4 Ways to Help Stop a Cat Dry Heaving

What are the best ways to help stop your cat dry heaving?

  • Brushing to remove excess hair and fleas
  • Flea and worming treatment
  • Dietary improvement
  • Reduced boredom

There are a lot of reasons for a cat dry heaving, and it’s best to speak with a vet to learn more about possible solutions to the problem.

In this article, I’ll give you solutions to help stop your cat dry heaving.

I’ll provide an explanation about the reasons for your cat dry heaving and what steps you can take to find out the cause of the problem.

My name is Derrick, and I write for Simply Cat Care. Our goal with this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions relating to your cat’s health.

Let’s get into the article.

The Best Products to Help a Cat Dry Heaving

Best Grooming Product to Stop a Cat Dry Heaving: Hertzko Self Cleaning Slicker Brush

  • Removes excess hair to help reduce hair balls
  • Ergonomic anti-slip grip for great control
  • Easy to clean hair off brush
  • Affordable price
  • Difficult to press hair removal button for those with arthritis and tendonitis
  • Shorter brush ends may not suit long haired cats

Grooming your cat daily is one way to help stop your cat dry heaving. The Hertzko Self Cleaning Slicker Brush is a great choice for daily grooming.

This device is an affordable option that removes excess fur and any foreign object stuck on the coat. It has a sturdy grip and hair can be easily removed after grooming by releasing a button. The brush is gentle enough for a cat’s fur but tough enough to get hard-to-reach areas cleaned and de-matted.

The downside of this product is it won’t suit an owner with arthritis or muscle-related issues with their arm and hand (e.g. tendonitis). The button needs to be pressed down firmly to release hair which may be challenging for some.

Best Flea and Worming to Stop a Cat Dry Heaving: Cheristin for Cats Topical Flea Treatment

  • Clinically proven treatment to treat fleas for 6 weeks
  • Easy to apply dropper
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Fast acting killing 98% of fleas within 24 hours
  • Designed specifically for cats
  • Skin reaction side effect on some cats
  • Some cats may find the smell unpleasant
  • Confusing instructions for varying cat sizes

Cheristin for Cats Topical Flea Treatment is a dropper that is applied topically to combat fleas.

It contains the active ingredient spinetoram, which paralyzes fleas. An 11.2% concentration of spinertoram was at least a 95% or greater reduction in the adult flea population over a period of 60 days [14]. The dropper acts on fleas within 24 hours to give your cat fast relief.

The ingredient also reduces flea allergy dermatitis. These droppers are a solid choice to tackle a flea problem that can lead to parasites. Parasites lead to nasty side effects (e.g. weight loss, diarrhea) and can lead to a cat dry heaving.

Unfortunately, a small percentage of cats can experience focal hair loss which can be an unpleasant side effect.

If you are looking for a flea collar alternative then Cheristin is a great option.

Best Wet Cat Food to Stop a Cat Dry Heaving: Feline Natural Variety Pack Grain-Free Wet Cat Food

Feline Natural Variety Pack Grain-Free Wet Cat Food, 3-oz pouch, case of 12

Premium grass-fed meat for top taste

Low in carbohydrate for weight control

3 unique choices in the pack to cut boredom

No grains or legumes for easy digestion

Easy to swallow pate texture

Omega 3 from green mussels for gut health


Exotic flavors may put off some cats

Let’s take a look at Feline Natural Variety Pack Grain-Free Wet Cat Food.

This is a new product on the market featuring 3 varieties of Feline Natural’s feast range of cat food. I like the quality of this food with premium New Zealand grass-fed meat for top-quality high protein nutrition.

Since this food is low in fillers and carbohydrates, it’s ideal for indoor cat’s weight control. The food is in a juicy moist pate texture which is easy to bite and swallow. This complete nutrition product also contains New Zealand green mussels which aid in gut health.

Onto the downsides. This product is filler-free but higher priced. The pack comes in exotic flavors such as lamb and Hoki which may be exotic flavors. It might take time for your cat to get used to these new smells and tastes – just as you may with new food.

Best Dry Cat Food to Stop a Cat Dry Heaving: ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food Lamb – All Natural, High Protein

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Lamb Recipe Cat Food, 14-oz bag
  • 100% grain-free with no added potato, corn, legumes, or peas to promote digestion and healthy weight
  • 96% free-range lamb produce with added green mussels to provide essential nutrients to keep your cat healthy
  • Appropriate for all life stages
  • Limited animal food source product to minimize allergies
  • Expensive, however, may reduce cat food needs due to higher nutritional quality
  • Strong smell

ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food is a great grain-free dry cat food for indoor cats. The reason this food benefits indoor cats is the high protein and low carbohydrate content.

The food is 96% meat, organs, and green mussels. This gives your cat a high amount of vitamins and minerals for top health.

This product is a great transitional option for indoor dry cat food. Most owners looking to let their cat graze all day will benefit from ZIWI as a lower carbohydrate choice.

On the downside, the price is on the higher side in this market. Also, the non-rendered meat used in the product may produce a strong unfamiliar smell that can take getting used to.

