Humans will understand this condition. You are stressed and very frightened. You feel physically sick. That is were it nearly always ends.
Although not having any clear outward signs of being stressed, a small percentage of cats who lack confidence live under continual stress and never become habituated to circumstances that other cats take in their stride.
Living under a background of stress, it takes less to push this sort of cat over the edge where he feels sick and actually vomits. It may be once or repeated retching and vomiting.
It is probably tricky to diagnose psychogenic vomiting because cats are pretty good at vomiting and often vomit up hairballs or food that disagrees with them and it does not signify a medical problem. The repetitive nature of psychogenic vomiting is probably the clue.
Once feline psychogenic vomiting has been diagnosed the treatment entails building up the cat’s confidence. This includes controlled exposure to the challenges that cause the vomiting. The cause of a lack of confidence is probably due a lack of adequate socialisation when a young kitten. Proper socialisation prepares a cat for domestication and the human family environment which can be quite eventful. It is much harder and sometimes impossible to socialise an adult cat.
One veterinarian recommends providing the timid cat with a den (a place to hide) which is placed in the most active area of the house. The cat can then experience what is going on and which makes him nervous while in a safe place. This will allow him to become habituated to the activities. It also prevents the cat from running away to avoid the challenges. It is important that he faces up to the challenges but in a controlled way that is acceptable to him. This allows him to mentally process the things that make him nervous thereby becoming habituated to the stimuli.
Where the stress and fear is due to another cat or cats in the house it may necessary to either rehome the cat or use low dosage sedatives. Long term use of conventional sedatives can be addictive. Some vets will probably prefer to use homeopathic or flower remedies. I suspect, however, that homeopathic vets are pretty rare.
There may be an advantage to drug use to treat this sort of health condition because it may well produce some quick, initial progress that can be built upon. This would be welcome by the cat’s caretaker if the cat was being sick when friends came around for dinner.
Photographer: Jon Ross