Cat Hairballs and Other Items That Are Difficult For Your Cat to Digest
17 June, 2013

If your poor kitty is throwing up or not feeling well, he or she is typically getting rid of a hairball or some other indigestible items.  Generally, with cats, unless you see bile or blood, most causes of cat vomit are relatively easy to treat and not serious. Some will pass overnight, while others might be worth a visit to your veterinarian.  This is not the most fun topic, but an important one for our feline friends!

Below are some of the reasons your cat might be vomiting.


Probably the number one cause of cat vomiting is hairballs. When your cat grooms and cleans his fur, some of it can get into his intestinal tract and generally comes out in the stool. But sometimes cats have sensitive stomachs and you’ll hear the hacking cough that’s usually the precursor to vomiting of a hairball. Unless your cat coughs up hairballs more than twice a month, there’s no cause for alarm.

Eating items that are difficult to digest

Cats love to chew on all kind of weird items such as grass, carpet, newspaper, plastic, toilet paper and tissue, string, computer cords and fuzzy parts of toys. Any one of these can cause your cat to vomit to rid himself of the item.  Some indoor cats might try to run out the door to eat some grass in order to get rid of the indigestible item (dogs do the same thing).  Make sure to watch for signs of chewing on magazines, books and other items. Also check your cat’s vomit to see if there are traces of the substances.

Cats will try to consume strangely-shaped objects. This may be a piece of wood or a stick, a ball, piece of bone (especially meat, fish and poultry bones). These can become lodged in their throats and they will try to get rid of it by vomiting.  If this happens, call your veterinarian to see if you should bring your cat for an appointment.

Scarfing down his food

Your cat may eat quickly or aggressively (as does my Sammy) or could be stressed out by trying to compete for food if you have more than one cat. The simple solution for overeating is simply to put less food in the bowl for your kitty or, if there is competition, try to provide a separate bowl for each cat. Be prepared for the overeater to check out both bowls.  If you have the time, try to feed the cats at different times of the day.


Change in diet

Sometimes cat vomiting is caused by a change in their diet. If you have recently switched from wet cat food to dry cat food or even a different brand, this could cause your cat to vomit. Try going back to the previous food, and re-introducing the new food on a gradual basis.  This should eliminate the vomiting.

Food allergies

When a cat has an allergic reaction to one or more ingredients in his cat food, he will most likely vomit. This is the cat’s protective mechanism for cleansing its system. Most common food allergies are to fish, beef, eggs, wheat and milk. Your cat may even become allergic to a certain food even after eating it without incident for a long time (just as humans do the same).

Some kind of infection or parasites

Cat vomiting may be caused by an infection such as salmonella or it could be a parasite.  These include hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm and whip worm. Excessive vomiting is one sign, along with weakness, weight loss, diarrhea and a distended stomach.  Make sure to see your veterinarian for treatment of any of the above, which may include multiple treatments with medicine and other preventative measures.


Cats that ingest aspirin, poisonous plants (both indoor and outdoor varieties), anti-freeze and other poisons may react by vomiting. Some poisonous plants include oleander, Easter lily, philodendron, English ivy, geranium, foxglove, lily of the valley and clematis. If you think your cat has eaten from a poisonous plant, you should contact your veterinarian immediately and follow his or her instructions.

For the most part, cats will vomit to get rid of the unwanted item in their system, whatever it might be.  As mentioned above, if you see blood or bile, make sure to go to your veterinarian as soon as possible.  Otherwise, give your kitty 24 – 48 hours to see if the vomiting goes away.

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