Why Is My Cat Throwing Up And What Can I Do To Help?

by Lila Batiari, DVM
Pawlicy Advisor
>
Pet Care Blog
>
Why Is My Cat Throwing Up And What Can I Do To Help?
Vomiting in cats is not always an emergency. Learn about the reasons why cats throw up and when to worry.

If you have a feline friend, you’ve probably seen your cat vomit at one time or another. Vomiting in cats is common, and in many cases, presents nothing to worry about. However, if your cat is throwing up often, a visit to the veterinarian might be in order.

In this post, you’ll learn what's making your cat throw up, how to help them feel better, what red flags indicate reason for concern, and when you should seek medical attention.

Table of Contents

Common causes of vomiting in cats

Some of the most common reasons why cats vomit include:

  • Food allergies
  • Changes in diet or feeding frequency
  • Ingesting too fast or too much food at once
  • Ingesting toxins or chemicals
  • Eating unsafe human foods
  • Hairballs
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Inflammation of the intestines (gastroenteritis)
  • Obstructions in the intestines or the throat
  • Constipation
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Metabolic disorders (such as kidney disease)
  • Dislocation of the stomach
  • Adrenal gland disease
  • Neurological disorders
  • Liver disease
  • Tumors
  • Heatstroke

How to tell why your cat is throwing up

There are several possible explanations for why your cat is throwing up. Though only your veterinarian can truly determine the cause of cat vomit, here are a few strategies you can use to figure out why your cat threw up and identify the source of your pet’s ailment:

  1. Frequency and timing

When a cat throws up randomly on occasion (also known as acute cat vomit), there’s usually a simple explanation — such as eating something inappropriate that doesn’t sit well with their stomach. However, if your cat keeps throwing up (vomits chronically), a larger issue is likely responsible for their ongoing sickness, which we’ll discuss in greater detail below in the sections that follow.

  1. Color

Cat throw-up often presents itself in distinct colors that indicate where the vomit originated in the feline’s body. Match your pet’s sample to our cat vomit color chart to better understand where their problem may be located.

  1. Consistency

Is your pet’s throw-up light and foamy, thick and gooey, or thin and watery? Refer to the types of cat vomit pictured below to detect differences in consistency that may help explain why your cat is throwing up.

  1. Substances

Are any substances — such as blood, food, grass, or worms — present in the cat vomit? These often provide clues as to why cats throw up, so it’s a good idea to analyze the pile of puke for the presence of materials before wiping it up.

  1. Symptoms

Finally, be mindful of other symptoms your pet might display alongside nausea and vomiting, then be sure to share these with your veterinarian so they can best diagnose the cause of your cat’s throw-up. Remember that our feline friends can be masters at concealing pain and discomfort. Less obvious signs of illness might include decreased appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, and constipation.

Frequency and timing of cat throw up

If your cat is vomiting, frequency is one of the key factors to note. When vomiting has been present for less than two to three days (acute vomiting), it may go away with straightforward therapy. Vomiting that is severe or ongoing (chronic vomiting) is more serious and can lead to secondary issues like dehydration and changes in the levels of electrolytes like salt.

Acute Vomiting in Cats

Vomiting that has been present for no longer than two to three days is considered acute. Simple symptomatic treatment will work fast in the majority of cases. Such cases frequently never have a clear explanation — it could be something as simple as ingesting plants or food that has gone bad.

Further tests, specialized therapy, and aggressive supportive care will be needed in a small percentage of instances of acute vomiting, either because the vomiting is severe and results in consequences like dehydration, or because a more serious underlying cause is suspected.

Chronic Vomiting in Cats

Chronic vomiting is defined as a cat throwing up more than once a week or on and off for more than three months. A cat throwing up so much is an indication that you should contact your vet. Additional diagnostic tests might be required if the cat keeps vomiting, such as a blood test, X-ray scan, ultrasound, endoscopy, and laparotomy, in order to determine the underlying cause and treat the problem appropriately.

