Cats vomit. It’s just a thing they do! Dogs vomit too, and so do humans, and so does every other mammal.
Vomiting isn’t something to worry about in and of itself. When do you need to worry that your cat is throwing up?
First, Let’s Talk About Cat Barf
Cats generally “throw up” a little more often than other pets. That’s because in a lot of cases, they’re not vomiting the way other animals vomit – they’re simply getting hairballs out of their throat. There are three primary ways in which cats vomit:
Occasional Vomiting: Once or twice a month, or even less often.
Chronic Vomiting: At least once or twice a week, up to once every three days.
Acute Vomiting: Persistent or sudden vomiting usually high in volume or intensity.
What’s inside cat vomit? Whatever they ate, of course! In the cases of occasional vomiting, the contents usually contain furballs, grass, and/or digested food. Chronic vomiters are more likely to be purging pesky hairballs, although cats with particularly sensitive stomachs might vomit up food that doesn’t agree with them. Acute vomiting? That’s likely to either contain large amounts of barely-digested food, suggestions of toxins or accidentally ingested substances, or bile. Eventually, acute vomiters may run out of vomit and simply be dry heaving.
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Yuck. Okay, So When Should I Worry?
Occasional vomiting? Almost never anything to worry about. As long as the vomiting doesn’t seem particularly violent or painful for your cat, it’s to be expected from time to time.
Chronic vomiting is a little more of a gray area. If your cat doesn’t seem all that bothered by it, there’s no need to worry (but you should ask your vet at your next appointment!) If the chronic vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms or seems to be getting more frequent, it’s probably time to schedule a visit with the vet. And of course, if the vomiting seems to be really uncomfortable or painful for your cat or if you see changes in her eating or drinking habits, you want to have her examined ASAP.
Acute vomiting is another story. Just like in humans, sudden vomiting means something’s wrong with your cat. Is it serious? Not necessarily, but you should monitor your cat closely. Many cases of acute vomiting are brought on by food poisoning, which generally clears up on its own. Accidental poisoning is another story, however, and can present similarly so if you’re not sure, call a vet. Even with traditional food poisoning or a simple stomach virus, your cat can eventually become dehydrated. Keep a close eye on her demeanor and don’t hesitate to take her to an emergency veterinary clinic if you think you need to – dehydration in cats can be serious.
There are a few cat vomiting situations that always call for a visit to the nearest veterinary clinic. If your cat is vomiting up blood, rush her to the closest emergency facility. Likewise, she vomits up evidence that she’s ingested poison or other dangerous non-food substances, you need to take her in. Black, tarry vomit from your cat isn’t necessarily a rush-to-the-ER emergency but it can become one quickly, so watch your cat closely and schedule a visit for the first time your vet has available.