Acute Vomiting and Diarrhea in Cats: What You Need to Know

Acute gastroenteritis is the veterinary expression of an acute inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, which manifests itself in the form of vomiting and / or diarrhea.


The causes of acute vomiting and / or diarrhea can be many. The cat may have eaten inappropriate or unsuitable food where bacteria directly or indirectly via toxins (toxic products), can affect the function of the gastrointestinal tract. The cause can also be infectious in the form of bacteria, parasites and viruses. Other causes of vomiting and / or diarrhea can be a reaction to drugs, ingestion of toxic substances or that the cat has swallowed a foreign object that is stuck in the gastrointestinal tract. Vomiting and diarrhea can also be symptoms of allergy or disease in other organ systems such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas or thyroid gland.


Symptoms of acute gastroenteritis are vomiting and / or diarrhea, often with a rapid course that leads to dehydration and possible disturbances in the body’s salt balance. In case of repeated vomiting or intense diarrhea, the condition can quickly become critical for the cat, especially in very young individuals and in individuals with underlying diseases.

Fluid requirements

In connection with vomiting and diarrhea, the body loses fluid and electrolytes (salts). Often the cat does not want to eat or drink in acute gastroenteritis and together with the fluid losses, a dehydration occurs – the cat becomes dehydrated. The fluid requirement in a cat is about 50-60 ml per kilogram of body weight and day, but this can double if the cat has fluid loss in the form of vomiting and diarrhea. If the cat does not want to drink spontaneously, you must give it water with a spoon or syringe. You can also try fluid replacement, which in addition to water also contains important salts for the body.

What can you do yourself?

For milder forms of acute vomiting and / or diarrhea, simple measures can be performed at home. The most important thing is usually to let the stomach and intestines rest from food for a few hours, but water should be offered. Cats should not be without food for a long period of time as they can store body fat in the liver during fasting / starvation. The risk of this is greater in overweight cats.

Cats with vomiting and / or diarrhea need a specially adapted diet. Feed with high digestibility and low fat content, such as boiled fish or boiled chicken, is recommended. It is also possible to buy ready-made diet food from a veterinarian. Read more about dietary advice for cats in acute vomiting and diarrhea.

Intestinal stabilizing preparations can be given with advantage when the vomiting has stopped. These contain beneficial bacteria and help to restore the intestinal flora. The preparations can be purchased from a veterinarian and at some pharmacies.

It is possible to prevent parvovirus infection through vaccination. The cat’s parvovirus, also called feline plague virus, is relatively uncommon today due to the fact that a large proportion of cats are vaccinated.

When should a veterinarian be consulted?

  • If the cat has large fluid losses and / or does not eat or drink and has affected general condition
  • In case of mixed blood vomiting or diarrhea
  • If vomiting or diarrhea does not stop despite dietary advice
  • If the cat may have ingested an unsuitable object that may be stuck in the gastrointestinal tract
  • If the cat may have eaten something that may be toxic
  • If the cat can not retain water or fluid replacement
  • If the cat’s body temperature is below 38 ° C or above 39 ° C in combination with any of the above

Treatment by a veterinarian

A clinical examination is performed by a veterinarian and sometimes a blood sample is taken to rule out or detect underlying disease, as well as to check the salt balance in the body. Sometimes the examination is supplemented with an X-ray or ultrasound examination to further investigate the cause of the cat’s symptoms.

The treatment is based on the cat’s medical history and general condition. Mildly affected cats can sometimes be treated with diet and feed supplements at home, while moderately affected and dehydrated cats are usually admitted for further fluid treatment in the form of a drip.

Antibiotics are not normally prescribed. In case of signs of a general infection or in case of severe blood-mixed diarrhea, antibiotic treatment may be appropriate. Bacterial causes of vomiting and diarrhea in cats are uncommon. Antibiotics are not used unnecessarily in view of the development of antibiotic resistance. Many types of antibiotics can even interfere with the function of the gastrointestinal tract.

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