Type of cat vomit by color

Clear cat vomit

Clear or white cat vomit could happen if the animal vomits on an empty stomach or if saliva from the esophagus comes back up.

Green cat vomit

A cat’s vomit can be green due to the presence of bile or if the cat has ingested a green foreign object or a meal containing green color. Green vomit typically means that the food was brought up from the small intestine.

Yellow cat vomit

Bile and partially digested food can cause yellow or orange vomit to develop in the stomach.

Brown cat vomit

If the cat vomit looks like poop or diarrhea, it can be a sign of an intestinal blockage in cats or gastroenteritis. Your veterinarian should be consulted immediately if you notice brown or black vomit resembling coffee grounds because this could indicate gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

Red cat vomit

Red or pink cat vomit often indicates blood. Stomach ulcers or the toxicity of rodenticides can both cause blood.

Type of cat vomit by consistency

Cat vomiting foam

Sometimes, cats can also vomit white frothy or foamy material. Although it can be mistaken for vomit, this is more suggestive of an empty digestive tract. It is vital to watch your cat and try to determine whether or not the vomiting is preceded by coughing because foam can also be formed in the respiratory system.

Cat vomiting bile

Cats usually vomit bile when they have an empty stomach. This can occur when cats are anorexic or if you only feed your cat in the morning and they go the whole day without meals. Food causes the gall bladder to contract and release bile. Without food, bile can back up into the small intestines and stomach.

Cat vomiting liquid

Your cat may have drank too much water if it is throwing up clear liquid, or it may be the fluid contents of the stomach. There are several possible ailments that can cause cats to drink too much water, such as kidney disease and diabetes.

Cat vomiting mucus

Typically, mucus is visible if your cat is regurgitating rather than vomiting. It’s crucial to figure out whether your cat is regurgitating or genuinely vomiting if you notice mucus.

Cat throwing up substances

picture of cat vomit on wooden floor

Cat vomiting food

Cats may throw up food if they eat too much or too fast, also known as regurgitation. Additionally, they can vomit food if they have nausea soon after eating, if a foreign object prevents the food from entering the small intestines, or if they have a food allergy.

Cat vomiting blood

The stomach, esophagus, and upper intestines may all be the source of blood in the vomit. Additionally, a cat may ingest blood and then vomit it back up due to serious bleeding in the mouth or respiratory system. Anything that damages, irritates, or inflames the lining of these organs may result in bleeding.

Grass in cat vomit

Cats who consume grass will vomit it along with other indigestible substances (such as hair) because they lack the enzymes to digest it.

Worms in cat vomit

As many as 45% of cats will get parasites throughout their life with the highest prevalence being in kittens. Tapeworm, roundworm, and ringworm in cats are some of the most common intestinal parasites that cause cats to throw up.

Hairball in cat vomit

Cats can occasionally throw up hairballs, especially those who overgroom or have long hair. However, a cat throwing up hairballs daily is a cause for concern.

Cat throwing up with other symptoms

Oftentimes when cats vomit, they have other symptoms as well. Describing all of your cat’s symptoms to your vet will be important in determining the cause and treatment.

Cat vomiting and diarrhea

The combination of these two symptoms indicates that the small and/or large intestines may possibly be inflamed in addition to the stomach.

Cat throwing up from constipation

If your cat is constipated, they will strain in an effort to defecate. The stretching of the colon can cause them to vomit. They may vomit when trying to defecate, regardless of whether feces is produced or not.

Fecal vomiting in cats is also possible. The usual vomiting includes the contents of the proximal small intestine, which is not the case with fecal vomiting. Fecal vomiting has been linked to liver cancer, colorectal cancer, and ovarian cancer.

Cat not eating and throwing up

When cats are nauseous, they usually don’t want to eat. Various disorders, such as foreign bodies, liver or renal disease, diabetes, IBD, etc. might cause this.

Cat throwing up at night

If your cat vomits at night, keep an eye on them and ensure they are not showing any other symptoms of illness. If your cat is throwing up frequently during the day and at night and shows other symptoms, see your vet immediately.

