Stomach Issues in Cats: Why Cats Vomit and What to Do
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Every cat owner recognizes the warning signs of an upset feline stomach: the mournful meow, gagging and the heaving retch. But just as suddenly as it began, your cat returns to good health while you’re left scrubbing the carpet.
The scenario is a familiar one for Cynthia Bowen of Cleveland, Ohio. As the owner of four Maine Coons, Bowen has cleaned her share of messes. “It would happen every couple of months or so,' she says. 'Otherwise, they were perfectly healthy.'
Although it's not a pleasant subject, vomiting is something cats seem to do on cue. Many cat owners accept this as a natural part of owning a pet, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Knowing what triggers an upset stomach and what you can do about it will make for a better relationship with your cat.
Why Cats Vomit
Many owners attribute their cat’s vomiting to hairballs, but that’s not the only culprit. “It’s careless to assume that most cases of vomiting in cats are due to hairballs,” says Dr. William Folger, a DVM from Houston. Two other frequent causes of an upset stomach are eating too fast and curiosity.
Eating Too Fast
Cats sometimes eat too much too fast. When the stomach wall expands too quickly, a signal is sent to the brain to cause regurgitation. In these cases, the mess on your floor is from regurgitation, not actual vomiting. When a cat regurgitates, she brings up fluid and food from her esophagus by opening her mouth — unlike vomiting, which involves gagging and retching.
Regurgitated food is still formed and may smell fermented. “Cats that eat too quickly because they are gluttonous or stressed by food-bowl competition can regurgitate right after eating,” says Dr. Sara Stephens, a DVM from Montana. But don’t assume regurgitation is always a case of eating too quickly. It could be caused by esophageal problems, obstruction of the digestive tract, hairballs or dehydration. If you’ve forced your cat to eat slowly and she still has problems, contact a veterinarian.
Grass, carpet and toilet paper are just a few things cats may digest and later vomit. The vomiting is a protective mechanism — nature’s way of cleansing your cat’s system. Sometimes, though, curiosity can lead to more serious problems. String, toy parts and feathers are favorites of playful felines and can lodge in the stomach or intestine, causing repeated vomiting and severe distress. If your cat exhibits these symptoms, take her to a veterinarian immediately. Surgery is often necessary to remove the object.
When Vomiting in Cats Is Cause for Concern
Repeated cat vomiting should never be ignored because it can lead to dehydration. But because vomiting is common in cats, how do you know what’s normal? “A general guideline is that if the cat is vomiting one to three times a month, we consider this normal,” says Dr. Folger.
He considers it serious if the vomiting occurs twice daily for two or three days. If your cat stops eating, seems to have stomach pain or retches continuously, or if the vomit is mixed with blood, take her to a veterinarian. And as always, if you’re suspicious that a lingering problem could be harmful to your pet, call your veterinarian. A visit to the office can help relieve your cat’s discomfort and your worries as well.
Preventing Your Cat from Vomiting
Often, owners accept their pet’s vomiting as a natural part of their behavior, but just because cats seem to have more than their fair share of stomach issues doesn’t mean you don’t have options.
Help Your Cat Eat More Slowly
One simple preventative measure is to get your fast-eating cat to slow down or to simply eat less. Dr. Stephens recommends feeding smaller portions, elevating your cat’s food dish slightly or putting an object, such as a ball, into the dish. The cat will be forced to eat around the ball, thus slowing her intake. If you do this, make sure the ball isn’t small enough to swallow. And you may need to feed cats in a multiple-cat household at different times and places to reduce competitive eating.
Adjust Your Cat’s Diet
If simple solutions don’t work, watch your cat’s eating behavior and reactions. Bowen, for example, tried changing her cats’ diets. “Since switching to IAMS™, they rarely throw up,” Bowen says.
“Usually, when you change to a higher-quality diet, there is no problem,” Stephens says. Here are some tips for helping make sure your cat’s food transition is as successful and comfortable as possible:
- Go slowly. Make the transition gradually to allow your cat time to adjust. “Make sure the cat eats something every day,” Dr. Stephens advises. “A cat that quits eating suddenly can develop liver problems.”
- Add appeal. Switching from wet to dry food or vice versa should also be done gradually. Many cats find canned food more palatable. If you switch to dry food, add water and warm it slightly for more appeal. Discard uneaten food after 20 minutes to prevent spoilage.
