March 3, 2023 |0 min read
What to Do if Your Cat Throws Up After Eating
My poor Simba.
Last night, after his delicious supper, he threw up. I was worried. I didn’t know if something was serious.
But, when I saw the tube-like, partly digested food Simba had spewed out, I realized it could be because my kitty had scarfed up his food too quickly.
I was thankful I had recently researched the different ways to stop a kitten from throwing up. That information could be helpful to you too!
I realized I should not have strayed from feeding my kitty her usual. I had been out of PrettyPlease cat food that evening and had another brand in the cupboard. The brand was too fatty, and it irritated my Simba’s stomach. Then, I learned that changing my cat’s food can cause my kitty to become sick.
Is Kitty Actually Vomiting
One of the first steps a cat owner should take to ensure their cat is healthy after wondering why a cat is vomiting, is to make sure the cat is actually throwing up.
It’s easy for people to confuse when a cat is vomiting, regurgitating, or coughing. Cat vomiting and regurgitating refer to how a cat discharges food from the upper part of its digestive system. But, the two are different from each other.
A kitty regurgitates when swallowed food moves through the cat’s digestive tract. During regurgitation, no muscle contractions are moving the chewed-up food. Instead, the food is passively passed back through the system. When regurgitating food, saliva, hair, or mucus comes out of the mouth shaped like a tube. This tube-like indicator shows my Simba has regurgitated his food.
However, the most significant difference between regurgitation and vomiting is when a cat vomits, and the food is purposely expelled from the cat. There is no passive movement. The stomach muscles contract to push the food up, through the esophagus, and out. Also, cat vomit contains digested and undigested food, stomach bile, and phlegm. Compared to regurgitated barf, vomit has a watery texture.
While cats do not expel food when they cough, it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between a kitty coughing and a kitty puking up food.
Coughing has nothing to do with the digestive tract. It’s a reflex – as found in humans – used to get rid of something in the respiratory tract. Cats may also cough if parts of the respiratory system (the pharynx, the location behind the cat’s nose and mouth, the larynx, the trachea, and the bronchi) are irritated. When coughing, cats can sound like they are retching up food, and pet owners may think the kitty is vomiting or regurgitating. Therefore, cat owners should watch and see if the kitty spits any food.
If you’re a pet owner and can’t tell the difference, animal experts recommend taking a video of what’s happening and showing it to your veterinarian to diagnose the situation.
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Why Cats Vomit
Many feline owners, and sometimes some veterinarians and cat experts, think it’s normal for their fur babies to throw up. They may brush aside the vomit, saying cats are “simply pukers.” Or, they say the vomit is just a hairball stuck in the kitty’s throat. But, actually, that’s a myth! Just like it’s not usual for humans to consistently throw up, it’s not normal for kitties to vomit frequently.
It's true. Humans may throw up a handful of times a year. Cats may throw up a handful of times a year too.
However, throwing up once or twice every week is not common for a healthy cat.
Hairball: Breaking the Myth
Cats do find hairballs unpleasant. And trapped hairballs can lead to serious situations. Hairballs can continue to build up and cause intestinal blockage.
What’s a hairball?
If you’re a cat mommy or daddy, you’ve probably already heard of a hairball. Despite its name, a hairball is not in the form of a ball. Instead, it’s a mat of hefty hair shaped like a tube, covered with mucus. The tube configuration is due to the kitty’s esophagus. Also, a hairball’s size can vary. It can be as small as an inch to up to several inches.
What causes a hairball?
A cat’s cleaning routine can cause trapped hairballs. Cats constantly lick themselves to groom their fur – to ensure nothing is dirty in their shiny coat. They, like many humans, want to look presentable to other kitties. Who knows when they’ll meet their feline soulmate? They don’t want to smell funky to their friends!
Cat experts say felines spend up to two to three hours a day licking themselves – which can add up to about 24 percent of their time.
The cat’s digestive system should be sturdy enough to pass the hairball through the stomach and intestines. Sometimes though, the digestive system is not working as it should, and the hairball does not pass through as smoothly. In some instances, it gets stuck along the way.
Cats get rid of the hairball by vomiting.
Preventing those hairballs
Pet owners can take simple steps to prevent those disgusting hairballs from occurring. Instead of having the kitty constantly grooming itself and having hair slide down the esophagus and into the digestive system, pet mothers and fathers can groom the cats themselves. The time spent grooming will not only stop those mats of fur from forming, but it can also be valuable bonding time between the kitty and the owner.
Other Reasons for Vomiting
Hairballs are only one reason why a cat may puke. There are many other factors that can cause a cat to throw up. A change in the cat’s diet or introducing new treats or milk into the diet can cause a cat to vomit.
Cats don’t know what’s good for them to eat. They’ll find foreign objects and nibble or scarf them down. Examples can include rubber bands and plastic. These foreign objects can also force a cat to vomit.
In addition, cats can accidentally ingest toxins, especially if cleaning supplies are nearby. Parasitic worms may also become unwanted guests in a cat’s digestive tract and make a cat vomit.
One of the best ways to investigate what is wrong with the cat is to look at the color of the barf.
