Reader Question: All the Cats I've Ever Owned Have Thrown Up Regularly

All the Cats I've Ever Owned Have Thrown Up Regularly
CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, helps determine why cats could chronically vomit.

Dr. Arnold Plotnick is one of CatChannel's feline health experts. Check out more of his CatChannel answers.

Q: All my cats have, through the years, tended to vomit two to three times a week. Even my 1-year-old baby is now throwing up her food. Am I feeding them too much? Could there be something in the homes where I've lived that causes this? My cats, past and present, have never been outside. I would just like to know why they eat and, 10 minutes later, throw up their food.

A: Every cat vomits occasionally. Most of the time, harmless reason explains it, such as a sudden change in diet, eating too fast or having hairballs. In some instances, however, vomiting can be a serious sign of illness. 

When cats vomit, the cause is either a problem in the gastrointestinal system or a problem elsewhere in the body. For example, cats can vomit from a gastrointestinal disorder such as food allergy or inflammatory bowel disease. Cats can also vomit from systemic disorders that have nothing to do with the gastrointestinal system, such as kidney disease; if the kidneys can’t remove toxins from the bloodstream, the toxins accumulate, leading to nausea and vomiting. Because vomiting has so many potential causes, diagnosing the reason for cats vomiting can be challenging. Your case is particularly odd, since all of your cats seem to be having this problem.

An acute bout of vomiting in a cat who seems normal is seldom a cause for concern, and can be treated symptomatically at home by withholding food for a few hours and then gradually reintroducing the diet. Cats that have vomited multiple times in one day or several times a week may need to be examined by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will likely want to run a number of tests such as a complete blood count, chemistry panel, urinalysis and fecal exam.

If the initial tests are OK, a reasonable first approach  would  be to change the diet  to a bland, highly digestible prescription diet and see if that helps. If not, the next choice would be a hypoallergenic diet, i.e. a diet that contains a protein source  that your cat(s) has never encountered, such as rabbit, venison or duck. Your  vet likely carries prescription diets of this type. If dietary changes do not help, further diagnostics such as X-rays, and perhaps ultrasound or endoscopy. In some cases, abdominal surgery is necessary to make a definitive diagnosis. 

Treatment of vomiting depends on the underlying cause. The prognosis will vary depending on the cause.