Cat vomit smells like rotten eggs

There is nothing specific that would cause a foul odor in the vomit. If this happens, keep a close eye on your cat for the next 24 to 48 hours and if they show other symptoms (such as lethargy), be sure to see your vet.

Cat projectile vomiting

When the stomach’s contents are violently vomited up, it is known as projectile vomiting.

How to make a cat throw up

Induced vomiting in cats is sometimes necessary if your pet consumes something toxic, such as household chemicals, houseplants, or certain human foods. So, how to induce vomiting in a cat?

The common method used in dogs is giving 3% hydrogen peroxide at a dosage determined by your veterinarian. However, it is no longer advised to use hydrogen peroxide on cats because it rarely works and can instead cause serious, sometimes fatal stomach ulcers.

Other sources might advise giving your cat a saltwater solution, but there are drawbacks to this as well. Giving a lot of salt at once might be harmful on its own. Renal dysfunction is another prevalent illness in cats, particularly in the elderly.

Asking your veterinarian to induce vomiting in your cat is the safest method. Your veterinarian can administer injectable drugs such as hydromorphone, xylazine, and dexmedetomidine to your cat to cause vomiting. Your cat should start vomiting as soon as a few minutes have passed after the injection.

How to clean cat vomit from carpet

The ASPCA suggests the following method to clean cat vomit out of carpet:

  • Use a knife, spoon, or dry paper towel to sweep up as much of the vomit as you can before cleaning the pet vomit from the carpet.
  • Once the majority of the chunks have been eliminated, sprinkle the area with baking soda and let it dry.
  • Next, combine hot water, salt, ½ cup of white vinegar, one tablespoon of detergent, and two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol.
  • Apply the solution onto the cat vomit stain.
  • Then, use a damp kitchen sponge to remove any leftover vomit.

Home remedies for cat vomiting

If your cat only throws up occasionally or has just vomited a few times and seems fine, you can try a few home remedies such as very short fasting (8 to 12 hours), feeding your cat bland, easy-to-digest food like boiled white meat chicken (no bones or skin), and switching to high-quality sensitive stomach cat food.

What can I give my cat for vomiting?

Your veterinarian might prescribe medication to relieve inflammation or control your cat’s vomiting. There is nothing safe that is over the counter to give to cats for vomiting.

When to go to the vet for a cat throwing up

If the vomiting is severe or accompanied by other symptoms such as the presence of blood, abdominal pain, weakness, and profuse diarrhea, you should call your vet ASAP.

Pet insurance for cats can pay a portion of your pet’s medical bills. You can invest in a comprehensive policy that covers a wide range of cat health issues, including common illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhea. Some cat insurance plans even cover costs for prescription medications.


Veterinary Q&A: Why Is My Cat Vomiting?

Still have questions about why your pet cat is vomiting and what steps to take next? Pawlicy's veterinary advisor Dr. Walther, DVM, answers your top questions in the Q&A below.

Is it normal for cats to throw up?

Yes, it is normal for cats to vomit occasionally. They usually throw up hairballs due to their meticulous grooming habits, but vomiting for other reasons is an indication of a medical problem. It's recommended to talk to your veterinarian about the issue if your cat vomits more than once per day or if you see an increased frequency of vomiting in general.

Why does my cat throw up after eating?

If your cat throws up food after eating, it might be because they are eating too fast. When a cat eats very fast, they will swallow food without chewing while at the same time ingesting lots of air. If your cat vomits after eating a whole kibble, it might be caused by regurgitation.

Why does my cat vomit after drinking water?

Again, this might be a result of drinking too fast. When your cat drinks too quickly, their tummy fills up and expands. This alerts the brain that it is time to empty the stomach. The cat will regurgitate if they drink too much too quickly.

Should I worry if my cat is throwing up after vaccines?

A day or two after receiving a vaccine, you could notice your cat is less active or has a brief decrease in appetite, but this should pass in 24 to 48 hours. Vomiting can be a symptom of a severe allergic reaction, along with weakness, difficulty breathing, nausea, pale gums, diarrhea, and collapse. Contact a veterinarian right away if a cat exhibits any allergic reaction symptoms following a vaccine.

