Cat throwing up outside on leaves

Key takeaway

If your cat is vomiting, you may be worried it can be something serious. However, it’s relatively common for cats to throw up. With that said, it’s still important to know the reasons why cats vomit, such as hairballs, allergies, illnesses, parasites, poisoning, or other causes. Learn more about why cats vomit, signs to look for, and ways to treat it in the blog post below.

Cats vomit for many different reasons. Often, your cat throwing up just means that they ate something their stomach didn’t agree with. However, it can sometimes be a sign of something more serious. Because the causes of cats vomiting—and the types of cat vomit—can vary so significantly, it’s important to know the different possibilities. 

It’s also important to know when it’s time to take your cat to the vet. We’ll cover that as well as the different causes of cat vomit in the article below. Use the links to navigate, or read through for a full guide to cat vomit. 

Why Do Cats Vomit?

In most cases, it’s normal for cats to throw up. Throwing up can be caused by eating too fast, eating grass, eating foreign objects, hairballs from grooming, and other relatively benign causes1. Most cats throw up from time to time, so if you happen to notice your cat throwing up very infrequently, it’s usually not a cause for concern. 

  • Vomiting definition: The forceful ejection of contents, such as food and fluids, from the stomach and out of the mouth.

It’s important to know the reasons why a cat might be vomiting to ensure they’re healthy. We’ll explore the different reasons why cats may vomit in more detail below. In some cases, cats vomiting may be a sign of an undiagnosed and serious illness. This is more likely if your cat is throwing up often, every time they eat, if there is blood in the vomit, or if they appear to be in pain while vomiting. 

Reasons why your cat might be vomiting include hairballs, allergies, cancer, parasites, eating too fast, inflammatory bowel disease, illness, foreign objects in their digestive tract, and poisoning.

Hairballs

Cats regularly groom themselves by licking their fur, which they can then swallow. Hair can’t be digested, so over time, it can stick together in the stomach and form a lump, which will then be vomited up by the cat1. It’s common for cats to spit up hairballs, especially if they are grooming more often—for example, if they spend time outside and get dirty. 

Hairballs are a natural part of cats’ lives, so if you see your cat spitting them up, there’s no reason to be concerned. However, if they are consistently spitting up hairballs daily, or they are grooming excessively, this could be a sign of some other condition. It’s a good idea to take your cat to the vet if they are excessively grooming. 

Allergies

Allergies are another common cause of vomiting in cats. This is especially the case if they have food allergies. Cats are often allergic to beef, dairy, chicken, and sometimes fish. If these ingredients are in your cat food, and your cat is consistently vomiting after eating, they may be suffering from a food allergy. In that case, the best course of action is to stop feeding them the food that causes allergy symptoms. 

If your cat has other, environmental allergies, this may require medical treatment. At Dutch, we specialize in getting cats and dogs with chronic allergy symptoms the medication they need to get back to living life. You can set up a consultation with one of our affiliated telemedicine for pets veterinarians, who can prescribe allergy medication and connect you with a pharmacy in just a few easy steps. 

Cancer

Certain cancers, such as stomach cancer or upper intestinal cancer, can cause cats to throw up2. While the thought of cancer may be alarming, it’s important to remember that this is less common than many other causes, such as hairballs or mild infections. 

That said, it’s good to know the signs of cancer in cats. If your cat’s vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms, such as weight loss, fevers, lack of appetite, lethargy, and more, it’s a good idea to take them to the vet. A vet may be able to screen them for potential signs of cancer and will be able to provide a more accurate diagnosis for your cat’s vomiting. 

Parasites

It’s common for gastrointestinal parasites to cause cats to vomit. Parasites include tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms. Worms are common in cats, especially those that interact with other cats, younger cats and kittens, and those that spend a significant amount of time outdoors. Worms can lead to vomiting and diarrhea in cats, as well as other infections and complications if left untreated3.

Luckily, worms are treatable with medication prescribed by the vet. It’s also important to sanitize the home after a case of worms has been treated, as worms can reinfect cats from food and feces. 

