Why is My Cat Throwing Up?

vomiting cat

A cat throwing up occasionally is not unusual as cat vomiting expels hairballs. Gastric irritations that cause frequent cat vomiting and include bile, mucus or blood may indicate a serious intestinal issue like an obstruction or an underlying chronic condition such as kidney disease or diabetes.

Causes: How often is your cat vomiting?

1-3 times per month 2-3 days consistently 2+ times/day for 3 weeks+
Causes* Causes* Causes*
Too much food, too quickly Diet change, food intolerance Gastroenteritis
Ingesting grass, Insects Hairballs Intestinal obstruction
Cold refrigerated wet food Gastrointestinal parasites Parvovirus
People foods Acute kidney or liver failure Chronic kidney or liver failure
Rotting or stale food Pancreatitis Ketoacidosis, hyperthyroidism
Yarn, paper clips or other foreign bodies Food allergy Toxicosis e.g. grapes, household cleaners, human medication Cancer, heartworm disease. Neurological disorders
  Viral infections Swallow bones or other objects

*Causes are not exhaustive

Cat vomiting symptoms: When to be concerned

An isolated incident of cat vomiting is often not a significant concern for veterinarian but should be mentioned at your next visit. Additional signs accompanying vomiting such as a cat throwing up clear liquid, or includes diarrhea is an important progression in a cat’s health deterioration.

Symptoms that a cat’s condition has worsened is when blood is found in the vomit. This sign may indicate internal bleeding and a veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible.

The best care you can give your cat is to monitor initial changes in behavior. Contact a veterinarian if illness is persistent, frequent, becomes more severe or the cat has the following signs of decline. 

  1. Increase in frequency of vomiting
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Dehydration
  4. Lethargy
  5. Blood in vomit
  6. Vomit with same texture and smell as feces
  7. Weight loss
  8. Decrease or increase in drinking water or eating 

Vomiting vs regurgitating

Cats perform similar behaviors to a dog throwing up indigestible contents or regurgitating. Pet parents with a dual species household may recognize the difference between vomiting, which is a forceful expulsion of contents and regurgitation, a passive ejection of material from the esophagus.

Often, a cat throws up after eating but in fact, this is regurgitating and not vomiting.

Signs that a cat is going to vomit

  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Anxious behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Repeated lip licking
  • Consistent swallowing
  • Abdominal heaving

Treatment for vomiting in cats

A treatment plan for a cat that is vomiting depends on many factors including but not exclusive to the frequency, known health conditions and changes in behavior. Consulting a veterinarian to recommend how to manage a cat’s health is the best next step.

A veterinarian may suggest in-home care for mild or temporary conditions, which may include no food or fluids for a trial period as well as medication. A cat that continues to decline during home treatment may need more aggressive testing to identify the cause and treat it such as:

  1. Blood tests
  2. Urine evaluation
  3. Fecal analysis
  4. Biopsies
  5. X-rays
  6. Ultrasound
  7. Endoscopy
  8. Laparotomy

How to help a cat that is vomiting

  • Always follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for care and treatment.
  • Never give your cat medication meant for people, unless directed by a veterinarian.
  • Maintain a consistent food and care routine for your cat.
  • Always pay close attention to your cat’s behavior, report any concerning changes to your veterinarian.
  • Never change your cat’s diet suddenly unless it’s advised by a veterinarian.

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