If you have a cat, you’ve probably seen them hack up a hairball or regurgitate food after eating too fast, but when does vomiting become a serious concern?
There are many reasons why a cat may be vomiting. Some signs may indicate one disease, but a veterinarian’s consultation and guidance are always recommended and necessary.
If you’re seeking answers about your cat’s vomiting, you’ve come to the right place. The following will help you figure out what is going on with your pet.
Why Is My Cat Throwing Up?
When contemplating why a cat is throwing up, it is also helpful to consider how cats eat.
Cats’ teeth are designed to pull, rip and tear meat and flesh from the bone. Unlike humans, cats don’t grind down their food with repetitive chomps of the dull back molars; it’s more of a grab and gulp.
The reasons for cat vomiting can range from pretty insignificant to super severe. Whatever the case, excessive vomiting is cause for concern, and may require a veterinarian consultation or possible emergency room run.
Causes of Cat Vomiting
- New diet/Food allergies
- Cat cough
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Toxin ingestion
Abnormal or New Diet
Anyone would be sensitive to drastic changes in their normal diet. The smaller the animal, the more of a toll it will take on the body, making it a common reason for cat vomiting.
Dietary indiscretion would include feasting on things like:
- Spoiled food
- Foreign objects
- Mold or fungi
- Eating inappropriate table scraps or human foods
- Eating too much at once
Food allergies can also cause vomiting in cats causing a reaction to a specific protein in food.
Cats are commonly allergic to foods like:
When changing your cat’s diet, it is essential to do so slowly. Use these tips to change your cat’s food choices successfully:
- Begin by mixing the current food with the new food.
- Over seven days, slowly reduce the amount of current food until it is all new food.
- Be sure to observe your cat for any abnormal behaviour or adverse reactions like cat vomiting, diarrhea, and upset stomach.
A severe cat cough could cause vomiting. Like with humans, a case of bronchitis could cause coughing to the point of throwing up.
Upper respiratory infection in cats can cause some seriously harsh hacking coughs. URIs in cats affect the nose, throat, and ears, and manifest in many of the same ways as your typical cold.
- Mucous from nose and eyes
If left untreated, an upper respiratory infection can easily spread to the lower respiratory system and eventually the lungs, where real issues can arise.
Pneumonia in cats usually develops when a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection is left to its own devices.
Unfortunately, gastrointestinal worms and parasites are quite common in cats. About 45% of cats with get GI parasites in their lifetime.
Parasites are gross, but they usually only cause mild symptoms if treated promptly. These symptoms include:
- Coat dullness
- Mucus or bloody feces
- Pale mucous membranes
If exposed, a cat can be vulnerable to several types of parasites. The following are parasites commonly seen in cats.
Treatment for parasites in cats is most often successful, but it requires a prescription and follow-up visits with your veterinarian.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
In cats, chronic irritation of the stomach or intestines causes IBD, or inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS).
With IBS, invasion of specific inflammatory cells occurs, causing the gastrointestinal lining to thicken.
What cats are affected by IBS?
IBS in cats is most often diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 12.
Chronic vomiting is the most common symptom of irritable bowel syndrome in cats.
IBS is often caused by:
- a bacterial infection such as Salmonella or E. coli
- a parasitic infection
- an allergy or intolerance to a specific protein found in the diet
Constipation happens when the colon gets backed up with feces. When this happens to cats, they may vomit as they strain to poop.
What causes constipation in cats?
- Ingestion of foreign bodies
- Pelvic injuries
Changing a constipated cat’s diet and extra hydration with intravenous fluids will be necessary.
Colon tumours and polyps can also cause painful constipation in cats.
As mentioned above, constipation caused by tumours of the colon can cause vomiting, but cat vomiting is a severe side effect of cancer and cancer treatment.
Cancer treatments like chemo and radiation therapy can cause extreme nausea and vomiting along with weight loss, fatigue, and dehydration.
Certain types of cancer are more likely to cause nausea and vomiting than others:
- GI tumors
- Liver tumors
- Brain tumors
In the case of cancer, one may be in the middle of the medical process before even seeing a cat throwing up and other symptoms as a result.
Do you have a playful cat or kitten that gets into trouble around the house? Does your mischievous kitten sneak into cupboards or into your candy dish?
Cats are sensitive to many things, in the form of inhalants and ingestibles. Check out this list of stuff you should never give your cat:
- Raw stuff
Onions & Garlic
Any type of onion can cause serious GI upset in cats, including:
These foods can even mess with a cat’s red blood cell count, causing anaemia.
Raw meat, dough, eggs, and bones can lead to GI upset, or – worse – food poisoning. Salmonella and e. coli are as dangerous to humans as cats, so be cautious and follow good sanitising habits.
Chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs, even white chocolate.
