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What to do when your cat is sick?

ginger cat looking sick advice
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Cats are prone to vomiting. It’s usually nothing to worry about. But if your cat keeps being sick, they’ll need to see a vet. Here’s what you need to know about a sick cat

By Ashley Murphy

We’ll cover the more obvious causes of why a cat vomits and when to seek medical advice if your cat is suddenly being sick. We’ll also look at the more subtle signs and give you some advice on what to do when a cat vomits. 

My cat keeps being sick

Most cats suffer from a little bout of sickness now and again; these isolated incidents are nothing to worry about. Your cat may have eaten something that doesn't agree with them, and they’ll usually be back to their old selves in no time. However, if your cat vomits repeatedly, or you're noticing your cat being sick more than usual, then there's probably an underlying cause. Common reasons for frequent vomiting include: 

  • Parasites 
  • Diabetes
  • Allergic reactions 
  • More serious illnesses, such a stomach cancer
  • Kidney disease/kidney problems
  • Urinary tract infection

You also need to keep an eye on the texture and colour of the vomit. If it has a "foamy" texture, it's likely to be stomach bile. It will be either a yellow or a "greenish" colour. Bile is an acidic liquid that is created in the liver, stored in the gallbladder, and released into the intestines to help break down solid foods. But it can sometimes leak into the stomach, causing vomiting. Other symptoms include diarrhoea, lethargy, and a loss of appetite. Bile in the stomach is pretty serious, so get that kitty to the vet.

What should I do if my cat is being sick?

If your cat has been sick, remove any food for a couple of hours. Just make sure they have got access to some water. Once they've settled down, offer them small amounts of food every couple of hours for the next 24 hours. If they keep everything down, switch them back to their normal routine. 

Isolated bouts of sickness are usually harmless. However, if you notice any blood in the vomit, or your cat is struggling to hold down water, then it may be related to something more serious. Again, your cat will need to see a vet ASAP.

How is sickness in cats treated?

The first thing any vet needs to do is establish what's causing the vomiting. They'll probably start by asking you a few questions about your cat. They’ll ask about their medical history, diet, and feeding habits. 

Then they may perform some diagnostic tests, including x-rays, ultrasounds, and blood tests. If the vomiting has been really bad, the vet may put your cat an IV drip. This keeps them hydrated; it can also administer antibiotics for any infections. 

In other cases, the vet may prescribe anti-vomiting medication or stomach protecting medicines. If the cat has ingested a foreign object, then surgery might be the only option.

Is there anything I can do to stop my cat being sick?

It depends on the cause. Serious medical issues will always need professional treatment. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of isolated vomiting incidents. Keeping them well-groomed is a good place to start. A regular grooming routine keeps their coats short and neat. This reduces the need for the cat to groom themselves, which means fewer chances of developing furballs in the digestive tract.  And fewer furballs means fewer incidents of isolated vomiting. And keep a note of what foods appear to upset your cat's system. Sickness in cats is often food related. Most cats will have an increased appetite after a bout of vomiting but try to restrict food until their stomach has settled down. Just make sure they drink and keep an eye out for any other signs of illness. This is really important when it comes to an older cat. 

How do I know when my cat is going to be sick? 

If your cat is about to throw up, there's normally a few giveaway signs. The most obvious signs are contractions around their midsection. Here’s how vomiting works: the brain sends signals to the midsection and diaphragm which then tells the stomach muscles to contract. These violent contractions propel the food up the oesophagus, out through the cat's mouth, and straight onto your freshly cleaned carpet! 

Other more subtle signs include head bobbing, excessive drooling, and excessive licking of the lips.

Most cats will vomit from time to time. It's usually food related and, in most cases, the only thing you need to worry about is cleaning up the mess! After that, keep an eye on them and re-introduce food slowly. The majority of cats will be fine after a day or so. If the vomiting becomes more frequent or contains blood or bile, then your cat will need to see a vet. They can examine your cat for any signs of an underlying illness. This can be very worrying, but, the quicker its diagnosed, the faster your cat will get the treatment it needs.