinic or 24/7 hospital immediately. You should also contact your vet if your cat cannot keep water down, has blood or unusual material in her vomit, has pale or cold gums or is displaying signs of listlessness, diarrhoea, fever, or another illness.

 

What are the signs of vomiting in cats?

If your cat is going to be sick, you may see drooling, lip licking, excessive swallowing, retching and contractions of the abdominal muscles and diaphragm. Your cat may also hide away in a quiet area when she feels nauseous.

 

What are the main causes of cats being sick?

While cats don’t have the same reputation as dogs for scavenging, some do habitually eat things they shouldn’t.

Common causes of cats being sick include swallowing foreign objects such as pieces of string, rubber bands and ribbons, dangerous human foods such as onions and chocolate, and poisonous substances such as antifreeze, plants and human medications.

Internal parasites and serious diseases such as cancer or diabetes are also reasons for cats throwing up. If your cat is being sick regularly, there may be an underlying problem that will need to be diagnosed by your veterinarian.

Image of my cat keeps being sick for Vets Now article on cat vomiting
Common causes of cats being sick include swallowing foreign objects, dangerous human foods and poisonous substances

My cat keeps throwing up, are fur balls to blame?

Cats often vomit up hairballs.  They develop these in their stomach through fastidious grooming. The fur they swallow can’t be digested and often ends up forming into a congealed lump. These lumps of hair can be dangerous as they can lead to blockages and irritations. Owners can do their bit to prevent hairballs both being thrown up and being stuck in the digestive tract by introducing a strict brushing regime to remove loose fur.

Cat is vomiting foam, what should I do?

If your cat is vomiting foam, it’s likely to be bile. This is usually yellow or greenish in colour. Blie is an acidic liquid created in the liver and stored in the gallbladder until food has been ingested, when it’s released into the intestine. Bile helps cats break down food. It can, however, leak into the stomach and cause vomiting. If your cat vomits bile persistently or their sickness is accompanied by other health issues such as diarrhoea, loss of appetite or lethargy, seek urgent advice from your vet.

 

My cat keeps being sick, what can I expect at the vets?

Your vet will check your cat over by performing a clinical examination and also ask you questions to see what you have observed at home. Since there are many possible reasons your cat may be vomiting, your vet may need to perform some further tests to work out what’s going on. These might include blood tests, urine tests, x-rays or ultrasound.

Treatment will depend on the diagnosis but may include intravenous fluids — a drip — to correct dehydration or antibiotics if infection is suspected. She may also be given anti-vomiting medication, called antiemetics, and stomach protectants if it’s appropriate. If a so-called foreign body is suspected, surgery may be performed to remove it.

 

How do I prevent my cat from being sick?

Many causes of vomiting cannot be prevented. But by removing any potentially harmful foods or objects from your cat’s environment you can help to minimise the risk of foreign body ingestion or toxicity.