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What Can I Give a Cat for an Upset Stomach?

orange kitten near vomit on the floor

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Dr. Nia Perkins

DVM (Vet)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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An upset stomach isn’t fun for anyone, but it’s even worse for cat parents who have to deal with the vomit or diarrhea that their cat has left behind. Unfortunately, veterinarians don’t recommend home and herbal remedies for an upset stomach1. Giving your cat home remedies can significantly worsen the problem.

But is there anything you can do if your cat has an upset stomach? Let’s look at some of the symptoms of an upset stomach in cats and see what you can do about it.

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Is It Vomiting or Regurgitation?

While vomiting and regurgitation may sound like synonyms to some people, there’s a marked medical difference that is important to think about when figuring out what’s going on with your cat.

Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of the small intestine and stomach contents. Regurgitation is the expulsion of the contents of the esophagus. In short, when a cat regurgitates food, the food never makes it to the stomach; it’s regurgitated from the esophagus. When a cat vomits, the food and other contents sit in the stomach for some time.

Regurgitation usually occurs shortly after eating and is often caused by overeating or eating too fast. It can also be caused by acid reflux. Vomiting is generally caused by nausea, illness, or parasitic infestation in the stomach and intestines.

Cat Vomit
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

What Can I Give My Cat to Ease Vomiting?

There are not many reasonable over-the-counter solutions for cat vomiting. In addition, since cats can’t correctly digest plant material, herbal remedies would further irritate the digestive tract. You should not give your cat anything if they’re vomiting. You are far more likely to damage your cat’s stomach and intestines with herbal and over-the-counter medications than you are to ease their vomiting.

When Vomiting Is an Emergency

Vomiting can be so severe that it becomes a medical emergency. The easiest way to figure out if your cat needs to be taken to an emergency vet is to look at the contents of the vomit. The color and contents of your cat’s vomit can tell you a lot about the causes. Additionally, if your cat vomits twice a day, you should make an appointment with a veterinarian for your cat.

Your cat may also experience a lack of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, sneezing, or increased thirst. Call your veterinarian if your cat is experiencing any of those symptoms, as this could signify something severe.

nebelung cat getting checked at a vet clinic
Image Credit: Juice Flair, Shutterstock

Vomit Colors and What They Mean

Bile/Yellow

Bile or yellow vomit (the color of bile) will happen when your cat vomits on an empty stomach. This can occur if cats are underfed (less than two times per 24-hour period) or if they’ve developed anorexia.

White Foam

White foam will be seen in a cat’s vomit if its stomach lining has been irritated.

Water/Clear Liquids

If your cat vomits clear liquid, they’re probably expelling the liquid contents of its stomach. For example, this can happen if your cat drinks too much water.

Food

If there’s a large amount of food in your cat’s vomit, that’s a good sign that they ate too fast or too much and regurgitated the food in their stomach.

Brown Liquid

A brown liquid is digested blood that can indicate that your cat has a foreign object lodged in the intestinal tract or hairballs stuck in the intestinal tract. These obstructions can cause blood to spill into the intestinal tract and be digested with food.

Green Liquid

Green liquid indicates that the food being brought up during vomiting is coming from the intestines, where the food mixes with bile to give it a greenish color.

yellow vomit on a light wooden floor and a cat
Image Credit: ANASTASIIAKU, Shutterstock

What Causes Vomiting?

  • Pancreatitis
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Feline infectious peritonitis
  • Cancer
  • Neurologic diseases
  • Dietary indiscretion
  • Foreign bodies
  • Parasites
  • Diet hypersensitivity
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Constipation
  • Cancer
  • Ulceration
  • Toxin ingestion

What About Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is another common symptom of an upset stomach. However, the waters of solving a case of diarrhea can be murky. Some cats with diarrhea respond well to a low-fiber diet, while others respond better to a high-fiber diet. Like vomiting, you don’t want to give your cats any herbal remedies, as these are more likely to worsen your cat’s upset stomach than help it.

Since cats can’t digest plant matter, you’ll want to avoid giving them any plant-based remedies. While some people recommend plain yogurt, veterinarians do not recommend giving your cat any dairy products as most cats are lactose intolerant.

If your cat has diarrhea, the best thing you can do is encourage moisture and electrolyte intake to replace the body’s stores. Diarrhea causes rapid loss of fluid and electrolytes in the body, which can have serious long-term health effects if not remedied.

Do not withhold food from your cat, as this can cause the body to fail to heal itself and prevent the digestive tract from returning to equilibrium.

Anti-Diarrheal Medications

Vets do not generally recommend anti-diarrheal medications in cats without veterinary supervision. This is because cat parents are uneducated and do not have the tools to safely dose medicines for cats, and providing your cat with human-grade medication can be dangerous.

However, in particularly dire situations, be sure to check the ingredients, though. Many former kaolin-pectin medication brands, such as Kaopectate, are now made with other ingredients that are not safe for cats.

Probiotics

Probiotics are often helpful for cats who have diarrhea. Probiotics can both alleviate acute cases of diarrhea and prevent future cases of diarrhea by strengthening gut flora. However, the quality of probiotic supplements can be difficult to determine. Talk to your veterinarian to ensure that you’re giving your cat a high-quality supplement.

a sick tabby cat
Image Credit: Nikolay Bassov, Shutterstock

When Is Diarrhea an Emergency?

If your cat shows little-to-no improvement over the course of two or three days, take them to the veterinarian immediately. They may require more aggressive treatment options that are usually withheld from cats with mild symptoms.

Diarrhea is not an illness but a symptom of an illness. In treating your cat for diarrhea, your veterinarian will want to do a full check-up and ensure that your cat doesn’t have any underlying illnesses causing them to have an upset stomach.

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Final Thoughts

There are lots of things that can cause an upset stomach in cats. Some of the conditions are very serious and require immediate medical attention. However, many of them will clear up on their own. If you are worried that your cat may be sick, call your veterinarian. They will be able to tell you if your cat needs to be seen immediately or if waiting for an appointment is going to be more effective.


Featured Image Credit: ThamKC, Shutterstock

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