Cats are animals notoriously known for hiding signs of illness and pain. When a cat is feeling unwell, she may exhibit subtle changes. These signs include a change in her overall appearance, litter box usage, sociability, energy level, coat (including the amount of fur she sheds), breathing, eye/nose discharge, and appetite. When it comes to food and water intake, sick cats may eat and drink more or less than usual depending on their ailment. Others may even vomit white foam, which may alarm their cat parents. In this blog post, we discuss:
- What is the white foam vomited by cats?
- What are the possible reasons cats throw up white foam and don’t eat?
- What should I do if my cat vomits white foam and doesn’t eat?
To cat parents and fosters reading this post, remember that this is only a guide to help you understand the underlying issues a cat might be facing. This should not replace a visit to the veterinarian or an emergency animal clinic.
What is the white foam vomited by cats?
The white foam is a fluid made up of hydrochloric acid and gastric juices, which are released by your cat’s stomach. The foam may also be accompanied by mucus and saliva from your cat’s mouth. Cats commonly vomit a white and foamy substance without any food particles. But when puking on an empty stomach, they may end up releasing yellow-coloured bile.
What are the possible reasons cats throw up white foam and don’t eat?
It is acceptable for cats to puke once in a while, especially if she ate too fast or has a sensitive stomach. However, throwing up multiple times a day is not considered normal. This should be diagnosed by your veterinarian immediately. Additionally, vomiting white foam and losing her appetite may be key indicators of a serious and pressing condition. When your cat throws up white foam and stops eating at the same time, it is likely because she is having a hard time keeping the contents of her stomach down. The possible reasons include:
1 Inflammatory Bowel Disease
A common sickness seen in older cats, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) happens when a cat’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract becomes chronically irritated and inflamed. This is caused by cells that thicken the walls of the GI tract, disrupting its ability to digest food and absorb nutrients properly.
The severity and frequency of IBD depend on which parts of the GI tract are irritated and the kind of inflammatory cells involved. Gastritis (stomach), enteritis (small intestine), and colitis (large intestine) are some examples of IBD. Aside from appetite loss and vomiting, cats suffering from this disease may also experience weight loss, diarrhea, bloody stools, and lethargy.
Gastritis is defined as an inflammation of the stomach lining, which may occur when your cat ingested something she shouldn’t have. These include foreign bodies (such as hairballs and strings), poisonous plants/chemicals, spoiled food, molds, and ingredients she is allergic to. (On a related note, find out which human food cats can safely eat here.)
When your cat has gastritis, she may also show signs of lethargy or depression, dehydration, increased thirst, and abdominal pain. She may also have blood in her vomit and/or feces, or express discomfort by hissing or biting when she is picked up.
Pancreatitis is a condition in which a cat’s pancreas becomes inflamed. A healthy pancreas helps the digestive system by producing enzymes to break down the food. But when a cat suffers from pancreatitis, the enzymes are released early and end up digesting the pancreas itself since there is nothing to process.
In some cases, cats with pancreatitis would primarily have IBD or diabetes mellitus. In others, there are no known causes and simply occur spontaneously. Cats experiencing this illness can also have nausea, fever, lethargy, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
4 Hepatic lipidosis
When your cat suffers from hepatic lipidosis, excess fat has accumulated in her liver and has caused the organ to swell. Because of this, her liver will have a hard time performing essential tasks: vitamin and protein synthesis, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and toxin removal.
Stress, obesity, diet changes, hyperthyroidism, nutritional deficiencies, and diabetes may be factors that cause hepatic lipidosis. Additionally, it may be connected with primary diseases such as IBD, pancreatitis, cancer, and other liver diseases. Cats with hepatic lipidosis may also display lethargy, weakness, weight loss, jaundice, diarrhea, and behavioural changes.
5 Addison’s disease
Also known as hypoadrenocorticism, Addison’s disease hinders the adrenal glands from producing the right amount of hormones—cortisol and aldosterone—to regulate body functions. A cat’s immune system may attack the adrenal gland, thereby destroying the tissue. On rare occasions, an adrenal gland tumor or trauma may cause the illness.
Though young cats may also get it, hypoadrenocorticism is an intermittent disease more commonly experienced by middle-aged cats. Cats suffering from this disease may show on-off periods of lethargy and weight loss. A full-blown Addisonian crisis can make a cat have a weak pulse, experience shock, and become severely dehydrated and extremely weak.
6 Renal insufficiency
Your cat’s kidneys perform a variety of functions that aid the circulatory system. A renal insufficiency may manifest as acute renal failure or chronic renal failure. Acute renal failure can happen to cats of all ages. Caused by poison, trauma, kidney infection/blockage, loss of fluids, and/or heart failure, it develops suddenly and happens over a short period of time. Meanwhile, chronic kidney disease (CKD) develops mostly in middle-aged and senior cats. It is harder to cure because it has been present for months or years.
Increase in water intake, dehydration, frequent urination, bloody/cloudy urine, diarrhea, indifference, and weakness are additional signs that your cat’s kidneys are not functioning properly. In terms of her physical appearance, she may have a dry, dull coat, bad breath, mouth ulcers, and brownish-coloured tongue. Additionally, she may have lost weight and be prone to having bacterial infections of the bladder and kidney.
7 Gastrointestinal parasites
Parasites that stay in your cat’s GI tract prevent your cat from receiving the nutrients she needs from her food. Common intestinal parasites found in cats include roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and stomach worms. One-celled protozoan organisms such as isospora sp., giardia, and toxoplasma can also infect cats.
Symptoms will depend on the type of parasite, but the most common ones are dull coat, coughing, pale mucous membranes, diarrhea, blood or mucus in feces, and a pot bellied appearance alongside vomiting and decrease in appetite.
What should I do if my cat vomits white foam and doesn’t eat?
Closely monitor your cat’s conditions, behaviour, and her peeing and pooping habits. List down all your observations. Seek immediate vet attention if your cat:
- Has not eaten anything substantial for over 24 hours
- Seems thirstier than usual (this could be a sign of kidney toxicity and/or failure)
- Has vomited multiple times in one day, with intervals less than an hour apart
- Cannot keep water down
- Has blood or unusual material in her vomit
- Displays signs of listlessness, diarrhea, fever, or another illness
- Has pale or cold gums
The vet or emergency clinic should run diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your cat’s frequent vomiting and lack of appetite. After careful assessment, the proper medication should be given to treat your cat. Don’t forget to consult with your vet to determine what your cat should eat to slowly regain her appetite.
Read more about responsible cat parenting on our blog! Learn about intriguing cat behaviour and discover heartwarming cat rescue stories.
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