When your cat vomits and graces your favorite rug with a disgusting glob, it’s easy to point to a hairball as the likely culprit. But the real cause behind your cat’s tummy troubles may be something more serious. It could signal kidney disease, a stomach ulcer or lymphoma. Or, it could be due to a foreign body like a large button she swallowed that is now wreaking havoc on her stomach or obstructing her abdomen. Sometimes, the cause may be due to parasites, including tapeworms, hookworms or heartworms.
First off, is your cat’s vomit a cause for concern?
“If your cat is vomiting more than one to two times per month and it is not hairballs and the vomit contains food or is just yellow liquid (bile), he/she should be seen by a veterinarian for examination and diagnostics,” recommends Elisa Katz, DVM, a veterinarian who operates the Holistic Veterinary Center in Downers Grove and Bourbonnais, Illinois, and who serves on the Feline Nutrition Foundation board.
Yes, as unpleasant as it sounds, it is vital to examine the mucky mess and bring a sample in a sealable plastic bag to the veterinary clinic to be analyzed. Because cats are both prey and predator, they hide outward signs of pain or discomfort. Tap your “pet detective” skills and report any changes in your cat’s behavior, such as decreased appetite or changes in bathroom habits. Alert your veterinarian if your cat is coping with constipation as evidenced by tiny, hard fecal pebbles in the litter box or straining and unable to produce a bowel movement.
Other possible reasons for your cat vomiting:
- An abrupt switch from one diet to another
- Medication side effects
- Reaction to accidentally ingesting toxins, including human medicine left out
What to feed a cat who’s vomiting
For an occasional mild upset stomach in your cat, Dr. Katz takes an integrative-holistic approach to caring for cats. She identifies these safe home remedies (always check with your vet first):
- Slippery Elm: This herbal supplement comes from the inner bark of a tree native to the eastern United States containing the soluble fiber mucilage. It comes in capsules and is available at health food and drug stores. She advises one capsule can be safely given once to twice a day to coat and soothe an inflamed gastrointestinal tract.
- Coconut oil: This oil can aid in reducing inflammation and boost a cat’s immune system. You can safely add about one-quarter teaspoon each day to your cat’s food.
- Fish oil: This can help lubricate an irritated gastrointestinal tract. Healthy picks include salmon oil because it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Homeopathic nux vomica 30c: Rich in antioxidants, it is derived from an evergreen tree native to China, India, Thailand and Australia. Safely give up to three doses daily to combat inflammation, constipation, bloating and nausea. “However, if the vomiting does not improve after three doses, do not continue to repeat and take your cat to your veterinarian,” Dr. Katz says.
- Bland diet: Replace your cat’s normal food with boiled lean meat, preferably white meat chicken, turkey or lean ground beef. Instead of adding rice due to its high carbohydrate content, add canned pumpkin (plain pumpkin — not pie mix) or cooked sweet potato (mashed) to the boiled lean meat meal. “Aim for a 50-50 mixture of lean meat and canned pumpkin or cooked sweet potato,” Dr. Katz says. “This bland diet is not meant to be fed for more than several days at a time.”
- And one more piece of advice: “People can avoid a lot of GI issues by feeding their cats a species-appropriate diet,” Dr. Katz says. “The less processed the diet the better. Also, avoid ingredients such as carrageenan and foods that are high in carbohydrate content.”
What not to give a cat who’s vomiting
Cats have a different, and often more delicate physiology and digestive system than we do, so don’t give human over-the-counter products.
“You should never give Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol to your cat,” says Dr. Katz, from Holistic Veterinary Center in Illinois. “These medications contain substances related to aspirin and may be toxic to a cat’s kidneys or liver.” And don’t take away his food for more than a day. Cats can develop hepatic lipidosis (also known as fatty liver disease) if they are forced to go without food for two more or days.
About the author
Arden Moore is a pet behavior consultant, author and master pet first-aid instructor who often teaches hands-on classes with her cool cat, Casey and very tolerant dog, Kona. Each week, she hosts the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio. Learn more at ardenmoore.com and follow Arden on Facebook and on Twitter at @ArdenKnowsPets.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.