Why does my cat keep throwing up all the time?

A cat shouldn't puke every day or even frequently throughout the month. If your cat is constantly throwing up, the cause could be something as simple as hairballs, but it can also mean that your cat consumed something toxic or is suffering from a major illness. Be sure to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible if your cat keeps throwing up.

Is it okay if my cat keeps throwing up but seems fine?

Even though your cat may appear to be doing great, there could be underlying issues. Call your veterinarian, explain the problem, and ask what they believe should be done next if the vomiting occurs more than twice a month or is accompanied by any other unusual behavior.

Why is my cat throwing up white foam?

White foam vomiting is pretty common in felines. Typically, this indicates that the stomach is empty and that the cat cannot bring anything up. It may also be an indication of a food allergy or a blockage if the cat is not eating but appears to vomit white foam.

Why is my cat throwing up bile?

If your cat throws up bile or vomit with a yellow, foamy appearance, it could be caused by a hairball, but it can also point to an infection, endocrine issue, or kidney problem. If this type of vomiting happens frequently, you should consider visiting your vet.

Why is my cat throwing up yellow liquid?

When the stomach is empty, and the lining is irritated, bile and stomach acids commonly project as a yellow-colored liquid. However, this type of vomit may also be a symptom of a variety of diseases, such as indigestion or kidney disease.

Why is my cat throwing up brown liquid?

Cats with brown vomit may have intestinal blockage, internal bleeding ulcers, or certain types of cancer. A cat who vomits dark fluid needs to be seen by a veterinarian right away.

Why is my cat throwing up clear liquid?

Vomit that is clear and liquid in consistency indicates that the cat is vomiting on an empty stomach. Sometimes, if the cat is throwing up soon after consuming a lot of water, they will also throw up clear liquid.

Why is my cat is throwing up mucus?

A cat's stomach producing a lot of mucus may be an indication of inflamed intestines.

Why is my cat throwing up undigested food?

If you see your cat throwing up food but acting normal, it can simply be a result of a hairball or eating too fast. However, if your cat vomits undigested food frequently, it can be a sign of a serious ailment such as internal obstructions, constipation, indigestion, pancreatitis, parasitic infections, stress, anxiety, or poisoning.

Why is my cat throwing up blood?

If your cat vomits repeatedly, the increased acid in the vomit might irritate the lining of the stomach and the esophagus, resulting in the appearance of blood. If there is a clotting problem, which can be seen with some disorders and some poisons (such as rat poisoning), blood may also be present.

What does bloody cat vomit look like?

Episodes may include fresh, bright red blood or partially digested blood that resembles coffee grounds, depending on where the bleeding originates.

Why do cats eat grass and throw up?

Throwing up is an occasional byproduct of eating grass — according to Science.org, about a quarter of cats who eat grass tend to vomit afterward. For cats, eating plants is instinctual and has an evolutionary advantage.

Why is my cat throwing up worms?

Roundworms are the most prevalent type of worm found in cat vomit**. Your cat's health is seriously harmed by high parasite burdens in the gastrointestinal tract. If you notice roundworm in cat vomit, it’s crucial to take a sample to your veterinarian so they can properly address the problem.

Why is my cat throwing up hairballs daily?

If a cat vomits hairballs daily, a GI disorder should be investigated**. A high-fiber diet, vet-prescribed laxatives, and routine grooming can all help cats with chronic hairball vomiting issues.

What if my cat has diarrhea and vomiting but seems fine?

It is sometimes difficult to pinpoint the cause of acute vomiting or diarrhea. These episodes frequently end on their own or with supportive therapy (feeding a bland, readily digestible meal, feline probiotics, and electrolytes). However, it is crucial to seek veterinary care right away for more severe instances and those that do not improve rapidly.

What to do if a cat is throwing up and pooping on the floor?

If your cat is suddenly pooping outside of the box and is vomiting, you should see your vet as soon as possible.