Guide to Help Stop a Cat Dry Heaving

Let’s talk about the problem of dry heaving and how to solve it.

Firstly, I’m going to talk about what dry heaving is and the reasons your cat is doing it. Then, I’ll get into what solutions exist to solve the problem.

Let’s get into it.

What does it mean when a is cat dry heaving?

A cat dry heaving is a situation when your pet is attempting to vomit.

The dry heaves can include coughing and gagging.

A cat dry heaving

Why is my cat dry heaving without vomiting?

Many cats will dry heave occasionally if they have a hairball.

When cats eat too quickly they may dry heave afterward. This is usually mild and doesn’t persist with any other symptoms.

Take careful note of changes and all the symptoms that you recognize (including when they started).

The appearance of hairballs, eating habits, gagging (whilst eating), diet changes, changes in heart rate, cough, tender stomach/belly, vomiting, and associated issues such as loose stools all indicate various issues.

Some of these problems can indicate a serious problem for cats that require veterinary attention.

Let’s talk about the different reasons a cat dry heaves.


Cats clean themselves by grooming.

Occasionally, ingested fur builds up and gets stuck in the gastrointestinal tract to form hairballs. The hairball forms in the esophagus giving it more of a cylindrical appearance, despite the name [1].

Keratin is the main protein of hair that resists digestion [1].

Products that brush away dead hair help to reduce the chance of a hairball forming.

When to call a vet?

If your cat refuses new food to eat (i.e. reduced appetite) or dry heaves for days without any hairball appearing it is time to ask a vet for help [1].

These problems may indicate a serious medical problem such as a complete blockage from a foreign body.


Occasionally, a cat can get sick and experiences nausea as a human would. This leads to dry heaving.

One reason for this is food poisoning, which happens when consuming spoiled food [2]. Wet food spoils faster than dry food if left out for too long [3]. If you have accidentally left out food for too long, it can spoil and harm your cat.

Many foods are poisonous for cats and can also lead to dry heaving and vomiting [3]. Check out my helpful guide on foods that are dangerous for cats over here.

When to call a vet?

If the problem persists over several days, seek out the advice of a vet.


Parasites are a nasty and unfortunately common problem in cats. Parasites include worms and other single-celled protozoan organisms [4].

Dry retching and vomiting is one sign of parasitic infection. However, many symptoms include diarrhea, coughing, pale gums, and a distended abdomen [4].

Fleas are a source of many parasites as well. You may notice your cat scratching excessively in this case. Check out my helpful article on how to treat fleas if you suspect your cat has a flea problem.

When to call a vet?

If you notice any of the signs of parasitic infection (e.g. pale gums, coughing, distended abdomen) then call your veterinarian for diagnostic tests.

Stressful Environment

Sometimes a cat isn’t sick if they dry heave.

Dry heaving is a sign of stress from the environment [1].

Cats are susceptible to illnesses related to stress. Research has found that providing a cat a predictable routine that includes time for play can reduce the risk of feline interstitial cystitis [1]. This health condition can lead to a cat dry heaving and urinating frequently.

Proper access to outside playtime is necessary for a cat’s lifestyle and can help reduce the risk of this medical condition. A predictable normal routine of feeding is also recommended to reduce stress. Check out my helpful guide on feeding your cat.

Things to improve a cat’s quality of life include an outdoor play area (e.g. catio) or indoor hub (e.g. cat tree).

When to call a vet?

If your cat is dry heaving a lot without a change in diet then consider veterinary advice.


Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (i.e. stomach, throat, colon) [6]. Cats with gastroenteritis have symptoms that include abdominal pain, dry heaving (with or without vomit), diarrhea, coughing, and lethargy [6].

Parasites are one possible cause of gastroenteritis. Alternatively, a foreign body from anything lying around the house could be the culprit. It could also be a sign of serious medical issues such as liver disease, kidney disease, or cancer [6].

In the case of liver disease, it can lead to pale gums, increased thirst, head pressing, and jaundice [3]. The latter is due to excess bilirubin (a bile acid stored in the liver) leaking into the bloodstream and turning some areas yellow (e.g. eyes).

When to call a vet?

Gastroenteritis is a serious issue that needs medical attention.

If you see any of the warning signs listed above (e.g. lethargy, pale gums, abdominal pain, jaundice) promptly seek a vet for help.

Contact a vet for help if you have a cat dry heaving frequently with other symptoms such as loss of appetite, pale gums, and lethargy.

What can you do if you have a cat dry heaving?

Generally, the occasional dry heaving is not a major concern.

However, if the problem persists over several days and involves other symptoms of health problems (e.g. pale gums, diarrhea) then it warrants investigation and action.

If your cat loses appetite (i.e. stops eating the usual diet) for over a day and is not producing hairballs, seek a vet examination.

Changes to your cat’s diet, environment, and grooming help reduce your cat’s chance of experiencing a dry heaving episode. However, a serious problem requires proper medical treatment and care.

Let’s talk about some things you can do to reduce the chance of your cat dry heaving.

