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13.03.2022

Cat throwing up food but acting normal—what does it mean?

Is your furry friend struggling to keep food down after meals, but nothing else seems off? Many cat parents are not sure whether they need to react because there are no accompanying symptoms. If you have a cat throwing up food but acting normal, Untamed’s guide provides accurate information about the potential causes and solutions to this problem.

What could cause nausea in cats without accompanying symptoms?

Felines depend on the nutrients and moisture in their meals to get energy and stay healthy, so the inability to keep food down is potentially dangerous. If your kitty is nauseous but seems fine otherwise, they could be reacting to:

  1. Overeating
  2. Gorging
  3. Gastrointestinal obstruction
  4. Hairballs
  5. Abrupt food changes

Overeating

Cats are gourmands and enjoy a nice meal any chance they get. If your kitty eats more food than usual, their stomach could get overwhelmed.

The two most common reasons for this are:

  1. Miscommunication between cat parents regarding the cat’s feeding schedule—Whenever you’re unsure whether your kitty had their meal already, ask your housemates or family members. Your furry friend won’t reject repeats and might get nauseous because they ate too much
  2. Inappropriate meal sizing—Most cats eat two large meals a day, but some might struggle to digest them. Serve smaller portions because they are easier to process. Wild cats hunt and eat small rodents, birds, and insects several times a day, so their digestive system is not designed to take in massive portions

What do you mean I got too much food today?

Source: PressPhoto

Gorging

Is your cat crazy about a particular type of food? It’s not uncommon for cats to switch to lightspeed mode and devour a meal they like in no time, but that behaviour could cause nausea and vomiting.

Regurgitation is a term used to describe the process of vomiting food that isn’t processed yet. It usually happens when a cat gobbles too much food. Once again, the solution is to feed several smaller meals throughout the day.

Your cat can experience similar issues if you have switched them to larger biscuits or if they have dental problems or lost their teeth completely. Since they can’t chew the biscuits, they tend to swallow them whole and throw them up undigested. You can help your kitty eat and process biscuits by adding water, soup, or broth to them.

Gastrointestinal obstruction

Felines are curious, and their daily adventures often include playing with various objects in and out of your home. Unfortunately, they often swallow these “toys.” Smaller items can go through your cat's digestive tract and cause no harm, but bigger ones can block the system. The food won't be able to pass, so your kitty will try to throw them up. If your furry friend is an explorer, monitor them and remove all potentially harmful objects in the vicinity. You should also avoid giving them small bones because they can break and cause internal injuries. Even seemingly harmless objects can be choking hazards, so cats should have only feline-friendly toys.

Hairballs

Hairballs are a side effect of your feline’s meticulous grooming regime. It’s normal for cats to cough up a hairball every week or two, but large hairballs can cause life-threatening intestinal obstruction. 

Intestinal obstruction or not, hairballs cause your cat to vomit. They come out as a cylindric clump of hair, sometimes mixed with undigested food. In the case of intestinal obstruction, the hair gets stuck in the intestines and forms a ball. Your cat's vomit won't contain any hair—only the food that could not pass.

Abrupt food changes

Cats are creatures of habit. While they appreciate some variety in their diet, felines (especially those with sensitive stomachs) react badly to sudden food changes and may feel nauseous after their meal or reject the food altogether. All you need to do is replace a teaspoon of your cat’s old food with the new one every day or two until they get used to its taste.

What to do about a cat not eating or drinking and throwing up

If your cat is not eating or drinking but feels nauseous, the following medical conditions could be causing the problem:

  1. Poisoning
  2. Pancreatitis
  3. Food allergies and intolerances
  4. Gastrointestinal diseases
  5. Kidney and liver disease
  6. Cancer

Poisoning

Symptoms of poisoning can appear hours or even days after ingesting the toxic substance, so the situation may be pretty dangerous.

The following table lists the most common culprits behind the poisoning in cats:

Category

Toxic substances

Plants

  • Caladium
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Ficus
  • Peace lilies
  • Aloe vera
  • Monstera deliciosa
  • Pothos

Food

  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Cocoa products (chocolate)
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • Allium vegetables (onions, garlic, chives, leeks, scallions)
  • Yeast
  • Products containing xylitol

Chemicals

  • Household cleaning supplies
  • Medications
  • Flea and tick topical medication for dogs
  • Insect and rodent poison
  • Fertilizers
  • Herbicides

“Plants are not snacks?” Yeah, right.

