Why is my cat being sick?

If you haven't walked through a pile of cat sick in your socks at some point in your pawrenthood, are you even a cat owner? The answer has to be no. Vomiting in cats is by no means uncommon, as it's a symptom of a whole range of different conditions. These conditions range from "nothing to worry about" one-off instances like if your cat's eaten too quickly, to more serious illnesses like cancer. This blog explores the most common causes to help you find the answer to "why is my cat being sick". Plus our tips for helping your kitty feel 100% again, or if you need to visit the vet.

sad kitty

Why is my cat being sick?

There are a whole array of reasons why your cat may be being sick. Essentially though, sickness is a reaction to anything that upsets your cat's stomach or when the movement of food (or non-food items) through the digestive tract is blocked. Causes can be split up into three rough groups; dietary, environmental, and disease.

Dietary causes of sickness

One of the most common causes for cats being sick is due to ingestion. This includes them eating something they shouldn't have, eating too much, eating something new, eating too quickly, or eating something they're intolerant or allergic to. Although don't forget that, contradictory to popular opinion, food intolerances are very rare in our floofs and food allergies even more so. Therefore blaming a specific ingredient shouldn't be the first port of call.

The most common non-food item our kitty's love (accidentally) eating is their own hair. This occurs during grooming, which is quite natural, but they might start consuming more cat hair than normal if they're stressed or start overgrooming. As cats can't digest the hair, up it comes again, in a lovely little puke pile you get to clean up. Luckily it will be obvious if this is the cause as you'll see hair present in the vomit.

Whilst cats don't have quite the same desire as our pooches to eat things they shouldn't, having just asked the team, besides from hair between us our cats have eaten - a toy, a bit of a eucalyptus plant, a rubber, and more. So evidently it does happen. Around times like Christmas, it will also be more common for your cat to get their chomps around something they shouldn't due to naughty guests, extra decorations, and the urge to treat your kitty skyrocketing. Some of these foods or objects will be particularly harmful, such as poisonous substances like tinsel or toxic human foods, which we've listed below.

Poisonous human foods for cats

cat eating

As this is one of the most common causes of cat vomiting, here are all the human foods that are toxic or dangerous to cats and should be avoided:

Environmental causes of sickness

There are also a number of environmental conditions that can cause sickness in cats. Cats can suffer from car or motion sickness just like we do. If you think this is the cause, the solution will be desensitisation training, which is no quick fix, but will provide a long-term cure. As well as this, stress can also make our cats sick. This can be caused by anything from moving house to losing another four-legged member of the family. If you think this is the cause, try some of our cat calming tips.

Diseases that make cats sick

Cat vomiting can also be a symptom of a more serious illness or disease. These include pancreatitis, cancer, gastritis, liver, internal parasites and kidney disease. In these circumstances, other symptoms will also likely be present, so if you notice sickness alongside other ailments contact your vet right away.

Reading your cats sick

If you haven't been able to work out from the reasons above "why my cat is being sick", then you might be able to gain some insight from the sick itself. Think of yourself like Professor Sybill Trelawney, except instead of reading the tea leaves, you're reading sick.

First up, bile. Bile can be yellow or greenish and may come out of your kitty in liquid form or as a foam. Bile is produced in the liver and helps break down your cat's food. If too much is produced, or it leaks into the stomach, vomiting may occur. As a one-off incident, this shouldn't be anything to worry about, but if happens persistently contact your vet.

Next up, nice and chunky practically undigested food. If your cat's sick looks rather like it did in their food bowl, it means the food never got past the stomach. This could therefore indicate a food intolerance, allergy, obstruction, or irritation in the upper tract.

If your cat throws up undigested food right after they've eaten, it's likely to be due to them having eaten too much and/or too quickly.

Finally, blood. Seeing blood in your cat's sick can be pretty scary, technically called "hematemesis". Blood in vomit can be caused by an internal injury, irritation, or disease, and could be coming from anywhere from the esophagus to the upper intestines. Another possibility is your cat has had an injury in their mouth, and has swallowed the blood and vomited it up again later.

What to do if my cat is being sick?

Prevention is far superior to treatment, so first work out the cause and the early signs that your cat might be sick. Unhelpfully kitties don't give too much away when they're feeling poorly, meaning you'll have to watch out for some small clues. Typically cats like being on their ones when they're ill, so they might sneak off to their favourite hidey-hole. You may also notice drooling, excessive licking, retching, or constant swallowing. Although these signs often occur a little too late in the game, right before they actually are sick.

If your cat has been sick a couple of times but appears otherwise well, take their food away for one or two hours to give their tum time to settle. When it's time for their dinner, feed them a bland and low-fat meal like some chicken. Try a small amount first, and if they're interested give them small frequent meals for the next 12 hours. Don't forget to make sure they have plenty of freshwater available!

After a period of sickness or gastrointestinal disease, intestinal gut flora can become unbalanced. So the next step in your kitty's road to recovery is to help restore their natural microbiome. You can do this with probiotic pastes from the vet, buying a supplement, or indeed cat food with added probiotics. We add the probiotic Enterococcus Faecium to all our natural dry cat food recipes and the prebiotic slippery elm to our treats and wet food for healthy digestion and immune function.

When should I call the vet?

If your cat has been vomiting frequently or consistently over a few days, has ingested something poisonous, has blood present in their vomit, or is also displaying other symptoms like diarrhoea, then call your vet. Equally, if you notice your cat has stopped drinking or is throwing up their water too, then they may become more ill from dehydration, so again we'd recommend seeing your vet.

Cat sickness has many causes

To summarise there are a whole number of reasons your cat is being sick. It's most likely that your cat has eaten something they shouldn't, which you'll be able to resolve more speedily. However, if your cat's been persistently sick, always go and see your vet. Whatever the cause, we hope our tips or the vet can help your kitty get back to their fun-loving selves as speedily as possible.

Whilst you're here, why not read?

  1. British Shorthair Breed Guide
  2. Can cats eat dog food?
  3. Probiotics vs prebiotics for pets; what's the difference?

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