We get so many phone calls and concerns from owners regarding vomiting in their cats. At least 50% of the time, after some research and discussion about the contents of the vomit, it turns out that the cat has actually regurgitated, not vomited. The causes of vomiting and regurgitation are very different and require different treatments as well.
Vomiting is an active process usually followed by excessive drooling and nausea, where an owner may notice their cat licking their lips unusually or extending their neck. When a cat vomits, his abdominal walls contract and create an upward motion for stomach contents to head out the esophagus and onto your carpet. Usually, the stomach contents include an orange fluid called bile or phlegm along with the other goodies in the tummy. Of course, things that stain your carpet!
Regurgitation is a passive process that allows ingested material to move backwards from the esophagus to the mouth or nose. Regurgitus (the contents regurgitated – great word) usually exits the body in the shape of a tube, because of how much time it spends in the tube-shaped esophagus. This lovely material usually consists of partially digested food, saliva, hair, and/or mucus. When a cat regurgitates, it usually happens quietly and fast! This is a normal body function and is nothing to be alarmed about.
So how do we treat regurgitation? With smaller meals and patience! Cats basically inhale their food, or “bolt” as their natural carnivorous instinct teaches them. The stomach cannot expand fast enough to accommodate its new contents, so what happens? They get regurgitated. Feeding your kitty smaller portions, or spreading the food out on a cookie sheet to allow some time between each piece ingested, will allow the stomach to expand slowly and with ease.
Another great option is to incorporate exercise with eating by using a feeding toy! Check out the Egg-Cercizer – as your cats rolls the egg-shaped toy around to play, pieces of his food fall out for a delightful treat!
If at any time your kitty is having more GI issues than you are comfortable with, absolutely contact your veterinarian.