Sick multi-colored cat resting after throwing up clear liquid

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While most pet parents are used to their cats coughing up hairballs from time to time, vomiting is never healthy. However, if your cat is throwing up clear liquid, it may be cause for concern. The clear liquid may indicate stomach fluid or water your cat has recently had. There are many reasons why your cat might vomit clear liquid. However, vomiting up their water could indicate a serious health concern. 

If your cat throws up, you might wonder, “Why is my cat throwing up clear liquid?” Sometimes clear liquid vomit can appear foamy, and other times it’s a watery liquid. When your cat throws up clear liquid, there are typically no other objects in the vomit. Unfortunately, there are many causes of this type of vomiting in cats. This article will discuss why your cat is throwing up and what could cause this type of vomiting.

Reasons cats throw up clear liquid

Why Your Cat May Be Throwing Up

Cats vomit for many reasons, but if cats are throwing up persistently and have signs of illness, such as weakness, lethargy, or decreased appetite, it could indicate a severe health concern.1 Common reasons cats throw up include: 

  • Hairballs
  • Parasites
  • Dietary issues
  • Constipation 
  • Toxin ingestion
  • Gastritis
  • Cat anxiety
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Feline infectious peritonitis
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer

Cat vomit comes in many colors and textures, ranging from yellow to white foam and clear liquid. Your cat’s vomit may also have undigested food or fur in their vomit. If your cat is throwing up clear liquid, it can indicate they drank too much water too quickly or threw up stomach fluid. However, other possible reasons why your cat’s vomit may be clear include:

  • Hairballs: Hairballs can occur more frequently from excessive grooming. As your cat licks themselves, their fur comes off and may be swallowed, and the more your cat grooms, the more likely they are to develop a hairball. Most hair will pass through the digestive tract, but it can get caught in the stomach, where it forms a hairball. If a cat has a hairball, they may throw up clear liquid before passing it. 
  • Dietary changes: If your cat experiences a change in their feeding schedule or food, it could disrupt their digestive system. For example, your cat may throw up clear liquid if there has been a change in their food without a gradual transition. Eating too quickly can also cause vomiting in cats. 
  • Indigestion: Cats can throw up their stomach fluid when experiencing indigestion that can occur from a disruption in their feeding schedule. For example, if you miss your cat’s breakfast, they could have a build-up of stomach acid that causes irritation and produces clear vomit. 
  • Health conditions: Health disorders, including diabetes, kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism, can cause excessive thirst in cats, which can lead to vomiting a clear liquid. If your cat experiences excessive thirst, they might drink too much water too quickly, which their body is unable to process, causing the water to come right back up. 

There are just a few common reasons why cats throw up clear liquid. Unfortunately, there are many more, so it’s always best to see a vet as soon as possible, especially if your cat is exhibiting any other symptoms. Ultimately, there’s no way to know what’s making your cat sick until visiting a vet. For example, cat anxiety can exacerbate destructive traits and cause excessive meowing and vomiting if not treated. Meanwhile, life-threatening diseases like kidney disease and liver disease can cause vomiting in cats. 

If your cat only throws up once, consider monitoring them and avoid giving them food for twelve hours to see if they stop vomiting. You can also introduce a bland diet to comfort their stomachs. However, if your cat continues to vomit after not eating, seek veterinary care immediately since it could indicate a serious, life-threatening health condition. 

What To Do If Your Cat Is Vomiting Liquid 

If your cat throws up clear liquid once and appears active and in good health, continue to monitor them throughout the next few days. You can try withholding food for twelve hours to ensure they won’t throw up again and give them a small portion of food to ensure they’ll be able to digest it. Since cats throwing up clear liquid can be stomach fluid or water, you may feel tempted to withhold water. However, never withhold water from your pet since it can cause severe dehydration. Instead, allow your cat to drink water to stay fully hydrated after vomiting. 

