Cats are hardy creatures that present remarkably few health problems with which to traumatize their owners, but they have one drawback: they bring up food with remarkable ease. Knowing how to manage, or even better, prevent those foul little heaps is something every cat owner can profitably learn, to everyone’s advantage.
It’s almost true to say that cats will throw up at the drop of a hat. One episode should not be a cause for concern. It could even be ‘normal’ for a cat to throw up a couple of times a month. Sustained upchucking is a cause for concern but even then, given the cat’s mastery of the practice, it is not necessarily cause for panic. A crucial first step is to distinguish between vomiting and regurgitation. Vomiting is the ejection of the contents of the stomach. If you observe the act, you may see your cat retching, flanks heaving as the rejected food makes its way back up. It maybe accompanied by a distinctive rasping and gulping that sounds like ‘hauk! hauk!’
Regurgitation is slightly less unpleasant (believe it or not). The ingested food has not reached the stomach but is ejected from the esophagus or upper digestive tract. Typically this happens within a short time of eating, sometimes almost instantaneously. It lacks the vile smell of stomach acids and the cat may even try to re-eat it, typically inducing consternation in the owner. Haii balls —prime suspect
The most common cause of feline vomiting is hairballs, or trichobezoars, that consist of hair accumulated from grooming. They are more common in long-haired cats, for obvious reasons, but short-haired cats are far from immune. If all is working well, the hair will be excreted. Hairball indicators include eating grass, which provides fibre that help shunt it through the system. An offering of mucus and grass is a good sign of a hairball problem. Successful vomiting produces a bedraggled little mass of fur. With luck, that is the problem solved. In rare cases, wads of fur can block the stomach or intestine, but this is exceptional.