- Measure up. How much should you feed your cat? Your cat’s age, sex, breed, activity level and overall health need to be taken into consideration. Talk with your veterinarian, and then read the manufacturer’s recommendations. Premium foods like IAMS™ cat foods are more nutrient-dense than many nonpremium diets, so don’t be surprised if the recommended amounts seem low.
- Pay attention. Beyond careful measuring, also regularly weigh your cat and adjust the feeding amount accordingly after switching to a premium food. Your cat may appear happy if you overfeed her. But over time, she may become overweight.
If your cat vomits more than three times a month or has chronic stomach issues, you can take several steps to help resolve her discomfort. With your veterinarian’s help and a little effort on your part, your cat’s stomach issues can be a thing of the past.
- adp_description_block232Your Cat’s Language: What Meows, Chirps and Yowls Mean
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Listen up, Mom or Dad, because your feline definitely has something to say. Cats use more than 100 different vocal sounds to communicate. Here are nine of the most common sounds you’ll hear and what your cat’s unique language means.
While your cat’s purrs are usually a sign that they’re happy, comfortable or content, it’s important to point out that your cat might also purr when they are anxious, agitated or sick — because purring soothes them. The key to figuring out if it’s a “worry purr” is to check if their ears are folded back, if they seem tense or if they just aren’t acting normal. (If that’s the case, call the vet and grab the cat carrier.)
Why do cats meow? It’s simple: It’s their way of communicating with us!
Meows are your cat’s most common “word,” and every one means something different. For example, your cat might meow to greet you when you come home, to ask you to open your bedroom door so they can curl up on your pillow, or to say, “I’d like some more tasty kibble or a second serving of IAMS® PERFECT PORTIONS™ paté, s’il vous plaît.”
Chirps and Trills
Chirps and trills are the loving language of cat mothers. Chirps, or chirrups, are staccato, bird-like sounds mother cats use to say to their kittens, “Follow me.” Trills are higher-pitched chirps your cat uses to say hello or “Pay attention to me.” When your cat directs these sounds at you, chances are they want you to give them some love or follow them somewhere, usually to their food or water bowl. (Shocker, LOL.)
If you have more than one feline fur baby, listen closely. You’ll likely hear your cats talk to each other with these sounds.
When your kitty spies an unsuspecting bird or squirrel frolicking outside the window, they might make a chattering sound at it. This distinctive, repetitive clicking noise is caused by a combination of lip smacking and your cat rapidly vibrating their lower jaw. This odd behavior looks like teeth chattering, and a lot of cats also chirp when they chatter.
This clickety sound is thought to be a mix of predatory excitement and frustration at not being able to get to the elusive feathered or furry prize. Some animal behaviorists even think the sound mimics a fatal bite used to break the bones of their prey. Who knew your li’l feline was so ferocious?!
Regardless of the exact reason cats chatter or chirp at birds and other small animals, most feline parents find it fascinating and amusing to watch.
The unmistakable sound of a cat hissing is like a steak hitting a hot skillet, and it can only mean one thing: Your cat feels threatened and will put up a fight if they have to. Just as important as the hissing sound, however, is the cat body language that comes with it. Your cat will flatten their ears, arch their back, puff their fur, twitch their tail and usually open their mouth to flash their fangs — aka the classic defensive pose.
Snarls and Growls
In addition to a hiss, if your cat makes a deep, guttural growlsound, they’re saying, “Back off.” Similar to a dog’s growl, this noise means your cat is annoyed, scared or angry. Some cats even make short, higher-pitched snarl sounds before launching into a full-blown growl.
While these sounds usually signify an unhappy cat, it’s important to note that some cats growl because they’re in pain from an injury or a health problem. If you suspect this is the case, a trip to the vet is in order.
If your feline snarls or growls at you for any reason, though, it’s best to leave your feisty friend alone.
A yowl, or howl, is a long, drawn-out meow that almost sounds like moaning; it’s your cat’s way of telling you they’re worried or distressed, or that they need you. They might have gotten locked in a closet, can’t find you anywhere or, heaven forbid, have discovered their food bowl is empty. Your cat might also yowl when they don’t feel well or when a new neighborhood cat trespasses on their turf.
Whatever the reason, make sure you immediately help your cat whenever you hear a yowl. Trust us — you’ll both be glad you did.
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