Cats randomly upchucking hairballs or partially digested food is no fun for anyone. But do you know the real difference between vomiting and regurgitation in cats? It’s crucial to understand the distinction to get your furry feline the proper help when needed.
This guide has everything you need to know about cat vomiting vs regurgitation. I’ll explain what each one is, outline causes, compare symptoms, and provide actionable treatment options and tips. You’ll learn how to identify the problem and take steps to stop your cat from ejecting stomach contents all over the place.
I’ll also cover when to call the vet, so you can get ahead of any potential complications or serious issues requiring medical intervention. Whether your cat is randomly barfing or passively regurgitating, I’ve got you covered. Let’s get into it!
Key Differences Between Vomiting and Regurgitation in Cats
The main differences between vomiting and regurgitation come down to location, force, contents, and causation.
Vomiting occurs when contractions of the abdominal muscles and diaphragm forcefully expel stomach contents up through the esophagus and out the mouth. You’ll see partially digested food mixed with stomach acids and digestive enzymes. Vomiting is generally indicative of illness.
Regurgitation is more passive, where undigested food comes back up easily from the esophagus without abdominal contractions. It typically occurs right after eating when food hasn’t made it fully to the stomach yet. Regurgitation is usually harmless.
Let’s explore some more key contrasts:
- Origin – Vomiting is from the stomach, regurgitation from the esophagus
- Contents – Vomit contains bile and enzymes, regurgitant does not
- Appearance – Vomit is chunky and acidic, regurgitant resembles intact food
- Force – Vomiting involves contractions, regurgitation just flows out
- Onset – Vomiting has nausea beforehand, regurgitation does not
- Frequency – Vomiting can be repetitive, regurgitation is isolated
Now that you know the main differences, let’s look closer at potential causes.
What Can Cause Vomiting in Cats?
There are many possible medical causes of vomiting in cats:
- Dietary Indiscretion – Eating something unsuitable like people food, moldy food, or toxic plants can cause vomiting. Cats exploring counters find lots of trouble!
- Allergies/Intolerances – Usually to ingredients like beef, dairy, chicken, fish. Vomiting is the way the body rejects the irritant.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – Chronic inflammation of the GI tract leads to irritation and vomiting. Certain breeds like Siamese are prone to IBD.
- Gastroenteritis – Stomach and intestinal inflammation, often caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Transmission can occur through contaminated food.
- Pancreatitis – Inflammation of the pancreas, commonly from high-fat diets. More prevalent in overweight or obese cats.
- Kidney Disease – Toxins building up in the bloodstream can cause nausea and vomiting. Occurs more frequently in older cats.
- Liver Disease – Disrupts digestion and prevents toxin filtration. Vomiting is a common symptom.
- Diabetes – High blood sugar can slow gastric emptying and cause vomiting. Especially with uncontrolled diabetes.
- Hyperthyroidism – The increased metabolism can lead to vomiting. Most common in older cats with thyroid tumors.
- Medication Side Effects – Certain drugs like NSAIDs or chemotherapy can cause nausea. Always give medications with food.
- Toxins – Household chemicals, plants, medications, lead to vomiting if ingested. Keep anything poisonous locked away and call your vet or poison control if ingestion occurs.
- Cancer – Tumors affecting the gastrointestinal tract directly or indirectly can lead to vomiting. Have any abnormalities screened by your vet.
- Blockages – Foreign objects, bezoars made of fur and food, get stuck in the intestines and cause vomiting. String and linear objects are risks.
As you can see, vomiting can result from many diverse medical conditions, ranging from dietary indiscretions to chronic illnesses. Proper diagnosis is important to identify the right treatment approach.
What Triggers Regurgitation in Cats?
In contrast to vomiting, regurgitation in cats is typically benign and caused by:
- Eating Too Fast – Inhaling food doesn’t allow enough time to fully swallow, so it comes back up. This is common with hungry, excited cats.
- Esophageal Motility Disorders – Weakened muscles along the esophagus prevent effective contractions to move food to the stomach. Often genetic or idiopathic.
- Megaesophagus – The esophagus becomes enlarged and flaccid, losing the ability to contract and transport food properly. This congenital condition can occur in Siamese cats.
- Hiatal Hernia – Part of the stomach pushes up into the chest cavity through the diaphragm. This anatomical abnormality allows food to come back up easily.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux – Stomach contents back up into the esophagus due to a weakened sphincter that won’t close completely. This can happen with obesity.
- Obstructions – Foreign objects like bones, balls of hair, cloth can get lodged in the esophagus. Linear items are high risk.
