Ask A Vet: My Cat Vomits, But It Is Only Hairballs, Right?


Sometimes cats vomit. It is a fact that most cat owners have come to terms with, but in reality, vomiting is not particularly normal. People think that it is related to normal grooming creating “hairballs”, but writing it off as “normal” is risky business.

You should be aware that there are other causes of vomiting and regurgitation in cats that can be warning signs of more serious disease and even hair balls are not technically normal.

Things that make cats vomit might not be related to their stomach at all and only a vet can help you know the difference. Cats can vomit secondary to other common disorders, like kidney disease (very common in cats), hyperthyroidism (multi-systemic disorder caused by increased thyroid hormone), diabetes (too much glucose in the blood) and liver disease. These problems can be managed, giving your cat back their quality of life, but only if they are diagnosed appropriately. ‘

Cats can also get infectious gastroenteritis.  In fact, there are viruses that can cause vomiting that have a very high mortality.  Many of these are covered by routine vaccination, so make sure that your cat is current on everything that her vet recommends.

String and toys can be enticing to cats and if swallowed can create a life threatening situation. Typically these cats will vomit more than intermittently, but sometimes the object can be lodged in the stomach while still allowing food to pass and be an erratic cause of vomiting. Obviously, your cat does not need a foreign object anywhere in his GI tract, so all cases of vomiting should be investigated.

Some cats with respiratory issues will seem to vomit.  It is hard for a cat lover to tell if they are vomiting or coughing sometimes and the two can go hand in hand.

The bottom line is that a normal cat really should not be vomiting, even hairballs.  If he has so much hair in his stomach that it is causing vomiting, he could even have a skin issue making him groom excessively.

Could your cat be suffering from something more serious? The answer is yes and the throwing up might be the only clue that you get until the problem has progressed too far to treat. Cats are masters at hiding their disease and they will act fine until they can’t anymore. It costs you nothing to call you vet and ask if they think your cat should be seen. Hopefully there will be nothing serious and you can have a plan to stop the vomiting for your cat’s sake.

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