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Tips for Home Care for Your Vomiting Cat When You Cannot Visit the Vet

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works with dogs, cats, exotics, and livestock.

You can treat your cat for vomiting even if no veterinarian is available.

You can treat your cat for vomiting even if no veterinarian is available.

Your cat is sick and needs you. Can you help him or her at home by yourself? There are times when a veterinarian is not available to help, and in some places, a vet does not even live in the area.

There are so many reasons that a cat can vomit or regurgitate that it will be difficult at times to even figure out what is wrong. Even if you are not sure, however, there are several things you can do right away to help. If it is an infrequent event the treatment is fairly easy, if it goes on it will be harder to deal with but even then can sometimes be done at home.

This is what you can do if your cat starts to vomit.

Jade plants, and many others, will cause vomiting if your cat eats some of the plant.

Jade plants, and many others, will cause vomiting if your cat eats some of the plant.

If Your Cat Rarely Vomits

The method I have described below is fine for cats that have just vomited after eating some grass, are stressed out, have an irritated stomach after grooming, or just ate something strange out in the yard that upset their tummy.

  1. Take his or her food away: This is not as simple in cats as with dogs; if you starve your cat for very long, they will stop eating and can develop a starving condition known as hepatic lipidosis. A few hours of going hungry though is not going to hurt your cat and will give the stomach a chance to recover. (Some vets will suggest only a few hours of fasting but it is okay to go 12 hours as long as you encourage your cat to start eating again at the end of the fast.) Cats, unlike dogs, are not going to drink when there is nothing to eat. There is no need to take the water away.
  2. Offer a small amount of food after the fast: A tablespoon-sized piece of boiled chicken breast is the best thing you can give a cat that has been vomiting. (Sometimes it helps to sear the breast in a pan without oil. This releases the aroma and increases the cat's interest.) Chicken breast is bland but as long as it is warm most cats will usually start eating again immediately.
  3. Offer a small meal of the same thing in a few hours: Depending on the piece of chicken that you have boiled, there will be plenty of small meals available so go on feeding this until it is gone.
  4. Offer a normal schedule the next day: Go back to your regular feeding schedule after about 24 hours.

If that does not work, and this is happening a lot, you need to investigate the reasons a cat vomits frequently.

Why Cats Vomit Every Day

Unfortunately, there are a lot of causes for vomiting, and it is not always easy to find out why this is going on. There are some rare diseases that can hurt your cat, but here is a list of the twelve most common reasons for vomiting:

  • Eating garbage, dead animals, or other junk: If your cat has eaten something old or spoiled he or she is more likely to vomit but it is often resolved with the treatment I describe above. When you allow your cat to roam outside this can be a habit and will end up happening every day.
  • Hairballs: Almost all of us have dealt with this problem since cats spend a lot of their waking hours grooming. Hair is consumed and either gathers in the esophagus or in the stomach. Some cats throw up a hairball as often as once a week, and some cats almost never. There are a lot of good treatments but some cats, like longhairs and cats with allergies, suffer a lot more.
  • Constipation: Cats with constipation often strain and are so uncomfortable that they start to vomit. There are pets that suffer from this condition a lot, so vomiting can occur every day and even only secondary it is an important sign that can help identify the problem.
  • Food allergies: Vomiting is not the most common sign associated with this problem but it is seen at times in cats that also have itchy skin, hair loss from excessive grooming, ear infections, and diarrhea. The vomiting is sometimes from the food itself but it can also be from hairballs because of the grooming.
  • Parasites: There are several types of parasites that can harm your cat but the most common that causes vomiting is roundworm or Toxocara cati. The cats that are sick from these worms also have diarrhea and coughing and look sick, with pot bellies and rough hair coats.
  • Other GI infections (besides parasites): Any time that a cat is presented with chronic vomiting many vets will suggest a Feline Leukemia (FeLV) test. This is because many infections will cause vomiting, including feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and even feline distemper. Some other cats can have stomach infections from a virus, fungus, or bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella.
  • Eating poison: The most common cause of vomiting from poisoning that most of us see is secondary to eating houseplants. Some plants are extremely toxic, others less so but will still make your cat sick. It is a good idea to look into any plant before buying it and keeping it in your home with a cat. It may never be a problem but there are a lot of great alternatives so it is not worth bringing home something that might kill your cat.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Vomiting is only one of the many common side effects of cats suffering from this disease. There is no cure but there are a lot of treatments like medication and some cats even do well when the diet is changed. Raw food with a new protein source like rabbit is one option, but there are also a lot of commercial diets with new or hydrolyzed proteins.
  • Obstructions: These are usually caused by eating something that is best left alone, like a piece of string. The string gets caught under the tongue and instead of passing through the bowel, it causes the intestine to bunch up so that food is no longer able to pass. The cat vomits up everything he or she eats and will eventually die.
  • Kidney disease: This is one of those diseases that is commonly diagnosed by owners of senior cats but really needs to be diagnosed by your vet. Cats of all ages can have problems but it is usually found in older cats and owners often notice that their cat is drinking and urinating a lot more than when younger. (With dogs, owners also notice the bad breath and weight loss.) As the disease gets worse, toxin levels rise in the blood and ulcers develop in the stomach leading to a cat vomiting blood.
  • Hyperthyroidism: Although there are a lot of signs that lead to this diagnosis, it can only be identified when thyroid hormone levels are tested in the blood. There are drugs that will cause the thyroid to produce less hormone but your cat will still need to be monitored because sometimes the drug works so well that the cat becomes hypothyroid, suffering from low levels of thyroid hormone.
  • Cancer: Cats with cancer can develop an obstruction that leads to vomiting, but more common are those pets that vomit from lymphoma, a type of cancer often associated with cats that roam outside the home and pick up a feline leukemia (FeLV) infection.
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Read More From Pethelpful

Instead of feeding larger kibble, a better alternative, in my opinion, is to give your cat a whole diet (chicken pieces, for example) that he or she will chew thoroughly before swallowing.

