Q: We adopted a 7-year-old rescued cat about six months ago. She has problems with vomiting. She has been throwing up regularly after eating for about two weeks, and she seems to be constipated. It’s my daughter’s cat, and she just informed me of the vomiting problem, and the constipation started two days ago.
Can hairballs cause this much of a problem?
She eats and drinks and then tries to use her litterbox, but then won’t go at all. We mixed some vegetable oil with her food and gave her a bit of pumpkin to see if she has an obstruction. What are your thoughts?
A: Vomiting right after eating often is a sign that your cat is eating too quickly or that perhaps the form of the food (dry vs. canned) is irritating to your cat’s gastrointestinal tract. Hairballs are a common cause of vomiting and also can contribute to constipation. When hairballs are the cause of vomiting, however, it happens at times that are usually unrelated to eating. Hairballs would be unlikely to cause vomiting after eating for two weeks continuously.
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When cats are vomiting, it is either a metabolic problem (like renal failure or hyperthyroidism, for example) or it can be a gastrointestinal problem. Your cat should be examined, and blood and urine tests should be performed to rule out common metabolic causes of vomiting.
If a gastrointestinal cause is suspected, a diet change to a bland, non-irritating diet, or perhaps to a hypoallergenic diet, can be attempted. If the cat continues to vomit, further diagnostics, such as an ultrasound or endoscopy may be warranted.
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Constipation can be associated with vomiting, too. When cats strain to defecate and their colon is irritated, cats will sometimes vomit at the same time or soon afterward. Hairball medication — the brown ointment that comes in a tube — is effective at preventing hairballs when given two or three times a week. When given every day, it may serve as a laxative as well.
Your cat needs to be examined by your vet to make sure that the lack of stool in the past few days isn’t due to something serious, like fecal impaction. If the colon is impacted, general anesthesia and manual extraction of the feces may be necessary. Once this bout of constipation is dealt with, giving hairball remedy every day may help serve to prevent both hairballs and constipation. But again, first you need to make sure that the vomiting isn’t due to some other cause, and that your cat is not impacted with stool.