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Scratching Post: To Puke or Not to Puke?

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

If you do have a cat, you may have discovered that they certainly aren’t shy about the occasional need to throw up, so much so that many people think it’s just a normal part of their behavior.

This isn’t necessarily true, though. There are several medical issues that could be causing your kitty to vomit. Let’s dig a little deeper…

What is the point of throwing up? When you get right down to it, vomiting evolved as a way for the body to rid itself of something it doesn’t want. It could be due to toxicity, stomach irritation, or something as simple as unbearable taste. On the other hand, sometimes cats vomit chronically from systemic causes ranging from allergies to kidney disease.

Let’s explore how we would go about determining the reasons behind why your cat is vomiting. Our first goal is to figure out if it’s a gastrointestinal issue or a systemic issue. First we ask you a lot of questions. How often is Fluffy vomiting? Is it usually after eating or for seemingly no reason at all? What comes up — food or liquid? Is there hair in it? Hairballs aren’t the same as vomiting and may be able to be addressed as a separate issue. Is this a new trend or has it been going on for a long time? Does Fluffy have any other symptoms like lethargy, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or skin rashes?

Sometimes just asking these questions is enough to point us in the right direction. Depending on the answer we get, we may recommend labwork to check kidney, liver, and thyroid values. If the results point to kidney, liver, or thyroid disease, this may well be the systemic cause of vomiting. We might also recommend X-rays to look for foreign bodies, a GI cause for vomiting; X-rays also give us a lot of information about your cat’s internal organs and might indicate the problem.

What else can cause vomiting? Food allergies, irritable bowel disease, or pancreatitis to name a few. If we suspect food allergies we might suggest a food trial which consists of feeding your kitty a prescription novel protein or hypoallergenic diet. It can take several weeks to see results with a food trial, but many kitties with food allergies have a lot of luck with these diets. Irritable bowel and pancreatitis can be diagnosed with a combination of lab work and symptoms.

Treating the underlying cause, be it systemic or GI related, often improves the vomiting issues. So what does all this boil down to?  Vomiting is not just something cats do. It might indicate a serious underlying problem. If your kitty is exhibiting any unusual symptoms like vomiting, schedule an appointment today for us to begin investigating the problem.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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