Eating Too Fast

Cat throwing up after eating too fast

Illness

Various illnesses can cause cats to vomit. Vomit-inducing illnesses may range from more isolated diseases, like the flu or stomach bug, to more serious causes, like kidney or liver failure, digestive system disease, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, and nervous system disorders.

Illnesses that can cause cats to vomit include kidney or liver failure, digestive system disease, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, and nervous system disorders.

Consistent vomiting is usually a cause for concern. If your cat’s vomiting doesn’t clear up after a couple of days, and it’s accompanied by other symptoms, it’s smart to get them seen by a vet. 

Foreign Objects in Digestive Tract

Cats can get into objects such as toys, hair ties, rubber bands, and strings. If ingested, these objects can get lodged in their throat, which can cause them to throw up. If this is the case, veterinary attention should be sought immediately as foreign objects could cause damage to your cat’s digestive tract. 

Poisoning

Cats are curious, which means they may get into something they shouldn’t, such as medications for humans, toxic houseplants, or poison left for pests. Poisoning is serious, and many household medications can cause serious harm and even death. If your cat has ingested something poisonous, be sure to take them to an emergency veterinarian immediately. 

Types of Cat Vomit

Vomit can come in different shapes and sizes, depending on the food the cat ate, how digested the food is, and whether it’s true vomit or just regurgitation. 

Short-term vomiting vs. long-term vomiting symptoms and treatment

There is also short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) vomiting. Short-term vomiting that clears up after a few days, and has no other signs present, is less of a concern. Your vet may recommend withholding food for 24 hours to allow the digestive tract to reset

 Chronic vomiting is more concerning. This lasts for many days, and it can be a sign of a more serious illness.  Your veterinarian might take a blood sample, inspect feces, conduct an x-ray, or do a urine test to look for a diagnosis1

Signs to Look For in Cat Vomit

Because vomiting in cats can be somewhat common, such as vomit-caused hairballs, it’s important to know what signs to look out for that might mean they need veterinary attention. Other more serious symptoms that may be signs of another underlying disease may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Cat is itchy
  • Changes in behavior
  • Change in diet
  • High frequency of vomiting
  • Presence of other sick cats1

Your vet will likely ask you questions about the conditions of your cat’s vomiting, so be sure that you pay careful attention to their behavior and health otherwise so that you can answer these questions accurately. 

How to Treat Cat Vomit

Treatment options for vomiting depend on why they’re throwing up. For example, if it’s hairballs, you can switch up their food with a hairball formula that breaks down the hair. Or, if you have houseplants that are toxic to cats, remove them or place them in an area cats can’t reach. 

If your cat’s vomiting is caused by something more serious, your vet will likely prescribe medication or surgery that is aimed at fixing that underlying problem. Vomiting is a symptom of many different things, and it can be difficult to say what the exact cause is. If you’re unsure about the cause of your cat’s vomiting, please take them to the vet so they can receive the treatment they need. 

Final Notes

Seeing your cat throwing up can be scary. Your best plan of action is to monitor them closely, then take them to the vet if their vomiting doesn’t clear up after a couple of days. 

If your cat’s vomiting is caused by cat allergies or anxiety, two chronic conditions common to cats, there is another solution. Dutch telemedicine is built to get pet owners the medication prescriptions they need at an affordable and convenient subscription price. You can set up a consultation today and get the care you need quickly to help your cat live a happier, healthier life. 

References

  1. Webb, Craig B. “Vomiting in Cats,” Merck Veterinary Manual, 29 Nov. 2021, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/digestive-disorders-of-cats/vomiting-in-cats 

  2. “Vomiting Pets,” Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, 29 Nov. 2021, https://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/outreach/Pet-Health-Topics/categories/common-problems/vomiting 

  3. “Gastrointestinal Parasites of Cats,” Cornell Feline Health Center, 29 Nov. 2021, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/gastrointestinal-parasites-cat

  4. Defarges, Alice. “Chronic Enteropathies in Small Animals,” Merck Veterinary Manual, 29 Nov. 2021, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/digestive-system/diseases-of-the-stomach-and-intestines-in-small-animals/chronic-enteropathies-in-small-animals