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Is Cat Vomiting Normal?

Stories from HART

Is Cat Vomiting Normal?

Sarah Myers


Many people have probably witnessed their cat vomiting and thought nothing of it besides, “Gross! Hairball!”. Well, be cautious to not simply brush it off if your cat is regularly vomiting. Chronic vomiting in cats is not to be taken lightly and could be the sign of a serious health problem.

You are probably wondering how to tell the difference between a “routine” hairball and chronic vomiting?

Let’s start at the beginning: cats frequently clean their fur coat by using their barbed tongue to lick their body. Your cat will groom itself socially and also to remove old hair, dirt and other foreign matter from his fur. Some studies have shown that a cat can spend up to 50% of his waking hours grooming himself. It only seems common-sense that the cat would ingest hair – so much so, that his body wouldn’t be able to digest it and, therefore, hairballs are expelled.

However, it is not known at this time what is considered to be a “normal” amount of vomiting or if hairballs are even considered typical behavior for cats. Each cat is different so we have to look closer.

Obviously, one of the first symptoms of chronic vomiting is, in fact, to notice your cat is frequently vomiting. And, frequency can be interpreted in different ways – contact us at the Bredel Veterinary Clinic if you have any thoughts that your cat may be vomiting more than usual.    

Some causes of chronic vomiting in cats can be food intolerance, skin conditions, an ulcer, kidney disease, cancer, pancreatic tumors, inflammatory bowel disease, liver failure, intestinal infection, or many other serious health problems.

A specific symptom in addition to the frequency is blood in the vomit. This is important to spot because it could mean an ulcer or cancer. If a cat’s vomit contains clear or yellow foamy material, this means the cat has thrown up all the contents of the stomach. Note here that cats typically are able to expel when they heave so if your cat is retching but not producing anything, he may actually be coughing and not trying to vomit.

Once it is determined that your cat may have a health issue, diagnosing your cat can take a while due to all the possibilities that it could be. One of the first steps we will take at the Bredel Clinic is to first determine whether your cat is vomiting or regurgitating. Keep record of your cat’s vomiting, as well as the appearance, and how soon your cat vomits after eating. We will then take a urine sample and take blood work on your feline. An X-ray may also be necessary. We may even do an ultrasound on your cat’s abdomen.

Once your cat is diagnosed, we will talk about your treatment options. Some treatments may be simple such as changes in your cat’s diet or a medication. A more intense treatment may be a surgery if required. After diagnosis and treatment, it is important to keep an eye on your cat and make sure you follow up with us for ongoing evaluation.

Overall, this information shouldn’t incite worry for you or your pet but to let you know that cat vomit is not considered to be a frequent normal cat behavior any more. It may be the normal for your pet or it could be an indicator of an underlying issue that can be treated.