Strategy #1: Brushing

Cats will always ingest hair through the process of grooming.

You can’t prevent your cat from grooming and you should not since this is an important cleaning mechanism. However, you can help eliminate excess dead hair and skin that build up.

Regular brushing with a cat appropriate brush can help reduce the amount of fur on your cat, which may alleviate the problem [7].

Strategy #2: Flea and worming treatment

Being proactive with your flea and worming prevention helps to reduce the risk of parasites.

The first key is to maintain a clean environment. Vacuuming and regular washing of surfaces and pet bedding help to curtail the flea population.

If you want more in-depth advice about managing fleas, check out my awesome article on flea treatment.

Over-the-counter flea and worm treatments also keep your cat healthy and parasite-free.

Regular treatment schedules with over-the-counter products prevent worms and other parasites in cats [8]. Use a worming treatment regardless of whether you suspect an infection in your cat or not [8].

Check out my article on the best flea collar for cats for more.

What about natural treatments?

Natural treatments are risky.

Poisoning occurs with exposure to various essential oils applied topically or inhaled through a diffuser. There is a wide range of holistic treatments with either little to no proven efficacy.

It’s usually best to play it safe and not try anything that doesn’t have veterinary approval.

Learn more about home remedies for flea treatment over here.

Strategy #3: Use a puzzle feeder to slow down eating

If your cat is a voracious eater they may be getting nauseated.

Many cats in the wild feed on small meals throughout the day from opportunistic sources or small prey [9]. A cat’s intestines are less distensible – in other words, they cannot tolerate high-volume foods as well as humans [10].

Having access to large food portions may be too much for your cat to tolerate.

Puzzle feeders are one solution to this problem.

A puzzle feeder provides smaller portions of food spread over the day [11]. This is helpful if you have to leave the house for long periods and don’t want your cat to gorge down on the food you left him.

Alternatively, you can opt for smaller meals throughout the day. Keep in mind that your cat will be less likely to binge eat if they aren’t left hungry for extended periods of time.

Setting a consistent feeding routine will help your cat consume normal amounts of food at a tolerable pace.

Strategy #4: Improve your cat’s nutrition

Cats are obligate carnivores and thrive off the consumption of animal-based foods. In the wild, they feed off small prey such as birds and fish.

Not surprisingly, cats tend to enjoy and tolerate these animal-based products better than grain-based foods that are high in carbohydrates.

Dry or wet cat food with limited ingredients helps to eliminate the potential for irritating foods. Most cat food has a wide array of ingredients that provide a source of food intolerance.

A literature review published from the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery suggests a low fiber diet of wet (or liquid) canned food used in small meals to help reduce vomiting [12].

Most cats are lactose intolerant. Cat’s can tolerate small amounts of milk (up to 85ml per day) and some cheese (which contains minimal to zero lactose). Too much milk may upset a cat’s stomach.

Read more about whether milk is bad for cats over here.

Strategy #5: Improve your cat’s environment

Many indoor cats struggle to get the stimulation of the outside world.

Cat’s love to climb and survey their environment.

Cat trees are a great option to increase the space of your home and give your cat a chance to enjoy a personal space to climb and play [13].

Check out my best cat trees for large cats for more info.

Adding a cat tree and extra toys is a great way to reduce stress and tackle stress-related health problems such as dry heaving and vomiting.

When should you call a vet to stop a cat dry heaving?

All the above treatments help support a healthy and happy cat.

However, you won’t be able to find all the answers to why your cat dry heaving problem persists without a thorough veterinarian examination.

A veterinarian examination involves a physical examination of the mouth to see if there is any obstruction of the throat (with an examination of the stomach).

Ultrasound and bloodwork are other diagnostic tools used to identify other problems (e.g. parasites).

Laxatives may relieve a hairball. A veterinarian prescribes antibiotics to treat infections if needed.

However, more serious obstructions may need surgical intervention (e.g. foreign body obstructs throat or lower intestinal tract).

If you suspect your cat has ingested a poison, you will need to call a poison hotline. This is because the problem may require urgent help. Your cat dry heaving might be a sign your pet is trying to eliminate a toxic substance.

Conclusion: How to Stop a Cat Dry Heaving

In this article, I’ve talked about some solutions to cat dry heaving.

A cat may start gagging for many reasons. This includes nausea related to food poisoning, hairballs, parasites, stress, and gastroenteritis. A cat may also be intolerant to ingredients in many cat foods, which lead to digestive problems.

Regular brushing is helpful to remove excess hair and dirt that may accumulate on your cat. This may alleviate hairballs forming if done regularly.

Changing your cat’s diet to a higher-quality animal protein diet might also tackle any food intolerance-related problems.

Cat’s don’t tend to tolerate a high amount of carbohydrate-based foods.

A flea treatment routine that involves thorough vacuuming, cleaning, and clinically approved medication help to curtail the risk of parasitic infections.

Improving your home to include more spaces to climb and play (e.g. cat tree) may lower stress and reduce the risk of a cat dry heaving.

If none of these methods help to alleviate a cat dry heaving, seek out veterinary advice.

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