Pet advice: Cat’s vomiting may indicate serious problem — or no problem at all

Q. Can you explain why our cat Bubbles vomits at least once or twice a week? She does this almost exclusively at night, which makes finding the stuff that much more disgusting. Our vet says there’s nothing wrong with her, but I can’t understand how that could be the case.

A. Yeah, there’s nothing worse than getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom only to step in a pile of cat goo along the way. (I’d like to think you’re not a real cat lover unless you’ve had this experience.)

Here’s the thing: If your cat vomits undigested food a short time after eating, you may have a serious problem … but not necessarily. Here’s why: Cats are known for eating things they shouldn’t (plastic wrap, sewing needles, dental floss, etc.). So when things get stuck in the esophagus, stomach or intestines, as they often can, vomiting can result.

Alternatively, some cats will throw up their food before it even gets to the stomach. This is referred to as regurgitation, not vomiting, and it’s common in otherwise healthy cats who eat too much food at once or eat too quickly.

So how do you know if you have a problem? First, be sure to ask your vet to perform a thorough health check. Once that checks out you can then consider the following possibilities:

• If Bubbles tends to eat very quickly, try feeding smaller, more frequent meals to help discourage gorging.

• Hair balls can cause vomiting of food material along with hair. If you’re unsure how to manage hairballs, ask your veterinarian for advice, but here’s a tip: Frequent brushing helps!

• Abrupt diet changes can cause some cats to vomit food. If a diet change becomes necessary for health reasons, try to do it gradually (over a period of at least a week or so). Don’t forget that new treats also constitute a diet change.

• Cats that develop food allergies sometimes vomit after eating. Ask your veterinarian how to handle this possibility.

When in doubt, eliminate as many of these factors as possible. But please note: Plenty of otherwise healthy cats will vomit several times a week. Bubbles may be one of them.

If the problem worsens, however, it may be time to get a more in-depth evaluation. In some cases, an internal medicine specialist’s advice might even become advisable.