Treating a cat that vomits every day can get worse each time.

Treating a cat that vomits every day can get worse each time.

Treating a Cat That Vomits Every Day Without a Visit to the Vet

Cats that vomit every day can be suffering from something as simple as hairballs or as serious as kidney disease. It is a good idea to take your cat to your veterinarian as soon as possible as some diseases respond well to early treatment but are almost impossible to take care of once your cat is very sick.

If you are not sure of the cause, do not have veterinary assistance available, and still want to treat your cat so that he or she no longer suffers, here is a list of things you can do at home:

  • Stop letting your cat outside: This is an important first step. Cats that roam outside will eat all sorts of things that cause vomiting, pick up more infections, and are usually a lot more stressed than a housecat.
  • Make sure that there are no poisonous houseplants your cat is getting into: This should be fairly easy. There are plenty of great articles on which houseplants will make your cat safe and others on which plants are safe for your cat. If you did not choose your houseplants with a cat in mind go back and review each of them and give the potential offenders away.
  • Change the diet: All of us cat owners know that dietary change is not always easy, but in this case, it needs to be done. Some cats will vomit secondary to food allergies, others will vomit secondary to inflammatory bowel disease aggravated by a food allergy, and still others might vomit just because they reject their food. The most common causes of allergies that we know about at this time are the protein sources in the food (fish, beef, chicken, dairy, and maybe corn and other grains) and the only way to be sure is by putting your pet on an exclusion diet. You need to feed a hydrolyzed protein or a totally new protein source, something he or she has never been exposed to (like duck) for about 2 months and if the symptoms stop, then start up again as soon as the old diet starts, the cat can be said to have a food allergy. If you feed a commercial diet, be sure to read the ingredients carefully because even some of the diets labelled as "chicken" will also contain some beef or other protein source. Also, make sure your cat does not get any food from the table and tell everyone in the family so that he or she does not get any ice cream, milk, etc.
  • Encourage water consumption: Cats rarely drink even enough to moisten their dry food and will often seek out alternative water sources like toilet bowls. The best thing you can do for your cat to prevent chronic constipation is to switch to a moist diet so that he or she consumes most of their daily water needs in the food. The other important thing you should do for your cat is to provide a water fountain so that the water offered is fresh and moving, similar to that which a cat would find in the wild.
  • Deworm: The next thing to do is make sure you treat for roundworms, Toxocari cati, a common cause of vomiting in young cats and those that have been allowed to roam. A fecal test to diagnose the types of worms in your cat's stool is ideal but even if you cannot do this there are several good over-the-counter dewormers for cats.
  • Brush your cat daily to reduce hair loss: Hairballs are not natural and easy to avoid. If your cat does not have a long coat a short brushing session (5 minutes once a day) is often enough. Long-haired cats and those that groom excessively because of allergies need a little more grooming time, and you should use one of the soft rake-type brushes to pull any loose hair as you groom. There are also some brush-type gloves that mimic the cat´s tongue and will provide a lot of pleasure to your pet.

When Veterinary Diagnosis and Treatment Is Needed

Every week I talk to people that have families that have no access to veterinary care for their sick cats. Some cat-owning families just do not have the disposable income to spend on taking their cat to a vet and will allow he or she to remain sick when vomiting.

If you try the things listed above and the vomiting does not stop get help. If your cat has chronic vomiting and the behavioral changes we associate with being sick, he or she really needs to see a veterinarian immediately.

Do what you can.

References

Batchelor DJ, Devauchelle P, Elliott J, Elwood CM, Freiche V, Gualtieri M, Hall EJ, Den Hertog E, Neiger R, Peeters D, Roura X, Savary-Bataille K, German AJ. Mechanisms, causes, investigation and management of vomiting disorders in cats: a literature review. J Feline Med Surg. 2013 Apr;15(4):237-65. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23403690/

Trepanier L. Acute vomiting in cats: rational treatment selection. J Feline Med Surg. 2010 Mar;12(3):225-30. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20193913/
Bartlett, P. C., Van Buren, J. W., Bartlett, A. D., & Zhou, C. (2010). Case-control study of risk factors associated with feline and canine chronic kidney disease. Veterinary medicine international, 2010, 957570. https://doi.org/10.4061/2010/957570

Cortinovis, C., & Caloni, F. (2016). Household Food Items Toxic to Dogs and Cats. Frontiers in veterinary science, 3, 26. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2016.00026

Iturbe Cossío, T. L., Montes Luna, A. D., Ruiz Mejia, M., Flores Ortega, A., Heredia Cárdenas, R., & Romero Núñez, C. (2021). Risk factors associated with cat parasites in a feline medical center. JFMS open reports, 7(2), 20551169211033183. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8377321/

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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