Cats, Grass and Vomit

Hey Doc!  My cat throws up.  Is it a hairball?
cat vomiting on couch

 

Thanks for your question.  Hair balls are overrated as a cause of vomiting.  More often than not, cats that vomit hairballs are just bringing up hair because it’s along for the ride. If your cat vomits hair, there may be some other underlying cause of the vomiting (aside from a stomach full of hair).

What Causes Hairballs?

Hairballs occur in cats that groom too much, that have certain skin issues, that have thick long coats, or that have decreased gastrointestinal motility associated with bowel inflammation.  Bowel inflammation can occur secondary to dietary intolerance, food allergy, dietary indiscretion or bowel cancer. In some rare cases, cats consume more hair than they can ‘pass’ which may lead to  an obstruction.  

Do Hairball Diets Work?

Be wary of diets that purport to reduce hairballs.  They often contain dietary fiber or petroleum jelly, but there is no evidence that either of these ingrediants assist with passing hairballs.  Petroleum jelly can also  harmfully interfere with the absorption of important fat soluble vitamins.

Can My Cat Eat Grass?

Despite the fact that cats are obligatory carnivores, eating grass can be a normal foraging behavior and, if consumed in moderation, is safe.  Excessive ingestion of grass (or nibbling on toxic house plants) can be problematic and result in vomiting.  Click here for a list of toxic plants.

Cat Vomiting isn’t Always ‘Normal’

Cats with chronic vomiting history concern me and the condition is almost always associated with some underlying pathology the causes of which can be quite varied.  Eating too quickly can be a cause of vomiting in cats, but in the absence of a physical obstruction, the cases of chronic vomiting that we see at Animal Medical of New city are caused by food intolerance, adverse reaction to food, and/or inflammatory bowel disease

Trust Your Gut

Look, you know your cat’s behavior.  If you’re concerned, I’m concerned.  If your cat rarely vomits, then starts to vomit more frequently, call me up.  The causes of vomiting are varied and it is critical to diagnose the cause early and intervene before your pet becomes too sick.