Why does my cat puke its lunch up once a month?
August 9, 2004 9:16 AM   Subscribe

CatFilter: My otherwise-healthy kitty has sporadic bouts of yakking his lunch. No hairballs involved. It only happens maybe one week out of the month, but it happens regularly. *Inmoreside.*

Sorry for such a long list, but here are the related factors:

1. There are almost never any visible hairballs.

2. He'll go for a couple weeks without throwing up, then he'll yak three or four times in the same week.

3. It's almost always recently-eaten food, still in its original little shapes.

4. I feed him dry catfood, always the same mixture of two brands.

5. He's about seven years old and otherwise in great health. He's very active, in good spirits, and lithe and muscley like a miniature panther.

6. When I adopted him he might have been less than six weeks old. He looked like a scrawny little drowned rat, fur sticking up everywhere, mewing for attention and help. He had been fed dry cat food at the shelter, but he couldn't handle it, always yakking and having constant diahrea. I brought him home and put him on KMR formula, which he drank like mad until he was happy and healthy and ready for solids. He might have a touchy stomach due to his childhood problems.

7. He eats very fast, wolfing down a huge quantity of food in a minute or two.

8. When he was younger I fed him regular Purina, as I didn't know much better. Then I tried switching him to healthier brands, but he wouldn't eat them and he threw up when he did. Finally I began mixing Science Diet with cheap Purina, and he adjusted well. But he still has these occasional bouts of yakking...

Should I be worried? Is it time for a checkup anyway?
posted by Shane to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
All the cats I've ever lived with have done that from time to time. You should ask about it the next time you're at the vet, but I don't think it's a serious emergency.
posted by cmonkey at 9:23 AM on August 9, 2004

He eats too much, too fast... IMHO
posted by mhaw at 9:24 AM on August 9, 2004

Also, does he get enough fiber in his diet? Low fiber can cause cats to do all sorts of strange things.
posted by cmonkey at 9:26 AM on August 9, 2004

he's eating too much, too fast. my four year old cat still does this with dry food, unless he's given only a small amount in his bowl at a time. he doesn't do this with wet food and he doesn't do this with "dental diet" cat food which is too big to be swallowed without chewing.

to avoid having to clean up cat-hork all the time, i feed him three times a day, once in the morning (about half the portion size for his weight, then the rest), once at dinner time (he gets the wet food then), and once before bed (the dry food routine again).
posted by crush-onastick at 9:32 AM on August 9, 2004

He may, as has been mentioned, be gulping his food, which often results in large amounts of air being swallowed, which can lead to vomiting. It may also be that there's something in his diet which upsets his stomach from time to time. Cats do vomit occasionally, if he's showing no other signs of a problem, I might do as crush-onastick suggests and feed smaller, frequent meals. I might also get some cat grass for him to eat (better pet shops carry it, you grow it on a windowsill).
posted by biscotti at 9:36 AM on August 9, 2004

One of our two does that too. We've repeatedly asked the vet, and there's nothing wrong with the little sucker. I think, too, she eats too fast. She was a stray and came from the world where if you didn't eat it when you had it, you went hungry. After nearly 10 years of food always being in the dish, she still seems to think that way.
posted by GaelFC at 9:40 AM on August 9, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks folks!

It definitely isn't an emergency, as otherwise he's a huge crazy happy cat. He definitely gulps his food and doesn't always chew thoroughly. If you heard him eat you'd think he were a videotape on fast-forward.


...without stopping for air until he walks away from the bowl.

Does anyone have any suggestions on a better diet? I actually have four cats with their own eating schedules, so it seems best to leave some dry food out at all times. I also have to find a dry food mixture that all four cats like.

Should I supplement their diets with anything, canned food once-a-day or vitamins or something with more fiber?

(Good point on the stray bit, Gael. My cat may have starved a little on the street too before the shelter found him, or his food-gulping might just be related to his personality, his tendency to be a nut and do everything to excess.)
posted by Shane at 9:48 AM on August 9, 2004

By my count, I have lived with 12 cats. Three are still alive and two were killed by cars. The remaining seven all lived to at least 14 years of age. So I've really only lived with quite healthy cats.

Every single cat I have ever shared space with puked without provocation and did it too often for my tastes. Healthy cats vomit, and some healthy cats puke every week, at least. The cat is rarely the worse for wear for it. A cat can make an ungodly noise, make his abdomen completely disappear in his ribcage, projectile vomit a mixture of dry food and toilet water, and go right back to licking his anus like it never happened.

Cats are seriously great pets provided that you keep paper towels and carpet cleaner handy. If he seems listless or there's blood in his puke, take him straight to the vet. Otherwise, teach him to practice his hobby on the kitchen linoleum.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:54 AM on August 9, 2004

Does anyone have any suggestions on a better diet?

Here. And you don't need to supplement, if a pet is eating a high-quality diet, any supplementation is either overdosing them or just giving them expensive urine. You could try putting a small stone or brick in his food bowl (a clean one, obviously), this will often prevent gulping because they have to eat more slowing trying to get the food out from around the object.

Most healthy cats don't vomit every week - they may be "healthy", but that-frequent vomiting isn't normal and something is usually causing it. It may not be life threatening, but that doesn't mean it's truly normal.
posted by biscotti at 10:01 AM on August 9, 2004

if a pet is eating a high-quality diet, any supplementation is either overdosing them or just giving them expensive urine

And I should add to the above that spending money on supplements for a cat on a poor diet is ass-backwards - spend that money on a better diet instead.
posted by biscotti at 10:02 AM on August 9, 2004

The cats in my house love an occasional canned pumpkin/flax-seed oil mix for extra fiber, mixed in with their dry food.

