Cat Vomiting: What You Should Know

icon October 27, 2023

Vomiting is a common occurrence in cats, and in most cases, it's not a cause for alarm. Cats often vomit as a natural response to various factors, including hairballs, dietary indiscretions, or minor stomach irritations. However, there are times when vomiting in cats can be a sign of a more serious underlying issue. Knowing when to be concerned about your cat's vomiting is crucial to ensuring their health and well-being. In this article, we'll explore the various causes of vomiting in cats, when it's normal, and when it's time to worry.

Understanding Normal Cat Vomiting

Vomiting is the act of forcefully expelling the contents of the stomach through the mouth. It's important to note that cats are more prone to vomiting compared to humans, and there are several normal, non-concerning reasons for a cat to vomit. Here are some of them:

1. Hairballs:

Cats are meticulous groomers, and during this grooming process, they ingest loose fur. Hairballs can form in the stomach, leading to occasional vomiting to expel them. This is considered normal and usually doesn't require any intervention. To reduce hairballs, regular grooming, and specialized cat foods designed to minimize hairball formation can help.

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2. Dietary Indiscretions:

Cats are known for their curious nature, and they may consume things they shouldn't. If a cat eats something unusual or incompatible with their digestive system, it may result in vomiting. This could include houseplants, spoiled food, or even inedible objects. In such cases, vomiting is often a way for the cat to get rid of the offending substance.

3. Fast Eating:

Cats that eat too quickly or too much in one sitting may vomit shortly after a meal. This is because their stomach becomes overly distended, leading to regurgitation. To prevent this, consider using slow-feed bowls or feeding smaller, more frequent meals.

4. Stress:

Cats are sensitive creatures, and they can experience stress or anxiety. Changes in their environment, such as moving to a new home, the addition of a new pet, or even loud noises, can induce vomiting in some cats. This is often temporary and resolves itself once the source of stress is eliminated.

5. Motion Sickness:

Just like some humans get motion sickness, cats can also experience motion sickness during car rides or other forms of travel. This can result in vomiting but is usually a transient issue.

In these situations, vomiting is often a self-limiting problem that doesn't require immediate medical attention. However, if vomiting becomes frequent or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it's time to investigate further.

Vomiting in Cats: When to Worry

While occasional vomiting may be normal for cats, certain signs and symptoms can indicate a more serious underlying issue. It's essential for cat owners to be vigilant and recognize when vomiting is a cause for concern. Here are some signs that should raise a red flag:

1. Frequent Vomiting:

If your cat is vomiting multiple times in a day or several times a week, it's not normal. Frequent vomiting can lead to dehydration and other health complications and should be addressed promptly.

2. Blood in Vomit:

The presence of blood in your cat's vomit, which can appear as red or dark brown specks, is a significant concern. This could be a sign of various gastrointestinal issues, including ulcers, inflammation, or even ingestion of a toxic substance.

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3. Vomiting After Every Meal:

If your cat consistently vomits shortly after eating, this could be a sign of an underlying digestive problem, such as food allergies, food intolerance, or an obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract.

4. Lethargy and Weakness:

Vomiting that is accompanied by lethargy, weakness, or a general lack of energy is a cause for concern. These symptoms could indicate a systemic issue that requires immediate attention.

5. Weight Loss:

If your cat is losing weight in conjunction with vomiting, it's a sign that something is amiss. Unexplained weight loss can be indicative of various chronic conditions, including kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or cancer.

6. Change in Appetite:

A significant decrease or increase in your cat's appetite, especially when paired with vomiting, should not be ignored. It could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

7. Abdominal Pain:

If your cat shows signs of discomfort or pain in the abdominal area, such as vocalizing or guarding their stomach, this can be an indication of a more serious issue.

8. Inability to Keep Water Down:

If your cat is unable to retain even water and continues to vomit after drinking, dehydration becomes a significant concern. Dehydration can quickly lead to other health problems and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Why Is My Cat Throwing Up

When your cat exhibits the signs mentioned above, it's essential to consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of the vomiting. There are various potential causes, some of which may be more serious than others:

1. Gastrointestinal Obstruction:

One of the most critical concerns is gastrointestinal obstruction, which occurs when something is blocking the digestive tract. This can be caused by ingesting foreign objects like toys, strings, or bones. Obstructions are potentially life-threatening and require immediate medical intervention.

