Understanding Cat Dry Heaving: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Disclaimer: The information presented below is for general informational & educational purposes only. Always consult with animal professionals in case of specific concerns.

In this blog post, we will delve into the possible reasons for cat dry heaving, its symptoms to look out for, and what steps you can take to help your beloved pet feel better.

As cat owners, we always want our feline friends to be happy and healthy. However, just like humans, cats can experience different health issues that may cause them discomfort or concern. One common occurrence among cats is dry heaving – the act of gagging or retching without bringing up any substance. While it may seem worrisome at first glance, understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this behavior can help put your mind at ease and ensure your cat’s well-being. In this blog post, we will delve into the topic of cat dry heaving in a professional manner to provide you with valuable insights on how to handle this situation effectively.

What Is Dry Heaving In Cats?

Dry heaving in cats, also known as retching, is a condition where a cat appears to be trying to vomit but is unable to expel any material. This behavior can occur for a variety of reasons, including hairballs, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory issues, or potentially serious health conditions. While occasional dry heaving is generally not cause for alarm, frequent or prolonged instances warrant a veterinarian’s attention to prevent possible complications.

What Are The Common Causes Of Dry Heaving In Cats?

The most common causes of dry heaving in cats include:

Hairballs: Cats groom themselves regularly, which can lead to the ingestion of fur. This fur can accumulate in the cat’s stomach, forming a hairball. While most hairballs are usually expelled through vomiting, some may lead to dry heaving.

Gastrointestinal Problems: Issues with the digestive system, such as gastritis, ulcers, or intestinal blockages, can result in dry heaving.

Respiratory Issues: Conditions affecting the respiratory system, such as asthma or upper respiratory infections, can sometimes manifest as dry heaving.

Serious Health Conditions: More severe health issues, such as kidney disease, liver disease, or certain types of cancer, may also cause a cat to dry heave.

Stress or Anxiety: Cats experiencing stress or anxiety may exhibit a range of symptoms, including dry heaving.

Dietary Issues: Changes in diet, food allergies or intolerances, or the ingestion of a foreign object can also lead to dry heaving in cats.

Can Certain Foods Or Treats Trigger Dry Heaving In Cats?

Yes, certain foods or treats can indeed trigger dry heaving in cats. Some felines have sensitive digestive systems and may not react well to specific types of food. In some cases, cats might be allergic to certain food ingredients, and consumption of these can lead to digestive discomfort and symptoms like dry heaving. Feeding your cat with too many treats at once, particularly those rich in fats or artificial additives, can upset their stomach and possibly result in dry heaving. Furthermore, consumption of dairy products can also lead to this issue as most cats are lactose intolerant. Always consult with a veterinarian to identify specific dietary triggers and to establish a safe and nourishing diet for your pet.

Should I Take My Cat To The Vet If They Are Dry Heaving?

If your cat is experiencing frequent or prolonged instances of dry heaving, it is highly recommended to consult with a veterinarian. Although dry heaving can occasionally be attributed to minor causes such as hairballs or dietary changes, it may also signify serious health conditions like liver disease, kidney disease, or certain types of cancer. Persistent dry heaving can also lead to dehydration, which can further complicate your pet’s health. Hence, do not hesitate to seek professional help if your feline friend is displaying these symptoms regularly, to ensure early diagnosis and effective treatment of any potential underlying health issues.

Are There Any Home Remedies For Dry Heaving In Cats?

Yes, there are some home remedies that may help mitigate instances of dry heaving in cats. However, it’s crucial to note that these should be used as initial measures and do not replace the need for professional veterinary consultation. 

  • Hydration: Ensure your cat is regularly consuming water. Dehydration can exacerbate dry heaving, so rehydrate a cat with plenty of fresh water can help alleviate symptoms.
  • Dietary Changes: Switching to easily digestible cat food or a diet recommended by a vet can sometimes resolve issues causing dry heaving. Be cautious with sudden changes in diet as it can lead to other digestive problems.
  • Groom Regularly: Regular grooming your cat can help reduce the formation of hairballs, a common cause of dry heaving in cats. A brush suitable for your cat’s fur type can help remove loose hair before your cat grooms itself.
  • Stress Reduction: Make efforts to identify and minimize sources of stress for your cat. Calming a cat include providing a quiet, safe space for them, or introducing calming items like a cat-friendly diffuser with synthetic pheromones.
  • Hairball Remedies: If hairballs are the cause of dry heaving, over-the-counter hairball remedies might help. These usually come in the form of pastes or gels and can assist in the passage of hairballs through the digestive system.

Remember, these suggestions are not a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your cat is frequently dry heaving, consult your vet to rule out serious health conditions.

Read more: Why Is My Cat Throwing Up After Pooping?


In conclusion, cat dry heaving is a common behavior that can have various causes. While it may seem harmless, it is important for cat owners to pay attention to this behavior and seek medical attention if it persists or is accompanied by other symptoms. By understanding the potential causes and being proactive in seeking treatment, we can ensure our feline friends stay healthy and happy. So next time you see your cat dry heaving, don’t brush it off as just a hairball. Take note of any other symptoms and consult with your veterinarian if needed. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to our beloved pets. Remember, prevention is key and providing a balanced diet, regular grooming, and keeping our cats hydrated can go a long way in preventing this uncomfortable behavior.