As you can see, most regurgitation results from anatomical or functional issues affecting the esophagus itself, not systemic illness. telltale signs and symptoms provide more clues…
Key Symptom Differences: Vomiting vs Regurgitation
Here are some of the main observable differences between cat vomiting and regurgitation episodes:
|Food partially digested with bile/enzymes
|Yellow or brown liquid
|Same color as food eaten
|Liquid or chunky
|Tubular shape or log
|Foul, acidic odor
|Mild, no odor
|Forceful abdominal contractions
|Passive, flows out
|Nausea like licking lips
Pay close attention to these details when your cat has an episode to help distinguish vomiting from regurgitation. The appropriate treatment depends on an accurate diagnosis.
How to Treat Vomiting in Cats
Treating vomiting requires identifying and addressing the underlying cause. Possible approaches include:
- Fasting – Withhold food for 12-24 hours to rest the gastrointestinal tract. Slowly reintroduce bland foods.
- Bland Diet – Boiled chicken, white rice, canned pumpkin, bone broth provide nutrients without irritation.
- Anti-Vomiting Medications – Maropitant citrate (Cerenia), Ondansetron can provide symptom relief.
- Antacids – Sucralfate, Pepcid, omeprazole coat and protect the stomach lining.
- Anti-Nausea Medications – Chlorpromazine, Prochlorperazine relieve nausea.
- IV Fluids – Fluid therapy combats dehydration from frequent vomiting.
- Surgery – May be required to remove obstructions or tumors causing vomiting.
- Diet Change – Novel protein or hydrolyzed diets for suspected food allergies.
- Antibiotics – If bacterial infection is causing the vomiting.
- Steroids – Help control inflammation with inflammatory bowel disease.
- Antiemetics – Metoclopramide improves gastric motility issues.
- Toxin Removal – Induce vomiting, give activated charcoal to absorb toxins.
See your vet promptly if vomiting is:
- Frequent or chronic
- Contains blood
- Associated with lethargy
- Prevents fluid intake
- Lasts more than 24 hours
Frequent vomiting can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and other problems. It’s important to identify the cause and start appropriate treatment.
How to Treat Regurgitation in Cats
Since regurgitation is often harmless, treatment focuses on minimizing the risk of episodes through diet and eating habit changes:
- Slow down eating – Puzzle feeders, smaller meals. Don’t let your cat bolt food.
- Elevate food bowls – Use a stand to allow gravity to help food digest properly.
- Thicken food – Add water, broth, or rice cereal to canned food to slow eating.
- Feed smaller, more frequent meals – Don’t overload your cat’s stomach.
- Keep cat upright after eating – Maintain an upright position for 10-15 minutes post-meal.
- Avoid vigorous playtime around mealtimes – Prevent exertion right after eating.
- Give antacids – Help reduce acid reflux episodes. Pepcid or omeprazole can help.
- Try medication – Metoclopramide improves esophageal motility and stomach emptying.
- Feed moist food – Canned food or meat baby food is easier to swallow.
- Consider surgery – For severe hernias or muscle disorders impairing function.
See your vet for regurgitation if:
- Episodes become frequent
- Cat loses weight
- Regurgitation contains blood or seems projectile
- Cat seems painful or distressed
- Regurgitation interferes with quality of life
While usually benign, increased regurgitation merits veterinary investigation to check for underlying causes requiring intervention.
Signs Requiring Veterinary Attention
Contact your vet promptly if your cat has persistent vomiting or regurgitation along with:
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Straining to defecate
- Blood in vomit or stool
- Difficulty swallowing
- Gagging or coughing
- Hunched posture
- Obvious pain
Any sudden, severe vomiting warrants an urgent vet visit to check for a blockage requiring emergency surgery. Seek immediate help if your cat vomits dark coffee grounds (indicating blood) or has projectile vomiting.
Key Takeaways on Cat Vomiting vs Regurgitation
- Vomiting is active from the stomach while regurgitation is passive from the esophagus.
- Examine contents, odor, frequency, and forcefulness to distinguish vomiting from regurgitation.
- Vomiting can indicate illness, regurgitation is typically harmless.
- Treat vomiting by addressing the underlying cause. Modify diet and eating habits to manage regurgitation.
- See your vet promptly for persistent vomiting/regurgitation to prevent complications.
I hope this guide gave you a thorough understanding of vomiting vs regurgitation in cats. The key is observing your cat closely and noting specific details so you can identify what’s happening and pursue proper treatment. With prompt veterinary care guided by your observations, most cats suffering from vomiting or regurgitation can get relief and avoid disruptive repeat episodes.