What to feed a cat with diarrhea and vomiting?

It is best to speak with your veterinarian if your pet is vomiting and has diarrhea. Your veterinarian may suggest a brief period of fasting (for adult cats) and bland food, like plain chicken and rice, or a prescription diet for cats with sensitive stomachs.

Additionally, your veterinarian may recommend therapies for underlying problems, as well as fluids to restore hydration and electrolytes, nausea drugs, and medications to help firm up the stool (for example, dewormers or antibiotics).

What does it mean if my cat can’t poop and is throwing up?

Your cat may be constipated if they haven’t pooped in a few days and are struggling to go. This may result in a buildup of contents in the stomach and small intestines, making your pet vomit.

How to help a cat vomiting and not eating?

If your cat is vomiting but not eating, see your vet as soon as possible.

What’s the best cat food for sensitive stomachs?

If your cat has a sensitive stomach, try switching to cat food that is simple to digest. You can also give bland cat-safe human food, like meat-flavored baby food (without the addition of onion or garlic powder) or boiled chicken.

What causes cats to throw up at night?

If your feline friend ate before bed, their body might attempt to eliminate the food later at night. In some cases, cats will vomit yellow in the middle of the night. This happens when the pet throws up on an empty stomach and can be caused by acid accumulation**, reflux, or another ailment that causes nausea.

However, frequent vomiting during the night could indicate something serious, such as pancreatitis, a foreign body causing a blockage, or cancer, so be sure to see your vet.

Why does my cat’s vomit smell like rotten eggs?

If your cat’s vomit smells like rotten eggs and is also accompanied by yellow, foamy bile, it could be a sign of something worse than a stomach upset, such as blockage in the intestinal area, infectious gastroenteritis, or poisoning.

Why is my cat projectile vomiting?

If your cat is projectile vomiting, it could indicate that their upper gastrointestinal tract is completely blocked**. Hairballs or other foreign particles, a constriction of the GI tract, or tumors are all potential reasons for projectile vomiting.

When should I be concerned about my cat vomiting?

How do you know when to worry about a cat vomiting? If your cat is vomiting frequently or in large amounts, they may be severely unwell and need medical attention right away. If your cat exhibits repeated vomiting, blood in the vomit, lethargy, discomfort, or blood in the stool, be sure to contact your veterinarian.


Veterinarian Lila Batiari

About the author

Lila Batiari, DVM

Small Animal Relief Veterinarian -

Lila Batiari, DVM is a relief veterinarian located in San Diego, California. She has a special interest in nutrition, pain management, and surgery! Dr. Batiari enjoys working with Pawlicy Advisor to help others avoid everyday situations that some of her clientele experience. She realizes that expensive vet bills for treatment costs could be much easier for patients with pet insurance.

More on Cat Health Conditions

Gray cat receiving pet and appearing to be sick
8 minute read

Constipation in Cats

Cat stepping out of litter box
7 minute read

Diarrhea in Cats

Kitten with ear mites
7 minute read

Ear Mites in Cats: Symptoms & Treatment

Orange cat with FIV lying outside
7 minute read

FIV in Cats

siamese cat sitting in snow
5 minute read

Frostbite In Cats: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Vet examining sick cat
5 minute read

Giardia in Cats

Cat heart murmur
5 minute read

Heart Murmur in Cats

vet checking on cute cat
9 minute read

Heartworm in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Costs

sick cat lying on top of red car
9 minute read

Hyperthyroidism in Cats: Symptoms & Treatment

Cat with blue eyes lying on the ground
8 minute read

Pancreatitis in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Back to Blog
A family with pets that are insured by Pawlicy Advisor
Pawlicy Advisor is the leading independent marketplace for finding the best coverage for your pet at the lowest rate.
Join 2,438,795+ insured dogs and cats across the US.
Get a Quote
Our pet insurance partners
Pets Best Pet Insurance Logo
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Logo
Figo Pet Insurance Logo
Petplan Pet Insurance Logo
MetLife Pet Insurance Logo
Hartville Pet Insurance Logo