What to Feed a Cat Who’s Vomiting

Cat vomiting could happen for a few different reasons. There are a few home remedies to feed a cat who’s vomiting or has an otherwise upset tummy.

A cat lying on his side on the couch.
A cat lying on his side on the couch. Photography ©funebre | Getty Images.

When your cat vomits and graces your favorite rug with a disgusting glob, it’s easy to point to a hairball as the likely culprit. But the real cause behind your cat’s tummy troubles may be something more serious. It could signal kidney disease, a stomach ulcer or lymphoma. Or, it could be due to a foreign body like a large button she swallowed that is now wreaking havoc on her stomach or obstructing her abdomen. Sometimes, the cause may be due to parasites, including tapeworms, hookworms or heartworms.

First off, is your cat’s vomit a cause for concern?

A cat coughing up a hairball.
Is your cat’s vomiting a cause for concern? Photography by DeluXe-PiX/istock.

“If your cat is vomiting more than one to two times per month and it is not hairballs and the vomit contains food or is just yellow liquid (bile), he/she should be seen by a veterinarian for examination and diagnostics,” recommends Elisa Katz, DVM, a veterinarian who operates the Holistic Veterinary Center in Downers Grove and Bourbonnais, Illinois, and who serves on the Feline Nutrition Foundation board.

Yes, as unpleasant as it sounds, it is vital to examine the mucky mess and bring a sample in a sealable plastic bag to the veterinary clinic to be analyzed. Because cats are both prey and predator, they hide outward signs of pain or discomfort. Tap your “pet detective” skills and report any changes in your cat’s behavior, such as decreased appetite or changes in bathroom habits. Alert your veterinarian if your cat is coping with constipation as evidenced by tiny, hard fecal pebbles in the litter box or straining and unable to produce a bowel movement.

Other possible reasons for your cat vomiting

  1. An abrupt switch from one diet to another
  2. Medication side effects
  3. Reaction to accidentally ingesting toxins, including human medicine left out

What to feed a cat who’s vomiting

For an occasional mild upset stomach in your cat, Dr. Katz takes an integrative-holistic approach to caring for cats. She identifies these safe home remedies (always check with your vet first):

  1. Slippery Elm: This herbal supplement comes from the inner bark of a tree native to the eastern United States containing the soluble fiber mucilage. It comes in capsules and is available at health food and drug stores. She advises one capsule can be safely given once to twice a day to coat and soothe an inflamed gastrointestinal tract.
  2. Coconut oil: This oil can aid in reducing inflammation and boost a cat’s immune system. You can safely add about one-quarter teaspoon each day to your cat’s food.
  3. Fish oil: This can help lubricate an irritated gastrointestinal tract. Healthy picks include salmon oil because it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  4. Homeopathic nux vomica 30c: Rich in antioxidants, it is derived from an evergreen tree native to China, India, Thailand and Australia. Safely give up to three doses daily to combat inflammation, constipation, bloating and nausea. “However, if the vomiting does not improve after three doses, do not continue to repeat and take your cat to your veterinarian,” Dr. Katz says.
  5. Bland diet: Replace your cat’s normal food with boiled lean meat, preferably white meat chicken, turkey or lean ground beef. Instead of adding rice due to its high carbohydrate content, add canned pumpkin (plain pumpkin — not pie mix) or cooked sweet potato (mashed) to the boiled lean meat meal. “Aim for a 50-50 mixture of lean meat and canned pumpkin or cooked sweet potato,” Dr. Katz says. “This bland diet is not meant to be fed for more than several days at a time.”
  6. And one more piece of advice: “People can avoid a lot of GI issues by feeding their cats a species-appropriate diet,” Dr. Katz says. “The less processed the diet the better. Also, avoid ingredients such as carrageenan and foods that are high in carbohydrate content.”

What not to give a cat who’s vomiting

Cats have a different, and often more delicate physiology and digestive system than we do, so don’t give human over-the-counter products.

“You should never give Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol to your cat,” says Dr. Katz, from Holistic Veterinary Center in Illinois. “These medications contain substances related to aspirin and may be toxic to a cat’s kidneys or liver.” And don’t take away his food for more than a day. Cats can develop hepatic lipidosis (also known as fatty liver disease) if they are forced to go without food for two more or days.

Plus, looking to cure your own indigestion? Check out these tips >>

About the author

Arden Moore is a pet behavior consultant, author and master pet first-aid instructor who often teaches hands-on classes with her cool cat, Casey and very tolerant dog, Kona. Each week, she hosts the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio. Learn more at ardenmoore.com and follow Arden on Facebook and on Twitter at @ArdenKnowsPets.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home. 