The toxicity comes from the theobromine in the chocolate. Due to the cat’s smaller size, it takes even less chocolate to reach toxicity.
If your cat consumes chocolate, this can cause:
Here’s a handy chocolate toxicity calculator, though if you suspect your cat ate chocolate, call your veterinarian immediately.
Yea, yea, your grandparents fed their cats cream from the cows they milked.
It doesn’t matter, because just like humans, many cats are lactose intolerant.
Once the breastfeeding period is over in mammals, they lose the enzyme to break down lactose making it difficult to digest dairy products, which can cause vomiting.
Let’s be real. Alcohol isn’t good for anyone, but it’s especially bad for animals.
If you think about offering your cat alcohol as a party trick, think again. Alcohol causes all sorts of terrible side effects in cats and dogs like:
- Trouble breathing
Alcohol can even be fatal in cats. Don’t be that guy.
Raw dough can also cause alcohol to settle in the stomach from the yeast resulting in the same symptoms as alcohol consumption.
Grapes and Raisins
Grapes and raisins are highly toxic to cats. They can even result in kidney failure in some cases.
Symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea will often occur within 12 to 24 hours after ingestion. Other symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Increased urination
- Reduced appetite
Even a small amount of grapes or raisins can be dangerous to cats, so keep them tucked away at all times.
Cats are very susceptible to stress. Changes like moving, a new pet in the home, or travelling can result in a little anxious vomiting. In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about, but please be courteous of your cat’s anxious tendencies.
Startling cats might look cute on Instagram, but scaring cats can cause long term damage.
Not only could your cat lose trust in their owner and their safety, but they could also hurt themselves. So do yourself and your cat a favor and keep things as chill as possible.
Cat Throwing Up White Foam
White foam often indicates inflammation of the stomach or small intestines. Inflammation may be caused by many things that your cat’s digestive system is trying to clear.
White foam will surround things that have been in the stomach and are worked up and forced out again. Things like:
- Cat grass
- Plants & flowers
Cat throwing up knick-knacks, ribbons, strings, small toys, or tiny office supplies? Get them to the vet immediately to avoid real damage.
Cat Throwing Up Food
Is your cat throwing up food? Dig a little to figure out why.
When a cat throws up food, you can probably tell if the food comes out looking almost the same as it did going in or not.
Most times, when a cat throws up undigested food, it is because they just chowed down their dinner too quickly.
Is your cat throwing up from eating too fast? Here’s what you can do to help:
- Buy a slow feeder bowl
- Move them off the ground
- Give cats their own space
Slow feeder bowl
Adding a slow feeder bowl is the easiest way to slow down your cat’s eating.
Slow feeder bowls are fun, puzzling eating contraptions that place obstacles in the way of a typical scarf-fest. They are available everywhere including online or at your local pet store.
Move them off the ground
It may be beneficial to consider that a cat may be eating too fast because another pet is waiting in the wings to chow down their food as soon as they take a breath.
Consider moving their food bowl “up” on a table or counter in these cases. Some cat owners may find this repulsive, in which case you can move to the next option.
Give cats their own space.
In a multi-cat household, it is customary to see cat bowls next to each other or even cats eating out of the same bowl.
That doesn’t sound fun.
Who wants to eat their dinner shoulder to shoulder with a family member? Now that’s a recipe for sibling rivalry!
Give your babies some space to enjoy their food. Try this:
- Feed cats in different rooms and close the door between them
- Feed cats on different levels of the house
- Try feeding them at different times
- Or use a pet gate or playpen to separate them during feeding time
Other reasons for cats throwing up undigested food include:
- Food intolerances & allergies
- Anything causing upper gastrointestinal irritation
Paying attention to your cat’s normal behaviors so you can tell when they’re acting abnormally is critical. Notice if your cat’s appetite is off or if they are eating way too fast.
A cat that is not eating much but is throwing up food indicates the cat may have a blockage that isn’t allowing food to go down properly.
Cat Threw Up Clear Liquid
A cat throwing up clear liquid is often just emptying the fluid contents of the stomach. Especially if the cat just drank too much or too fast or both.
A cat drinking a ton of water can indicate some other issues that may be causing dehydration or excessive thirst, such as:
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Kidney Disease.
- Feline Hyperthyroidism
Cat Throwing Up Bile
Like humans, cats will vomit bile when nauseated on an empty stomach.
A cat throwing up bile may be dealing with one or more of the following:
- A day without food
- Gallbladder failure – bile will back up into the small intestines and the stomach.
Cat Throwing Up Yellow Liquid
Yellow and clear liquids are bile, a fluid that is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder that breaks down fat and fatty acids so the body can absorb them. However, yellow bile may be a sign of liver disease.
A cat throwing up yellow liquid may be something as simple as eating something yellow.
