Mild, occasional vomiting, occurring no more than once a month, is common in cats and is usually not an emergency. In the case of acute vomiting (no longer than 1-2 days), the underlying cause may not be established, and health generally improves fairly rapidly with symptomatic treatment.
–If a cat vomits more than once a month or presents secondary symptoms, such as lethargy, weakness, or decreased appetite, professional attention is warranted.** The need for more urgent or emergency veterinary care is determined based on the severity of other associated symptoms.
Vomiting can be either acute or chronic.
Acute vomiting lasts no longer than two days. In the case of an acute upset stomach due to eating something unusual or poorly tolerated, the animal's health generally improves spontaneously or with symptomatic treatment.
Chronic vomiting does not resolve over the course of two days and usually persists for more than two weeks. It may or may not be accompanied by other symptoms.
Vomiting is characterized as severe when it is relentless and is accompanied by other symptoms like distress, lethargy, appetite loss, weakness, collapse, and seizures.
Forceful retching can damage the lining of the esophagus, so a few streaks of red blood in the vomit does not necessarily indicate an emergency. Vomiting large quantities of digested blood, which appears like coffee grounds, is a clear indicator of an emergency.
A note about hairballs: While grooming, cats ingest some of their loose hair. Hair is not digestible, but healthy cats usually manage to pass hair uneventfully in stool. Sometimes cats throw up hairballs. This is not alarming when it occurs rarely, but medical investigation to pursue the underlying cause is warranted if it occurs more than once a month. Chronic vomiting of hairballs is not normal.
The number of times a cat throws up during a bout of vomiting is not usually significant. Once the stomach is upset, a cat is expected to throw up as many times as it takes until the upper digestive tract is empty. Instead, the primary indicators of severity with respect to vomiting are the duration of the vomiting and the presence of associated symptoms.
Vomiting is a more significant concern for cats with previously diagnosed conditions. Vomiting has the potential to be more serious for cats with pre-existing conditions like diabetes mellitus or chronic kidney disease. Some conditions associated with vomiting are life-threatening and not all are treatable.
If further investigation of vomiting is indicated, strategies to determine the root cause may include:
Symptomatic support of vomiting includes:
Specific therapy depends on the underlying diagnosis and ranges widely.
General guidelines to ensure optimal gut health in cats include:
Vomiting can be mistaken for regurgitation, which is the passive expulsion of food and or fluid from the esophagus and does not involve abdominal contractions.
Depending on the underlying cause a number of symptoms are associated with vomiting.