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Every cat owner recognizes the warning signs of an upset feline stomach: the mournful meow, gagging and heaving retch. But in a flash, the cat seems to snap back to good health while you're left scrubbing the carpet.
The scenario is a familiar one for many cat owners. This may happen every couple of months or so, but otherwise, cats are perfectly healthy.
Although it's not a pleasant subject, vomiting is something cats seem to do almost on cue. Many cat owners accept this as a natural part of owning a pet, but it doesn't have to be that way. Knowing what triggers an upset stomach and what you can do about it will make for a much better relationship with your cat.
When to Worry
Repeated vomiting should never be ignored because it can lead to dehydration. But, since vomiting is common in cats, how do you know what's normal? "A general guideline is that if the cat is vomiting one to three times a month, we consider this 'normal,'" says Daniel Carey, DVM, Port Charlotte, Florida.
He considers it serious if the vomiting occurs twice daily for two or three days. If your cat stops eating, seems to have stomach pain, retches continuously or if there's blood in the vomit, take it to a veterinarian. And, as always, if you're suspicious that a lingering problem could be harmful to your pet, call your veterinarian. A visit to the office can help relieve your cat's discomfort and your worries.
Why Cats Vomit
Many owners attribute their cat's vomiting to hairballs, but that's not the only culprit. "It's careless to assume that most cases of vomiting in cats are due to hairballs," says Dr. Carey. Other frequent causes of an upset stomach include:
Often, owners accept their pet's vomiting as a natural part of their behavior, but just because cats seem to have more than their fair share of tummy troubles doesn't mean you have to sit idly by.
One simple preventive measure is to get your fast-eating cat to slow down or to simply eat less. Try these strategies: smaller portions, elevating your cat's food dish slightly, or putting an object -- such as a ball -- into the dish. The cat will be forced to eat around the ball, and thus slow down its intake. If you do this, make sure the ball is clean and not so small that it could be swallowed. And you may need to feed cats in a multiple-cat household at different times and places to reduce competitive eating.
If simple solutions don't work, watch your cat's eating behavior and reactions. Some cat owners try changing their cat's diets. If you think your cat has allergies, see your veterinarian, who can suggest the right formula for your cat.
If you are changing your cat's diet, try these strategies to make sure this change is as successful and comfortable as possible:
With a little effort on your part, your beloved cat's tummy troubles can be a thing of the past.
is a freelance writer and writes often about pets. Her work can be seen in magazines and newspapers nationwide.