If your cat continues to vomit, seek veterinary care as soon as possible since persistent vomiting can indicate a more serious medical emergency. Your vet will want to know everything that your cat did leading up to the vomiting. For example, if your cat recently ate a non-food item, your vet may suspect an obstruction that won’t let water pass. Other symptoms, such as weight loss, diarrhea, or behavioral problems like excessive grooming, can help your vet diagnose the cause of the vomiting. 

Treatment for clear vomit in cats depends on the cause. If your vet discovers your cat has a medical illness, they will begin treating the illness, which should treat the symptoms. If your cat doesn’t have a pre-existing health condition, your vet will look for other reasons for your cat’s vomiting. 

If the vet doesn’t see signs of illness, they may provide short-term treatment, including withholding food and treating dehydration. However, cats with health conditions like kidney disease will require a hospital stay to ensure they’re hydrated and can keep water down.2 

The vet may also consider the type of vomiting. Vomiting can be either chronic or acute/severe. Severe/acute vomiting is vomiting that often occurs and is typically accompanied by other symptoms, including dehydration, weakness, and weight loss. This type of vomiting will require a more thorough examination of the pet, which may include blood, fecal, and urine tests and x-rays, before treating the underlying cause of the vomiting.2

Cat Throwing Up Clear Liquid: Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when your cat throws up clear liquid?

When cats throw up clear liquid, they’re often throwing up their stomach fluids or water they have recently drank. There are many causes for a cat throwing up clear liquid, so it’s best to monitor them to ensure they won’t continue to vomit. If your cat continues to vomit or experiences any other symptoms of illness, consult a vet immediately because vomiting clear fluid could indicate a serious health condition. 

Should I be worried if my cat is throwing up clear liquid?

There are many reasons why a cat throws up clear liquid. However, if your cat has only thrown up once over the course of a day, it’s usually not cause for concern, especially if they’re not experiencing weakness, lethargy, or diarrhea. However, if your cat continues to throw up clear liquid, it can indicate severe health conditions like diabetes and kidney disease, which can cause your cat to drink too much water too quickly due to excessive thirst. 

What are the signs of kidney failure in cats? 

Signs of kidney failure in cats include:

  • Weakness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Dehydration 

Since cats throwing up clear liquid could indicate kidney disease or another fatal disease, always consult a vet when your cat has symptoms. Consulting a vet allows you to catch life-threatening diseases quicker, improving your cat’s chances of survival. Additionally, even if your cat has only thrown up once in the last 24 hours, visiting a vet can provide you with peace of mind. 

How can I settle my cat’s stomach?

If your cat has an upset stomach, it’s best to withhold food for a few hours to allow their digestive system to reset. Of course, provide them with plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Once they’re ready to eat again and haven’t thrown up for 12 hours, you can feed them a bland diet of rice and boiled chicken. Pumpkin is another healthy snack that can help settle your cat’s stomach. 

However, never try to treat your cat’s digestive issues at home without the help of a vet. Because diarrhea and vomiting can indicate serious health problems, it’s always best to have them examined by a vet who can diagnose the cause and begin treatment as soon as possible. 

Two cats sitting in front of laptop waiting for vet telehealth appointment

Final Notes

Cats are known for their ability to cough up a furball at a moment’s notice, but that doesn’t mean that all vomiting is normal. Healthy cats should never throw up clear liquid. Still, if they do, it could indicate they’re experiencing excessive thirst from a serious health condition and drinking too much water for their body to properly process it. 

If your cat vomits clear liquid, consult a vet immediately. Dutch vets are available 24/7 via telemedicine for pets to answer questions about your cat’s health and provide peace of mind knowing there’s someone who can help you take better care of your cat. Of course, if your cat is experiencing any other symptoms, including weight loss, lethargy, weakness, or diarrhea, take them to an emergency veterinary clinic for physical examination, diagnosis, and treatment. 

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References

  1. “Vomiting.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 17 June 2021, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/vomiting.

  2. Webb, Craig B. “Vomiting in Cats - Cat Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 29 July 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/digestive-disorders-of-cats/vomiting-in-cats

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $15/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.