The Color Wheel
To determine what could be the underlying cause, pet owners can look at the color and contents of the cat food to get an idea of what is wrong with our small best friend. The color and composition of the vomit can tell you so much. It can help determine if the kitty is suffering from a severe disease. Animal experts created a color wheel to help pet owners understand each color's meaning. Here are some examples of what each color may mean.
Cat owners may be able to sigh with relief when they see their kitty has spewed up white foam or clear liquid. White foam usually means the cat is not in severe danger of an illness.
One common reason for foam spew is a hairball.
Another reason is that little Simba may be throwing up on an empty stomach. Skipping meals could mean the fur ball has a case of indigestion. Poor kitty has an upset stomach. Throughout the day, the stomach creates gastric liquids, including hydrochloric acid, to help break down food during digestion. If the feline skipped a meal, the acid could build up and cause indigestion.
If it’s indigestion, take your cat to the vet. The vet will probably suggest providing the kitty with consistent, smaller meals at the same time each day. A constant food supply can prevent hydrochloric acid from building up in the stomach.
Brown vomit can mean a few different things. One thing to consider is the type of food the kitty ate. In many cases, it’s essential to look at what the kitty ate or drank beforehand because the color of that food or drink could explain the vomit’s color. If the kitty ate brown kibbles before throwing up, the dry cat food could be why the purged food has a brown hue. The color of the food the fur ball ate is usually the reason vomit is a particular color.
But the brown shade can also point to a graver illness. Brown vomit could mean there’s blood in the upchuck. The blood may mean a part of the cat’s digestive tract (the stomach, the mouth, the esophagus, and the intestines) is irritated. The irritation can cause minor internal bleeding that could later appear in the puke.
Veterinarians know it can be tough to see if the vomit contains blood. Pet owners, who use colored rags or cleaning supplies tinted with color, may not see the dark blood stains as they wipe up the upchuck. Therefore, veterinarians recommend cleaning up the icky, pavement pizza with a white paper towel. The paper towel can make it easier to reveal whether there is any blood in the food.
If a cat owner notices their feline vomiting up brown chunks frequently, it’s probably time to alert a veterinarian. Then, the veterinarian will want to conduct some tests to check the kitty’s vital signs – its temperature, respiratory rate, and heart rate.
Bright red vomit can also signal blood in the puke. Pet owners should be concerned if they see red in their cat’s vomit. Unlike brown vomit, red vomit means considerable internal bleeding is occurring.
The bleeding usually comes from somewhere in the cat’s upper gastrointestinal tract. (The gastrointestinal tract consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and the beginning portion of the small intestine.)
However, occasionally, blood may also signify the kitty has a respiratory injury. As in humans, the respiratory system is the system involved in bringing oxygen to the lungs to help with breathing. Cats, who have had prior respiratory injuries, may have swallowed blood that was drained from their nose or coughed up. As a result, the kitty will vomit blood.
Take your kitty to the emergency vet if the cat is vomiting blood. The emergency vet will conduct some physical tests on the cat, but the vet may also look for unusual masses or bruises. The masses or bruises may indicate the cat has a blood-clotting disorder. In addition, the vet may ask for laboratory tests too.
Sometimes, a kitty’s vomit has a green tinge to it. The green is usually a clue the kitty found some houseplants and decided to munch on some crunchy leaves. The plant’s green color is why the icky mess is a chewed-up rainbow of green.
The green vomit could mean something else, too – bile in the vomit. The bile, created and stored in the liver, further digests the food once it reaches the small intestine. Sometimes the digestive system is not working efficiently. Therefore, the bile can get up into the stomach, where it is not supposed to be. Instead of leaving the cat’s body the usual way, the bile goes up through the esophagus, and the cat spits it out as vomit. As a result, irritation occurs. The irritation leads to vomiting, and a condition called bilious vomiting syndrome.
Green vomit is another instance where owners should contact a veterinarian. The vet will conduct a physical exam, check vitals, complete a blood profile, a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. If the animal doctor does not find any severe treatment, they may prescribe medication to help with treatment. Cats that have chronic bilious vomiting syndrome will need diet management.
Whether or not the kitty’s condition is grave, it is always wise to notify a veterinarian of what is happening. Then, the veterinarian can make notes in the cat’s records to help with any future diagnosis.
Another essential step is determining whether the cat’s vomiting is acute or chronic. When the cat’s vomiting is acute, the episode lasts for a short time – two to three days. In this case, pet owners need to watch how to reintroduce food or water into a cat’s diet once the acute vomiting stops. Veterinarians recommend slowly providing the kitty with food and water, starting with a bland diet.
In other cases, the cat’s vomiting is chronic, meaning it lasts longer than two or three days, and repeated vomiting occurs. Chronic vomiting means the veterinarian should be alerted immediately and will take the necessary steps to help treat the furball.
It is also a good idea to have pet insurance. Treatment can become pricey, and insurance can help cover the costs.
The best way to keep your kitty healthy is to feed your cat the right cat food. It’s quick and easy to subscribe today to try it out. Just select the number of cats in your household to ensure your furry friend gets the perfect amount of food each month. Then we’ll deliver it straight to your doorstep. No trips to the store and no shipping costs are necessary. Now it’s time to be your cat’s favorite person by giving them a delicious, ultra-nutritious, and flavorful bowl of PrettyPlease. Lots of happy cat purrs from your well-fed furry feline are coming your way!
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