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9 thoughts on “What to Feed a Cat Who’s Vomiting”

  1. So when my cat was having urinary tract issues and then I gave him a homeopathic remedy and his issue resolved, that was a placebo? I seriously doubt it because he didn’t even know I was giving it to him because I mixed it in his water. Humans or animals have to know they’re receiving medical care to have any improvement from the placebo effect.

  2. I’m dismayed to see a recommendation for homeopathic remedies in a Catster article. Please refrain from suggesting useless if not actively harmful junk to treat a potentially serious health condition.

    1. You are sadly misinformed. Homeopathy works and I personally have had many instances of it working miracles. It is clear you do not understand homeopathy. Don’t push your opinions on others.

  3. A good alternative to homeopathic nux vomica is this:

    1) Take a 5-dollar bill (or similar value in notes in other currency).

    2) Burn it.

    3) Flush the ashes down the toilet.

    It has exactly the same effect but costs slightly less.

    Homeopathic nux vomica is not “rich in antioxidants” because it is 100% water. Or sugar water if it’s intended for human use. Homeopathic anything is repeatedly diluted with water until there is nothing left but water. There is no possibility of overdose short of killing your cat with too much water.

    If homeopathy were true (it isn’t) then a lethal dose wouldn’t be ten doses, it would be one-tenth of a dose, because according to homeopathic gibberish, the less there is of it the stronger it is. The real reason to go to a vet if three doses do nothing is because your cat hasn’t recovered by itself.

    You might as well invoke the tooth fairy as homeopathic medicine. After all, there is some evidence for the existence of the tooth fairy.

    Seriously, advising people to use rubbish like this to treat an ailment in a cat is not good. If they want to use homeopathic treatments upon themselves that is their choice and they can suffer the consequences of their own stupidity. Their cats shouldn’t suffer because of their idiotic beliefs.

    1. Bonnie Sue Trecker

      Oh I strongly disagree with you in the strongest of terms. My animals have greatly benefitted from an homeopathic remedy like nux vomica on several occasions through the years. It is obvious that you know little or nothing of the true science behind homeopathic remedies both their production and their use. Homeopathy was the dominant “ medicine” in this country for an hundred years and has consistantly demonstrated cost effective efficacy over those years without side effects. This is most likely why the allopathic medicine system attacks homeopathy so often as they do not have and often don’t demonstrate either of these benefits. Homeopathy is a proven system that uses physical law and harnesses and uses the energies inherent in all matter for great good and is an excellent option to remedy sumptoms of illness in pets and humans safely and without side effects. I urge you to do further research for yourself.

      1. I suggest you read the scientific literature. That means papers published in established, peer-reviewed scientific journals.

        That excludes anecdotal evidence (such as your own experiences). That excludes puff-pieces in lifestyle magazines. That excludes advertorials.

        The scientific literature shows that homeopathy is no more effective than a placebo. Homoeopathy is a pseudoscience – that is to say complete gibberish with a smattering of phrases that sound scientific to those ignorant of science, like “physical law” and “uses the energies inherent in all matter.”

        The only slight benefits your cat may get from homeopathic treatment for vomiting are a little rehydration if you force the stuff down its throat and feeling a little more relaxed because the owner is more relaxed (believing that this garbage is doing the cat some good).

        In contrast to the clap-trap you have read about “harnessing energies” try reading some actual scientific papers…

        There are many other scientific papers all showing the same thing. Or you could try some governmental reports:

        There are many others.showing the same thing.

        People who actually understand science and have performed experiments to evaluate homeopathy all say the same thing: it’s worthless. You, who have no idea of the meaning of the scientific terms you glibly use, think homeopathy works. I’d tell you to look up “confirmation bias,” “anecdotal evidence” and similar terms but I doubt it would do any good.


      2. Homeopathy was the dominant “ medicine”

        This really isn’t an endorsement of homeopathic medicine and I’d refrain from using it in the future.

        There were lots of dominant ‘medical ‘ practices in our past. Some were dangerous and others were just quackery.

        Medicine has advanced considerably over the last 100 years. Prior to that things like an infection were fatal and no, homeopathic medicine didn’t help.

        People are highly skeptical of ‘homeopathic’ anything because much of it isn’t regulated and a lot of it simply fraud.

      3. I’m sorry, but everything you state about homeopathy is wrong. H. isn’t proven, doesn’t use or harness any energies inherent to anything.
        Please do some further research yourself, you’ll find that the so-called remedies are nothing but pure water in the best case and polluted, dangerous water at worst.
        Homeopathy is quackery, simple as that.

    2. Thanks for your input. I can’t believe Catster would recommend a homeopathic remedy. As you said, the cats shouldn’t suffer because their owners believe in junk science.

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