Reader Question: My Vet Doesn't Know Why My Cat Vomits

My Vet Doesn't Know Why My Cat Vomits

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

Q: My cat has been vomiting since about last September. My vet and I cannot seem to locate the problem. He vomits on a daily basis, lately several times a day. He has maintained his weight, throwing up mostly fully digested food. I have taken him to see a vet who has tried X-rays, blood testing, urinalysis, several prescriptions and many food changes. It could be a food allergy, and I have started my cat on a limited ingredient diet made with turkey and potatoes. My vet said the next step would be to send my cat to a specialist, but I know that will be very expensive so would like to eliminate a few possibilities first. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

A: Every cat vomits occasionally, and many times a harmless explanation exists, like hairballs, eating too fast or a sudden diet change. Cat vomiting every day, or several times a day like your cat is doing, is not normal.

In general, cats vomit either from a gastrointestinal disorder or a metabolic disorder. For example, cats can vomit from a gastrointestinal disorder such as food allergy or inflammatory bowel disease. They can also vomit from systemic disorders that have nothing to do with the gastrointestinal system, such as cat hyperthyroidism. Because vomiting has so many potential causes, diagnosing the reason for the vomiting cat can be challenging.

It sounds like your vet has run the routine, non-invasive tests required to come up with a diagnosis for your cat. When the first round of tests do not reveal a cause, a reasonable first approach would be to change your cat’s diet to a bland, highly digestible prescription diet (such as Hill’s i/d, Iams Low Residue or Purina EN) and see if that helps. I suspect from your letter that you’ve tried these diets.

The next choice would be a hypoallergenic diet, i.e. a diet that contains a protein source that your cat(s) has never seen, such as rabbit, venison or duck. (Your vet likely carries prescription diets of this type.) If dietary changes do not help, further diagnostics may be necessary to help your cat.

I suspect your cat might have inflammatory bowel disease. To determine this for certain, biopsies of the intestinal tract will be necessary, via endoscopy (my first choice) or exploratory surgery. Once a definitive diagnosis is achieved, your vet can start appropriate therapy on your cat. If you cannot afford endoscopy, your vet may be able to prescribe anti-vomiting drugs that can provide symptomatic relief, however, clinical signs are usually hard to control unless a true diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease is achieved.

See more articles by Arnold Plotnick, DVM>>


  1. One of my cats had a complete blood panel and digital x-ray to find cause of chronic vomiting. Everything was negative, so vet said only course of treatment would be metronidazole and/or prednisilone. I finally took my cat to another vet who did an ultrasound right away...which led to a suspected and confirmed diagnosis of gastrointestinal lymphoma. I wish the first vet had offered ultrasound as my cat (who died last month) may have responded better to chemo-therapy with an earlier diagnosis

  2. Thanks for this post exploring the numerous reasons a cat may vomit. I think a lot of people will find this useful.


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