Owners of healthy cats are accustomed to the occasional upchucked hairball -- it comes with the territory of being owned by a cat. If your cat eats quickly and vomits right afterwards, visit with your vet to determine if you should be worried.
Many cats gobble food as though they were starving to death even when they have an abundance of food. Oftentimes this is a behavior that your kitty learned as a kitten with his littermates, during nursing or if food was in short supply. The act of eating too fast can cause food to get stuck in the esophagus, which make your cat quickly eject the food.
Vomiting vs. Regurgitating
The terms vomiting and regurgitating are used interchangeably, but they have two different causes and actions. Vomiting occurs when your cat contracts his abdominal muscles to expel the contents of his stomach. What he throws up usually has a yellow color to it and may be digested or partially digested. Cats generally won’t try to re-eat vomit. Regurgitation occurs when the contents of the esophagus are expelled and the food isn’t digested because it never made it to his stomach. Sometimes the contents come out in the shape of a tube. A cat doesn’t have to strain his abdominal muscles as much during regurgitation. Some cats will try to re-eat the food ejected during regurgitation.
Your cat will need to visit the vet for tests to distinguish whether he is vomiting or regurgitating and determine what causes him to get sick. Blood work tests check for infection or other problems, X-rays look for obstructions and dysfunctions in your cat’s esophagus or stomach, and an endoscopy lets your vet see into your cat’s stomach to check if the problem lies there. If your vet is concerned about an obstruction, she may perform an exploratory procedure called a laparotomy to allow her to better diagnose the problem. Pneumonia is a concern in cats with regurgitation problems, so your vet will need to check for that as well.
Treatment and Home Care
Depending on the severity of your cat’s vomiting or regurgitating, and whether or not he is dehydrated or malnourished, one of the first in-home treatments is to serve him smaller portions. Another option is to put enough food out so he can eat when he wants and reduce the need to gobble it all down, or you may need to experiment with different types of food. Your vet can give you medications to keep your cat from regurgitating and antibiotics if your cat shows any signs of pneumonia. If the problem is severe, your vet may recommend surgery.
Based in Las Vegas, Sandy Vigil has been a writer and educator since 1980. She taught high school and middle school English and drama for 11 years. Vigil holds a Master of Science in teaching from Nova Southeastern University and a Bachelor of Arts in secondary English education from the University of Central Oklahoma.