Why Does My Maine Coon Throw Up?


Most cat owners are all too familiar with the vomit alarm which has us flying out of bed in the small hours, trying to move the cat to a non-carpeted area before it’s too late. These signals precede that moment when a Maine Coon is about to vomit: a guttural meow, followed by gagging or rhythmic retching. It is accepted as natural for Maine Coons to throw up from time to time. But why do they?

Many people believe hairballs are the main culprit and they often are, but a more common reason for a Maine Coon to throw up is a low-quality diet. Cheap food often contains byproducts from slaughterhouses such as ground down beaks, bones, and feathers. These poor grade proteins are difficult to digest and this can cause vomiting.

There are of course a whole variety of reasons for a Maine Coon to throw up which we shall explore below. One thing is certain, you should never just accept a cat throwing up as normal. Try to find the trigger and eliminate it. Your cat will be happier – so will you when you don’t have to clear up sick so often!

Why Do Maine Coons Throw Up?

Maine Coons can vomit for many reasons including the following:

  • Hairballs
  • Poor diet
  • Eating too fast
  • Treats
  • Cow’s milk
  • Allergies
  • Obstruction of the digestive tract
  • Plant toxins
  • Poisoning
  • Enzyme deficiency
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Inflammatory liver disease
  • An inedible object
  • Diabetes

Hairballs

Maine Coons can suffer from hairballs. As a Maine Coon grooms all that beautiful fur some catches on its raspy tongue and is then swallowed. Most ingested fur passes straight through a cat’s digestive system without causing any problems, but occasionally some remains in the stomach where digestive juices help it form into a wet hairball.

Most of the time a cat will simply regurgitate hairballs but if not they can pass from the stomach into the intestines where they can cause painful blockages that require surgery for removal.

Hairballs usually come out looking like a long sausage where they have been squeezed out through your cat’s narrow esophagus. If not witnessed appearing, they are sometimes mistaken for feces. A simple sniff test should help you distinguish one from the other as hairballs are usually low odor. And a hairball is usually the same color as your cat!

So if your Maine Coon is crouching and extending its neck, constantly gagging or retching without producing a hairball and loses interest in its food, have a vet check it out as soon as possible.

It’s not uncommon for a Maine Coon to regurgitate a hairball once a week but if this becomes much more regular here are some ways you can help to reduce their occurrence:

  • Groom out as much loose fur as possible to prevent your cat from swallowing so much. Start a grooming regime when your Maine Coon is a kitten to ensure your it gets used to it.
  • Try to prevent your cat from excessively grooming itself. This is often a sign of stress or boredom. Play with it more, give it new toys to distract it. Here’s a post that helps owners understand and prevent the various causes of stress in Maine Coons.
  • Try a hairball formula diet. These are designed to improve coat health, minimize shedding and help fur to pass straight through a cat. Consult your vet for advice.
  • Ask your vet about mild hairball laxative products that can help fur pass through your cat more easily

Poor Diet

As mentioned earlier, a poor diet is a common reason for vomiting. Slaughterhouse leftovers are not considered fit for human consumption so why on earth are they considered OK for cats? The proteins formed from these products can be extremely difficult for a Maine Coon to digest and assimilate which leads to vomiting. If you suspect your cat is vomiting for this reason, gradually swap it on to high-quality cat food and see if this makes a difference.

Eating Too Fast

Another common reason why Maine Coons throw up is eating too fast. A cat has a horizontal esophagus and if food is swallowed too quickly it hits the lower sphincter which causes regurgitation of undigested food within minutes of consumption. Slow down your cat’s eating by serving smaller portions or elevating its food dish. In a multi-cat household remove the urge for competitive eating by feeding each cat separately.

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Treats

Some treats can contain ingredients that cats are sensitive to. Maine Coons don’t need special treats so avoid them and stick to feeding your cat well-balanced food designed for cats.

Cow’s Milk

Many cats, Maine Coons included, have trouble digesting the lactose in milk and one side effect is vomiting. This is perfectly normal and the answer is simple – don’t give them milk. They don’t need it.

Allergies

Maine Coons can develop food allergies just like people. Sometimes their immune system mistakes a protein for a hostile body and attacks it. Other sources of allergies are artificial coloring, corn, dairy products, meat products, preservatives, and seafood.