2. Infectious Diseases:

Various infectious diseases, such as feline panleukopenia, feline leukemia, or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), can cause vomiting as a symptom. These diseases require prompt diagnosis and treatment.

3. Pancreatitis:

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas and can cause severe abdominal pain and vomiting. It is a serious condition that requires veterinary care.

4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD):

IBD is a chronic condition where the cat's immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract. Vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss are common symptoms.

5. Kidney Disease:

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is prevalent in older cats and can lead to vomiting, increased thirst, and weight loss.

6. Hyperthyroidism:

An overactive thyroid gland, or hyperthyroidism, can lead to weight loss, increased appetite, and vomiting.

7. Liver Disease:

Liver diseases can result in a range of symptoms, including vomiting, jaundice, and changes in behavior.

8. Toxic Ingestion:

Cats can accidentally ingest toxic substances, including plants, household chemicals, or certain human foods. This can cause severe vomiting and other symptoms, requiring immediate treatment.

9. Cancer:

Cancer can affect various parts of a cat's body and may cause vomiting, among other symptoms.

10. Allergies and Food Intolerance:

Some cats may have allergies or intolerances to certain ingredients in their food, which can lead to vomiting and gastrointestinal distress.

It's important to note that these are just a few potential causes of vomiting in cats. Diagnosing the underlying issue often requires a thorough examination by a veterinarian, including blood work, imaging, and sometimes endoscopy or exploratory surgery.

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When to Consult a Veterinarian

If your cat's vomiting is infrequent and not associated with any of the concerning signs mentioned earlier, it may resolve on its own. However, if your cat's vomiting meets any of the criteria for concern, it's time to consult a veterinarian. Additionally, if you're ever unsure about the severity of your cat's condition, it's better to err on the side of caution and seek professional guidance.

How To Stop Cat Vomiting

1. Assess the Situation: Pay close attention to the frequency, consistency, and content of your cat's vomit. Take note of any accompanying symptoms, such as lethargy, abdominal pain, or changes in appetite.

2. Withhold Food: It's usually a good idea to withhold food for 12-24 hours to allow your cat's stomach to settle. Ensure they have access to water, but in small amounts to prevent further irritation.

3. Monitor Your Cat: Keep a close eye on your cat during this period. If the vomiting continues or worsens, contact your veterinarian.

4. Consult a Veterinarian: If your cat's vomiting is persistent, severe, or accompanied by concerning symptoms, contact your veterinarian to schedule an examination. Share all relevant information about your cat's behavior and symptoms.

5. Diagnostic Tests: The veterinarian will likely recommend diagnostic tests, which may include blood work, X-rays, ultrasound, or other imaging studies to identify the underlying issue.

6. Treatment: Treatment will depend on the diagnosis. It might involve medications, dietary changes, or surgery, depending on the cause of the vomiting.

7. Preventative Measures: After treatment, your veterinarian may recommend preventative measures or changes in your cat's lifestyle to reduce the risk of future episodes.

Tips for a Veterinary Visit:

- Be prepared to provide your veterinarian with a detailed medical history of your cat, including any previous episodes of vomiting.
- Mention any recent changes in your cat's diet, living environment, or exposure to potential toxins.
- Bring a fresh fecal sample to the appointment if possible, as this can aid in diagnosing certain conditions.
- Don't hesitate to ask questions or seek clarification about your cat's condition and treatment.


Vomiting in cats is a common occurrence, but it's essential to be able to distinguish between normal, occasional vomiting and signs of a more severe underlying problem. While some causes of vomiting are relatively benign, such as hairballs or dietary indiscretions, others can be indicative of serious health conditions like gastrointestinal obstructions, infectious diseases, or chronic illnesses. As a responsible cat owner, it's crucial to monitor your cat's health, be aware of the signs that indicate a problem, and seek prompt veterinary care when necessary. 

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