How To Settle A Cat’s Upset Stomach

close up of a ginger tabby cat eating a raw sardine on a kitchen top counter

Do you suspect your cat has an upset stomach? Do you want to know what is causing it, how serious it is or isn’t, and what you can do to bring your cat some relief? We will give you the answers to these questions and tell you how to settle a cat’s upset stomach quickly with the minimum of fuss.

How Do You Know If Your Cat Has An Upset Stomach?  


Most of the signs are pretty obvious but one or two signs may pass you by unless you know what to look for!

The most obvious symptoms are vomiting, loss of appetite, blood in cat poop and diarrhea. It is pretty clear if your cat suffers from these symptoms that something is not right!

How to tell if your cat has a stomach ache? Lip licking. Yes, it is thought that more lip licking than usual is a sign of nausea in cats and that you can tell they have a dicky tummy from this hidden, often overlooked sign!

Want two other often-overlooked signs? Hiding and being less active than normal. Now at first glance, these might appear to be obvious tell tales, but in the real world you might overlook such signs and put these behaviors down to the weather outdoors or your cat’s personality.

If your cat is lip licking, resting more than normal, and seems to be off their food they may have nausea that might develop into an upset stomach!

Why Has Your Cat Got A Sensitive Stomach?

british shorthair tabby cat vomiting on a grass lawn


Most cats will get an upset stomach at some point, it is just life. Usually, the cause is pretty routine but sometimes serious health issues can be at play. 

Here are some of the everyday issues that commonly cause a sensitive stomach in cats.

Switching foods too often or suddenly 


Inconsistent food choices can make it hard for your cat’s digestive system to operate at full efficiency and this could result in a stomach upset. Apparently over half of the cats with an upset stomach return to normal when they are put on a regular, routine diet that does not chop and change – that is food for thought if you are a cat guardian who fears their cat might be getting bored of their food!

You have also got to be careful not to just carry out an overnight change. Say you feed your cat wet food but wish to move them to dry. If you swap to dry in one go you could induce an upset stomach. Far better to swap gradually by adding dry food to the meal mix and reducing the wet until after a week or so your cat has switched 100%.

Stress 


If your cat is stressed the stress may manifest via a dicky tummy. Stress in cats can be brought on by all kinds of events from the mundane such as a change of furniture layout in your home, through to changing shift patterns or home invasion by another cat to name but a few. Basically, cats are very routine creatures and any change in routine can be enough to create stress that might lead to stomach upsets or other abnormal behavior in your cat.

Ingesting Toxic Plants Or Bugs 

a swiss cheese plant againist a white tiled backdrop


Cats are curious and that curiosity can get them in trouble. A chew on a toxic plant can be enough to cause a minor stomach complaint. You can check out a list of houseplants toxic to cats here. Most of these plants are not going to kill kitty but a chew on a leaf or a stem is enough to irritate the mouth and digestive tract and often this can take a day or so to resolve. 

Parasites 


Cats get worms. They need worming regularly to stay free of such parasites. These parasites are picked up from eating bad stuff on their travels and indeed, even just traveling and picking up eggs from vegetation on their coats and grooming the eggs into their system. One of the first things you should consider if your cat is showing symptoms of an upset stomach, diarrhea, loose stools, or scooting – dragging butt, is when was the last time you wormed your cat?

Food Intolerances/Allergies 


Cats, like us, can get food intolerances and also be allergic to some foods. Food intolerance tends to build up over time and then start to manifest. It is the opposite of our first point – you don’t switch food, your cat eats the same food for months and an intolerance builds to something in the food that causes an upset stomach. Often a food might include certain ingredients that upset your cat, but it takes a long term build-up before your cat falls sick. At this stage, switching diets can resolve the issue. You might try a sensitive stomach cat food at this point. These cat foods tend to have ingredients known to cause intolerances removed from them.

An allergy may manifest immediately. You might feed your cat dry food that has carbohydrates in the form of peas or corn contained within. Carbohydrate is generally pretty useless to cats on the whole and it might be that your cat is allergic to pea or corn or some other plant or ingredient that has been used to bulk out or bind the dry food. Your cat might have an immediate allergic reaction – vomiting in response to the ingested material.

What About Serious Issues Causing Stomach Upset In Your Cat?


I don’t want to scare you but stomach upset in cats can be caused by serious, life-threatening issues as well as the mundane issues mentioned previously. Cancers, kidney disease, and hypothyroidism can all bring about the symptoms of stomach upset in your cat.

When Should You See A Vet?

cat having heart listened to by a vet with a stethascope


As some instances of stomach upset are caused by very serious problems you can’t just take the view that time may sort these issues out. In some instances, time might not be on your side! A cat can’t go long without eating and dehydration in cats from refusing to drink and or diarrhea can cause organ damage. So when do you get serious and seek veterinarian help?

As a rule of thumb if your cat is throwing up multiple times a day, or not eating for 48 hours, or has diarrhea in conjunction with these issues or just diarrhea alone for 48 hours, or has episodes of either throwing up or diarrhea more than once a month they need checking out by a vet to make sure there are no underlying health issues causing the symptoms. 

How To Settle A Cat’s Stomach?


On the assumption that your cat does not need a vet visit is there anything, you can do to settle your cat’s stomach? What can you feed a cat with an upset stomach? There are no amazing miracle cures you can carry out at home. Here is what you should do:

For the first 12- 24 hr period, you should put your cat on a fast to allow things to pass and settle. You should make plenty of water available in case they need to drink – dehydration needs to be avoided.

Once the fast has passed you need to follow up by putting your cat on a bland diet to let the stomach settle whilst providing adequate nutrition. Boiled chicken and a bit of rice (in a 1:4 ratio), small meals 4- 5 times a day for 3-5 days before gradually re-introducing normal foods is the order of the day. 

If chicken is a no-go you can exchange it for turkey, ground beef, or cottage cheese with greases drained off. If rice is an issue this can be substituted with canned or cooked pumpkin, yams, or sweet potato.

A tiny pinch of ground ginger added to your cats food may help settle the stomach down.

The fast and dumbed-down diet should settle your cat’s stomach and get your cat back to the good life.  

Can You Give A Cat Pepto Bismol For An Upset Stomach?


Nope, don’t try or consider giving your cat any human pain relief or stomach relief. Pepto Bismol is toxic to cats. It is known to cause respiratory failure and hypoglycemia. Do not prescribe any drugs to your cat without veterinary oversight.