Source: vertbobo

Pancreatitis

When the pancreas is inflamed, the feline digestive system can’t process food properly. 50% of cats with pancreatitis experience vomiting. Other symptoms include:

Food allergies and intolerances

Vomiting could be a sign that your feline is allergic to a particular product or its ingredients. Other symptoms of allergic reactions include:

The most common allergens in cat food are beef and grain, which is why you’ll never see them on the ingredient list of hypoallergenic cat food.

Many cats are lactose-intolerant, so they cannot digest milk properly. Cats drinking milk (or eating a lot of dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt) could experience stomach upsets and vomiting.

Gastrointestinal diseases

If your kitty keeps vomiting and has diarrhoea, they could be dealing with inflammatory bowel diseases.

Parasitic infections only cause vomiting in cats when they are heavily infested. If your feline is battling parasites, they will also experience:

  • Pain
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

You might even find worms in your cat's puke.

Kidney and liver disease

Vomiting is a common symptom of kidney or liver disease. Other symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Increased thirst
  • Loss of appetite
  • Discolouration of the skin and gums

Cancer

Vomiting can be a symptom of specific tumours that cause blockage in the stomach and intestines. If your cat is struggling with these tumours, they could also experience diarrhoea, weight loss, and decreased appetite.

Can eating fresh prey cause nausea in cats?

Compared to indoor cats, felines who go out tend to act on their hunting instincts. Even though it's a fun activity for your kitty, catching and eating rodents or small birds carries numerous risks. If their prey was ill or poisoned, your feline friend can also get sick.

If you notice your kitty skipping meals at home after walking around the neighbourhood, they probably ate outside. You can prevent them from hunting by keeping them indoors at night because most rodents are nocturnal animals.

What to do if your cat throws up

Here's how to help your furry friend feel better until you determine whether you should take them to the vet:

  • Remove food for two hours (continue to provide water)
  • Offer a teaspoon of their usual food or low-fat homemade food (chicken or whitefish are the best) and if your feline keeps this down, repeat this a few times for 24 hours

If your feline is reluctant to eat, try warming up the food to around 36°C. Should your kitty reject food for more than 24 hours, take them to the vet.

You should also take a closer look at your cat’s vomit as it could help with diagnosis and reveal the cause. Check the table below for more details:

Consistency

Colour

Meaning

Foam

White

Inflamed stomach lining or intestines

Mushy or clumpy

Green

The food reached the small intestines before being ejected

Brown

  • Food allergy or intolerance
  • Foreign objects in the digestive tract

Liquid

Red (blood)

  • Ulcerations
  • Irritation of the stomach and oesophagus (due to increased acid from frequent vomiting)
  • Clotting abnormalities (often caused by poisoning)

Yellow (bile)

The feline’s stomach is empty due to anorexia or a one-meal-per-day feeding schedule

Clear

The cat is drinking too much water

Brown (blood)

Blood in the digestive system because of:

  • Foreign objects
  • Ulcerations
  • Hairballs

When should you visit the vet?

As unpleasant as they might be, not all cases of vomiting require a trip to the vet. If it’s a one-time occurrence, your feline probably ate too fast or too much. You should immediately visit the vet if your cat:

  • Has diarrhoea
  • Vomits repeatedly 
  • Has parasites or unusual objects in their vomit
  • Can’t keep water down
  • Has blood in their vomit
  • Is lethargic
  • Has dry, cold, pale, or yellow gums
  • Was near a toxic substance when the vomiting started
  • Has an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, kidney disease, UTIs, or hyperthyroidism

If you’re unsure whether your cat is in danger, consult your veterinarian or the Animal PoisonLine.

You should never treat your cat with over-the-counter medication, and here’s why

It’s normal to be worried about your furry friend’s well-being after a severe episode of vomiting. Despite the importance of a quick reaction, you should never resort to over-the-counter medication without consulting a professional. Inadequate medication could cause more harm than good—sometimes even a fatal outcome.

The safest way to handle the issue is to contact your vet as soon as possible or any other veterinarians nearby if yours is unavailable. Only a specialist can set a correct diagnosis and treatment.

What will the vet do?

