My cats Garrus and Wrex are the first cats I ever had, and I’ll happily admit that I was very worried when I first experienced them throwing up. Are they sick? Did they eat something bad? Did they ingest something they were not meant to ingest? Now some time has passed and I’m a lot more relaxed when one of my cats throws up.
Cats throw up to get rid of hair balls that have collected in their stomachs from ingesting hair when they were cleaning their fur. Other reasons for cats throwing up are eating too much too quickly, nibbling on toxic plants, swallowing objects and serious diseases.
Why cats throw up
Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why a cat throws up grass, food or bile. There are five categories – five different types of cat vomit, if you will:
If you have cats, you surely had the peleasure of coming across hairballs. Cats clean themselves by licking their fur and body parts. This works excelptionally well, but as a logical consequence, they swallow a lot of hair while doing this. To get rid of those hairs, outdoor cats will eat grass. For indoor cats it is recommended to provide them with cat grass. Cat grass is available in every pet shop for very little money, either ready to eat in a flower pot, or as seeds to grow your own, e.g. at Amazon. Cats love it – or at least ours do – and at some point they will throw it up again, with or without hair.
So the cat will vomit up a clear liquid. For the sake of science, I’m showing you a photograph of it. Often times you’ll see pieces of grass if this is why your cat vomitted, if the vomit is very fresh, you’ll also see some white foam. The liquid is clear and has a slimy consitency. As cats are essentially built to vomit up grass to get rid of hairballs, this is no reason to be alarmed.
Sometimes cats will be sick if they’ve eaten too much or too quickly. If your household has more than one cat, it’s possible your cats eat as quickly as possible to prevent another cat from getting at their food. If you notice this or think this might be the reason why your cat throws up, you could try feeding your cats (or at least the one eating too quickly) separately.
Some cats might not cope well with wet food if it comes directly from the fridge. If that’s the case, leave it out for a while to warm it up before you feed it to your cats. You could also put it in the microwave briefly or pour some hot water on it. (Not too hot, though!)
If you’ve always fed your cat one particular type of food and then you switched to another brand, it’s also possible the new food doesn’t agree with your cat. If your cat is otherwise healthy and doesn’t seem sick or suffering from any other health issues, don’t be too worried if it throws up every once in a while. Does your cat vomit regularly or several times in a row, be sure to consult your vet to make sure there’s no underlying health issue preventing your cat from keeping down food.
Puked up food essentially looks like normal food. The way it looks changes depending on how well digested it is. If it’s not digested at all, wet food will almost look like it came fresh from the tin. Once digestion has progressed, you might only see a few chunks in it. At any rate, it’s not a particularly pleasant encounter, so clean it up quickly and give your cat some love – I’m sure your it doesn’t enjoy vomitting either and it’s not doing it on purpose.
We’ve already mentioned gras, which cats eat and then throw up. Nothing unusual there. (I’ll tell you later how to prevent it from doing that.) However, there are also a lot of plants that are poisonous for your cats. Ideally, you shouldn’t have those in your house or apartment at all, or at least keep them away from your cats. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a long list of plants that are toxic to cats, so be sure to go through it so you don’t accidentally poison your cats. I used to have a lovely Euphorbia in my apartment, but had to get rid of it when my cats moved in.
If your cat throws up an object, it’s in trouble. Who knows what it swallowed and what is now causing damage to its intenstines. Balls of wool may seem like a fun toy for your cats, but it’s one of those things you should keep away from your cat. If they swallow wool, they can have all sorts of issues that might require emergency surgery. So if your cat throws up objects or parts of objects, go to your vet immediatly.
Diseases or health issues
Pam Johnson-Bennett writes in her excellent book Think Like A Cat that cats who are suffering from worms can throw up threadworms that look like spaghetti. If they have internal injuries or a blockage, it’s also possible for them to throw up feces. Luckily, neither happened with my cats, but if this happens to your cats, please take them to the vet immediately.
What to do when your cat throws up
As indicated above, what you should do when your cat throws up depends entirely on the circumstances. If it throws up hair, that’s normal. You can try to prevent this (see below), but you don’t have to be worried. Clean it up and get on with life. Does your cat throw up food but is it otherwise healthy, that’s not enough reason to worry either. Does your cat throw up several times in a row or does it also suffer from diarreah, take your cat to the vet. Does your cat throw up worms, objects, blood or feces, go to your vet as soon as humanly possible.
How to make your cat stop throwing up
Obviously you can’t do much to prevent your cat from getting sick or having a reaction to a new kind of food. If it’s sensitive to cold food, warm it up as described above. If cats don’t like one certain brand of food or if they react to a certain ingredient, buy different food. Get rid of toxic plants so your cats won’t eat them. But what about hairballs?
One thing you can do is try to control how much hair your cat ingests when cleaning itself. If you brush it often, it won’t swallow as much hair when it’s cleaning itself. I’m a big proponent of brushing your cat, as it’s good for them, they usually like it and it will strengthen your bond with your animal.
Another thing you can do is help your cats get rid of more hair via their poop. To do this, you can buy a paste made from malt. Supposedly it covers the hair with fats and oils, which makes it easier for your cats to pass it the more pleasant way and leave it in their litter box, rather than having to puke it onto your floor. I’ve never given my cats paste like that – they love their cat grass – but my neighbor was recommended this by her vet. Their whole apartment floors are covered in carpets, so they’re a bit apprehensive about giving their cat grass to eat, as carpets are much harder to clean. There’s GimCat Malt Soft Paste Extra – but if you’re not sure what to get your cat, simply ask your vet.
I think this covers the topic and I hope it helped you judge better if you need to be worried or not. Look after your four-legged friends and always remember: It’s better to go to the vet once too often rather than not go when your cat would have needed it.