Nutro makes good dry food that's not too expensive.
posted by cmonkey at 10:18 AM on August 9, 2004

Do cats eat fibre, naturally?

I thought it was all mice, birds and fish, with only the smallest amounts of grass for medicinal purposes.
posted by Blue Stone at 11:21 AM on August 9, 2004

Do cats eat fibre, naturally?

I don't think cats eat corn and the other filler you find in most cat food, so the fiber might be required to even them out, maybe? Dunno, I'm not a vet, I'm just going off of my experience living with cats all my life.

The best diet for a cat is one you mix yourself, with meat from the grocery store, really. Most people just don't have the time for that, though.
posted by cmonkey at 11:39 AM on August 9, 2004

There's some controversy about fibre in cat diets just now, actually. As of yet there doesn't seem to be a clear picture of how much is required. Home-made diets are great, with the BIG caveat that it's not as simple as mincing up some meat, you have to do a fair bit of research to ensure that you're accounting for all the nutritional requirements a cat has, which is not as simple as it sounds, since cats can die from nutritional deficiencies (remember that a wild cat doesn't have to live a long healthy life, it just has to live long enough to reproduce in order for its genes to be passed on, so the whole "natural" approach to pet feeding, when based on the idea of feeding pets like their wild cousins, has more than a few pitfalls as well). But the better commercial diets don't contain corn or wheat - they need some grain for processing, but as a general rule, the higher the quality of a given diet, the more meat and less grain it contains.
posted by biscotti at 12:03 PM on August 9, 2004

Oh, and yes, it's time for a checkup - tell the vet and see what s/he says, remembering that vets don't get much nutrition education, so take dietary recommendations with a grain of salt until you do your own research.
posted by biscotti at 12:05 PM on August 9, 2004

You might try raising their food bowls. It's helped our cats with the puking-after-eating thing. My cheap solution was to invert one bowl and stick the bottom of another bowl to the inverted one's bottom with Museum Putty. It raised their food about 2-2.5 inches and seems to have done the trick.

A couple of good cat food brands are Wysong and Innova.
posted by lobakgo at 12:23 PM on August 9, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks again, folks. I guess I need to set up a routine vet visit soon for all four cats, but first I'm buying one of those cloth-type top-loading cat carriers.

Is it advisable to have blood drawn when a cat gets to "middle age," to have tests run that might indicate potential liver and especially kidney problems? Is it a problem for a vet to draw blood when it is a non-emergency? I guess it's not easy to find a vein..? My last pooch could have benefitted from proactive blood tests, as she died of kidney problems.

And I'm off to the store today to see if I can find something better than Science Diet. All of the brands you folks've recommended sound great.
posted by Shane at 12:50 PM on August 9, 2004

Curley, for once I find your comments amusing and right on.

Puking is a fact of living with cat life. Some do it more than others, and the ones that do it a lot seem really proud of themselves. They all have their talents I suppose. It may be just that my irritation is more attuned, but my more fragile cat (who will probably live forever ironically) seems to barf more often when the house is uncomfortably warm, like when I'm being stingy with the AC. Since your cat already has a history of illness-free regurgitation and is otherwise perky, I would put money on it being just another one of his charming quirks.

Also, I've read that pureed baby food (veggies) are good to add to cat food if you're looking for easy additives.
posted by dness2 at 1:11 PM on August 9, 2004

I also have a puker, irrespective of the quantity of grass or hair that turns up in the vomit. And yes, there's a definite but not definitive relationship to breakfast-gobbling.

What I find interesting is that since I've been exploring some of the alternatives to the Science dry she's been on (and been casually puking all her life), the vomiting is much decreased and her eating speed is lower...until I go back to the Science, thinking to use it up. We'll do a couple more iterations of testing, but I'm thinking keeping the Science till it's used up is falling into the false economy category real quickly.

In terms of the conversion process, btw, we bought sample bags of four of the better-sounding premiums (no corn, no excess reliance on fiber or byproducts) and offer them in rotation. Two weeks into the project, she has identified one not-even-if-I'm-starving-to-death, two okay-but-only-to-be-polite, and one omg-this-is-the-best-stuff-EVAR. And most interestingly, she gobbles less and eats less in one meal of the most favored one, which is open to all sorts of interpretations but generally of the favorable variety.
posted by salt at 1:55 PM on August 9, 2004

You can get cat grass at the pet store, but it's a lot easier and cheaper (at least where I live) to go to the health food store and buy some wheatgrass made for human consumption. It tends to be better quality (much much greener) and organic. Or, if you have the inclination, you can get seeds from the pet store and grow the grass yourself.
posted by calistasm at 3:26 PM on August 9, 2004

I think cat grass is barley grass, not wheat grass, but the health food store is a good idea.

Yes, it's a very good idea to have blood drawn for reference values at middle age. Most vets will recommend this, and/or be very pleased to do it for you. It's well worth your while, since it can both identify possible problems before they're serious, and give you an idea of what's normal for your cat.

salt, not surprised about the Science Diet at all. The best foods on the market in my opinion are Felidae, Wellness and Innova, and there are a fair number of others out there at that same quality level - it's worth spending the extra money, the cat eats less because it absorbs more, and the quality of the ingredients far surpasses the lower-end brands (which can be much more important than it seems).
posted by biscotti at 3:59 PM on August 9, 2004

My cat was getting his food nicked by another cat that would come in through the cat door, that made him start eating faster and puking. We moved his food to the lounge [not a great location for cat food] and he pukes very rarely now.
posted by meech at 4:49 PM on August 9, 2004

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