Obstruction of the digestive tract

Various things can cause an obstruction in the digestive tract. These include the ingestion of foreign bodies, a hernia, a tumor, intussusception (where one portion of the small intestine slides into the next, causing a blockage), or mesenteric torsion (which is a twisting of the intestines).

Plant toxins

Many plants and flowers are toxic to Maine Coons, including daffodils, lilies, chrysanthemums, hyacinths, irises, sweet peas. and tulips.

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Poisoning

Many household, garden, and workshop products can cause poisoning in Maine Coons. These are just a few:

  • Antifreeze
  • Bleach
  • Detergents
  • De-icing salt
  • Flea and tick medication
  • Fertilizers
  • Herbicides
  • Insect and rodent bait
  • Caffeine
  • Garlic
  • Raisins
  • Chocolate

Enzyme deficiency

If a Maine Coon’s pancreas doesn’t produce enough digestive enzymes, it could develop inflammation of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. At first, there may be no visible symptoms other than intermittent vomiting. The modern cat diet is to blame. They should eat a mainly fresh food diet, rich in natural digestive enzymes that are not present in processed food.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

IBD is common in middle-aged to older Maine Coons. The causes are difficult to determine, meaning it is also tough to prevent. Vomiting is certainly a common side effect. This is something a vet will diagnose and treat with dietary adjustments or drugs if necessary.

Inflammatory liver disease

This is also referred to as cholangiohepatitis. Cats often lose their appetite and vomit fluorescent yellow bile when they have this condition. This can be caused by:

  • Viral, fungal or bacterial infections
  • Immune-mediated disease
  • Toxins or poisons
  • Environmental
  • Stress
  • Dietary issues
  • Gallstones
  • Blood diseases
  • Some cancers

An inedible object

Maine Coons love to play and those that chew at their toys can end up swallowing pieces of them such as fluff and string. Owners have reported incidences of cats eating rubber bands. Outdoor cats hunt and may consume feathers, beaks, and bones of birds. These indigestible items are often regurgitated. If you have a cat who tends to eat inedible objects keep them well out of reach.

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Diabetes

The exact cause of feline diabetes isn’t known but it is more likely to affect an overweight cat because obesity makes its body less sensitive to the effects of insulin. Consult a vet for advice on how to get your cat into the correct weight range for its size. Many Maine Coon owners miss the fact that their cat is overweight because their fur makes it difficult to tell.

When should you worry?

Vomiting in Maine Coons is more common than you might think. But how can you tell if it’s a serious problem that requires medical intervention?

Many of us cat owners have witnessed out cats throwing-up only to notice they are happy as anything and getting on with their day as if nothing has happened while we are still on our knees in rubber gloves cleaning up the mess.

If your Maine Coon vomits repeatedly don’t ignore this as it can all to quickly lead to dehydration. If your cat vomits between one and three times a month, it is thought to be normal and nothing to worry about. If you can pinpoint the cause and remove it your cat will still be a lot happier.

If your Maine Coon vomits a couple of times a day for two or three days in a row then you should take it to a vet.

If it vomits and then refuses to eat, seems in pain, keeps retching or if there is blood in the vomit take it straight to the vets.

And, of course, if you are worried about your cat’s health at all, err on the side of caution and make a trip to your vet.

Conclusion

Maine Coons, like all cats, throw up from time to time and most of the time they are expelling something that has disagreed with them.

Occasionally there could be an underlying medical condition causing the vomiting and a trip to the vets may be necessary. Taking out pet insurance is a very good idea. Expect this to cost around $25 per month (for a 1-year-old Maine Coon). For our two Maine Coons, we have used Petplan for 15 years. They have been excellent every time we’ve had to make a claim, settling each bill fully without any fuss. Get an instant Petplan quote here – it only takes a minute and there’s no obligation.

Don’t just accept your Maine Coon vomiting, try to establish the cause.

Jane

I'm Jane Pettitt, co-owner of Pets Knowledge Base with my husband, Matt. I have a grand total of 50 years’ experience as a pet owner. It all started with a guinea pig called Percy when I was 5 years old and since then I’ve lived with two more guinea pigs, a hamster, mice, a rabbit, a tortoise, a dog and 11 cats. I’ve learned so much about pet care during this time and many of my articles are based on my personal experiences and those of my family and friends .

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