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My cat vomits occasionally but acts okay – do you think that is a problem?

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Our question this week was:

Dr. Debra - I have 5 cats, two are brothers that are 11 years old, and two are brothers that are 4 years old and one female longhaired beauty. With 5 cats I clean up a lot of vomit, some I can tell are from hairballs but one of my 4-year-old brothers (Squirty) vomits a lot after eating. But he doesn't act sick, he has the most energy of all 5, he is actually quite the little devil he loves doing things (I think to get my attention) that cause some kind of noise, like knocking over pill bottles. He has figured out how to get into cabinets using one paw on the handle and the other to open the door. He doesn't get into anything that could cause the vomiting though.

I think he either eats to fast or too much, he is very thin. Could it be something more serious?

Shelly Covert


Answer

Hi Shelly - thanks for your email. You wrote that you have a multi-cat household and one of your cats is vomiting periodically – especially after eating. It sounds like he is the "busy" cat in the family, has a very good energy level and generally seems to feel okay.

This is a REALLY common question. Cats do vomit occasionally and the question is when do you worry that the vomiting is a problem?

First – lets talk about vomiting vs. regurgitation. My first question is – you said your cat vomits right after eating. To most pet owners – any form of bringing up food after eating is considered vomiting but technically – cats can either regurgitate or vomit. Regurgitation is when the food comes from the esophagus. It generally looks like a tube of undigested food and common occurs after eating. This is very common in cats. Vomit comes from the stomach and often looks like partially digested food or fluid. Also, when they vomit – they often use their abdominal muscles. If you have seen a cat do either – their motions and posture are often different.

The causes for vomiting vs. regurgitation are different. Many cats with hairballs will regurgitate. Many times the hairball is in a tubular form that is the shape of the esophagus. By the way – the esophagus is the tube that takes the food from the mouth to the stomach. It sort of looks like a garden hose tube. If hair is sitting in this tube – it is often irritating and if it is big enough – when the food hits it – they will vomit up the food. Sometimes they can vomit the hairball at this time or later.

To answer the other question – when do you worry? This varies with the veterinarian. In generally – I worry if it happens too often, if the cat is lethargic, weak or loosing weight.

Regardless,– you can take your cat to your vet and have him examined to make sure there is not an underlying problem causing his symptoms.

If it is a tubular amount of undigested food, you can aggressively try some hairball medications or foods at home to see if that helps. Give them as directed.

Lastly, you mentioned that he is skinny. If he is busy like you say – he may just be a skinny cat with different (faster) metabolism. I've seen cats that really seem to have different metabolisms just like people. Some people can get anything and not gain weight or others that hardly eat anything and gain weight. Some cats can be similar.

Again – if you want to be certain – talk to your vet. If he is acting lethargic, weak, you determine he is actually vomiting and it is occurring more than once a day, he is weak or you have any other concerns – see your vet.

A couple articles that might be helpful to you are: Vomiting in Cats, Regurgitation in Cats and Hairballs in cats.

BTW – if you have any video of your cat – or any other readers has a video of a cat vomiting and of a cat regurgitating – let me know. I'd like to add it to the site so cat owners can actually see the difference. Email us your video at editors@petplace.com.

I hope this helped.


Best of luck!


Dr. Debra



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