Remember to think back on what your cat may have gotten into before you completely flip a lid.
Cat Throwing Up Brown Liquid
Cat throwing up brown liquid is usually digested blood due to some trauma or irritation to the intestinal tract.
Examples of causes of digested blood include:
- Foreign bodies
- Hairballs in the intestines
A cat that vomits several times in a row will likely irritate and possibly ulcerate the esophagus. Stomach acid can also irritate a cat’s stomach lining.
Toxic products like rat poison can cause a clotting abnormality causing vomiting of digested blood.
Cat Throwing Up Worms
If your cat is throwing up worms, stop reading this and take them to the vet now!
Roundworms are a very common type of parasite that exists in dogs and cats alike. Most cats will become infected with roundworms in their lifetime, although most cases go undetected.
Kittens and outdoor cats are more likely to become infected and carry roundworms. Preventatives are available from the veterinarian for these pets.
Cat Hairball Vomit
Cats clean themselves often and well, thanks to the papillae on their tongues, making them more like a soft bristle brush.
Since cats do this daily, they are bound to accumulate hair in the belly every so often. It’s normal to find a cat coughing up a hairball every now and again and even more common for longhaired cats.
What can I do to help keep hairballs at bay?
The most helpful thing a pet parent can do for a longhaired cat is to brush them. Just a quick brushing during your regular kitty cuddle session can make all the difference.
Any fur that you can get out is fur that doesn’t end up in their digestive tract.
Types of Cat Vomit
Oh cat vomit.
Not the most fun topic but it happens often enough that pet parents need to be aware of what signs are associated with cot vomiting. Refer to the color chart below to decipher what may be going on with your cat.
Please seek veterinarian advice and treatment if you need help identifying the cause, symptoms, or treatment for cat vomiting.
Cat Vomit Color Chart
|Yellow or clear|
|White foam or clear|
Vomiting in Cats: When to Worry
It’s normal for a cat to throw up a few times a month, but when is it too much?
My cat keeps throwing up but seems fine.
It is not normal for cats to throw up every day or several times per day. If this is happening, there is a problem that needs to be addressed now.
Cats are known for masking their pain and suffering. A cat’s instinct to hide its pain can make determining the issue difficult. However, no one is better equipped to see the discomfort in a cat than a doting pet parent.
When to Worry
If a cat is throwing up daily, this is something you should speak to your vet about as soon as possible. Pay close attention to water and food consumption as dehydration can result from puking too often.
Cats may puke more often if they chow down on the cat grass or have luxurious long hair that causes them more hairballs than the average cat, but most cats shouldn’t be puking more than a couple of times a month. This may indicate something more serious.
Cat Puking White Foam
White foam can indicate a lot of scary things, but please consult your vet if you suspect a cat is having these symptoms or is throwing up more than usual.
White foam can indicate diseases and ailments like:
- Indigestion (irregular feeding or skipping meals)
- Liver disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome)
How to Make a Cat Throw Up
Sometimes cats get into dangerous things like household products, aromatherapy oils, and toxic plants, so it makes sense to act quickly. However, it is not advisable to make a cat throw up.
The best course of action is to call your vet or emergency room and get there quickly.
Inducing vomiting in cats can cause more damage than good in many cases. Here are a few things you definitely shouldn’t do:
- Don’t use a finger to gag your cat. They’re too small, and it doesn’t work like it does when humans induce vomiting. Human fingers are too big and can cause permanent damage to a cat’s throat.
- Don’t make a cat throw up if they swallow something sharp.
- If a cat is not able to swallow, don’t induce vomiting.
- If it has been longer than 2 hours, don’t induce vomiting.
- Never use vinegar, alcohol, or milk to induce vomiting.
Safe Steps How to Make a Cat Throw Up
Inducing vomiting in cats isn’t recommended in 98% of cases, but if you must make your cat throw up, hydrogen peroxide may be the safest avenue.
- 3% Hydrogen peroxide (more can be fatal)
- a tiny ml syringe for eating
Next, adhere clowly to the following steps:
- Hold your cat or wrap it in a towel. Be gentle.
- Administer the syringe between the cheek and through the teeth slowly, one millilitre at a time.
- Give the cat sufficient time to swallow. Forcing a cat can cause aspiration and eventually even aspiration pneumonia in cats.
- Up to 5 millilitres per every 6 pounds can be given.
If the situation is dire, contact your veterinarian, emergency room, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Centre immediately at (888) 426-4435 for assistance.
The internet is an incredible tool loaded with information like this blog offering much insight into the reasons your cat is throwing up.
However, you are the only one that knows when your cat is acting out of the ordinary. It is up to you, to take action.
Reach out to the vet as soon as possible if you think something’s wrong with your kitty, so you can get peace of mind!