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

Table of Contents

  • Common causes for vomiting in cats
  • How to tell why your cat is throwing up
    • Frequency and timing of cat throw up
    • Type of cat vomit by color
    • Type of cat vomit by consistency
    • Cat throwing up substances
    • Cat throwing up with other symptoms
  • How to make a cat throw up
  • How to clean cat vomit from carpet
  • Home remedies for cat vomiting
  • What can I give my cat for vomiting?
  • When to go to the vet for a cat throwing up
  • Veterinary Q&A: Why Is My Cat Vomiting?

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.

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  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.

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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

Home remedy for cat vomiting white foam

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.

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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.

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About the Author: Tung Chi