The veterinarian will ask you about:

  • The colour, odour, and consistency of the vomit
  • Recent changes in your cat’s diet (the amount or type of food)
  • Medication or other treatments they might be receiving
  • Recent illnesses and diagnosed allergies
  • Other symptoms they experienced besides vomiting

The vet’s diagnostic procedure and treatment methods will depend on your cat’s condition. Check out the following table for further details:

Mild symptoms

Severe symptoms

Diagnosis

  • Anamnesis and medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Blood test
  • X-ray
  • Urine sample
  • Ultrasound
  • Endoscopy
  • Laparotomy

Treatment

Same as for mild symptoms + surgery

The exact treatment methods your vet will apply depend on your cat’s condition and the diagnosis.

How to prevent your cat from throwing up in the future

Depending on what initially caused your cat to get sick, you can try the following methods to prevent them from vomiting in the future:

  • Monitor your cat’s behaviour after meals and adjust portions if necessary
  • Groom your feline more often (especially during shedding seasons)
  • Buy puzzle toys to make your kitty eat slower
  • Switch your cat to food with a hairball formula
  • Keep toxic plants out of reach and lock cabinets with poisonous chemicals, medication, and food

What to feed a cat suffering from nausea

When your kitty stops vomiting, they need to regain their strength and rehydrate, and the best way to do it is with high-quality food.

As obligate carnivores, cats’ daily food intake should consist of 50% or more animal protein and up to 20% fat. Such a diet is high in taurine and other essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that support digestion and all metabolic processes. All necessary nutrients are only available in meat, making a vegan diet inappropriate for cats.

The following table lists food items that have the best bioavailability index for cats:

Poultry

Fish

Crustaceans

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Duck
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Shrimp
  • Prawns

Did you know that wild cats get their daily water intake from food? Wet and semi-moist products allow your cat to do the same because they contain around 70% moisture.

You can also combine different types of cat food, for example, jelly or gravy products and dry cat food, to create gruel. Its soft texture will help your furry friend keep it down.

How much should a cat eat after being sick?

Offer your feline a teaspoon of food every two hours until you’re sure they can keep it down. Once it seems like your kitty isn’t nauseous anymore, slightly increase the amount of food and the time between meals until your feline’s eating schedule gets back to normal.

Can cats have snacks after being sick?

Lean deli meats, such as ham, work as a treat, or you can use them to spice up your feline’s meal. Chicken liver is a good vitamin booster if served in moderation. All other types of snacks should be on hold until your cat fully recovers.

Untamed—healthy food cats go wild for

The best way to prevent gastrointestinal issues and other medical conditions is to give high-quality food to your cat, and Untamed is the perfect choice! Our vet-formulated recipes help felines get healthy and stay in shape, no matter their breed or life stage. 

We’ve gotten approval from parents of Bengals, Persians, Siamese, Ragdolls, Maine Coons, British Shorthairs, and many more. Untamed is nutritionally appropriate for cats of any age—kittens, adults, and seniors find our food super tasty. Even fussy pregnant queens and picky neutered males can't resist Untamed.

Finicky cats love our products, and cat parents trust us because we:

Can we keep the box?

Image (c) Untamed

Did you know that the Untamed effect is visible from week one? Satisfied cat parents report the following positive changes they witnessed in their felines:

When?

What changed?

After one week

  • Firm stool 
  • No stomach upsets

After two months

  • Clockwork digestion
  • More energy

After four months

Long-term

  • Strong immune system
  • Lean figure and improved muscle tone

If you want the same for your furry friend, order our taster pack now!

Let your furry friend get a taste of Untamed

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  1. Visit our TRY NOW page
  2. Answer the questions about your cat
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Forget about the previous food. This is my go-to now!

Image (c) Untamed

What not to give to a nauseous cat

Helping your furry friend recover includes learning about what they can’t eat.

Grain is typically used as a filler in commercial cat food because of its high caloric value. It’s one of the most common allergens and causes stomach upsets in cats, so go for grain-free cat food. Cats can't break down carbs, so the energy provided is useless and quickly turns into fat.

Raw food (eggs, chicken, other meat, or bones) can transmit harmful microorganisms, so you should refrain from giving them to your feline—sick or not.

Cats who are more sensitive struggle with the high fat content in nuts (macadamia is even toxic), so you should avoid them.

If your kitty enjoys nibbling your snacks, here are some items they can have in moderation:

Fruits

Vegetables

  • Peas
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Sweet potato
  • Brussels sprouts