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My Feline Is Throwing Up Undigested Food

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The tongue of a cat is quite prickly and covered with papillae–tiny barbs that easily hook on to loose hairs. When a cat tilts her head down to groom herself, any hairs that were caught by the papillae are generally swallowed when she lifts her head back up after grooming. These clumps of hair eventually cause hairballs, which can be coughed up or eliminated through the stool, according to Dr. Sue A. Whitman, D.V.M.

Hairballs can also remain stationary, collecting other undigested elements and thus obstructing the stomach lining. If this happens, the cat will have a more difficult time expelling the hair and other surrounding undigested elements, causing vomiting or regurgitation. In more serious cases, surgery could be necessary.

Occasional vomiting is usually nothing to worry about. It’s caused when an inflamed stomach–or an irritant in its way–prompts a reflex action of the abdominals and the central nervous system. According to FelineExpress.com, other stomach issues that could lead to vomiting include the presence of parasites or bugs, undigested food–whether normal cat food or prey–grass consumption, inflammatory bowel disease or changes in the cat’s diet or medicine.

Regurgitation is a different process than vomiting in that it is generally caused by problems in the esophagus as opposed to the stomach. A cat regurgitates when, for some reason, undigested food or other substances become trapped in the esophagus and are unable to flow through to the stomach. A cat may also regurgitate after eating too fast. In this case, the cat may eliminate the food via her mouth almost immediately after eating.

Although a cat may appear to be vomiting undigested food, it could also be regurgitating food or other substances or coughing up a hairball. If the cat doesn’t appear to produce anything after going through the normal heaving actions, feline asthma is also a possibility. In most cases, though, undigested food is the culprit. When expelling the food, most cats go through typical motions. A feline will probably crouch down, lower her head, and begin to make a scratchy, heaving noise. This could go on for just a few seconds, or for a minute or two. Since the esophagus is a long, slender tube, the expelled substance may resemble a sausage shape, as the undigested food was compacted on its journey.

Cats that frequently vomit, regurgitate or cough up hairballs may also be dehydrated. Pets should have ample amounts of water available to them at all times. Cats that appear to be vomiting frequently–more than once a week on average, or more habitually than usual–should be checked out by a veterinarian. According to FelineExpress.com, loss of appetite, rapid weight loss and slow breathing are just a few indicators of something that could be seriously wrong with a feline. A veterinarian may recommend or prescribe preventative measures such as feline-safe petroleum jellies or other soft foods or medicines.

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