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Cat Vomiting: What You Need to Know to Keep Your Furry Friend Healthy

Understanding Cat Vomiting: Causes, Types, Treatment, and Prevention

Have you noticed your furry friend vomiting up their food or hairballs? While occasional vomiting is normal, chronic vomiting can be a sign of underlying health issues that require your immediate attention.

In this article, we will explore cat vomiting in detail, its causes, types, when to worry, treatment, and prevention.

Causes of Cat Vomiting


Hairballs are one of the most common causes of cat vomiting. When cats groom themselves, they ingest loose fur that accumulates in their stomach.

This hair is difficult to digest and can form a ball that irritates the stomach lining, leading to vomiting. While hairball vomiting is normal, hairballs can become an issue when they become too large to pass through the digestive tract.


Gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines, can be caused by a variety of factors, including dietary indiscretion, toxins, and medication side effects. Cats with gastroenteritis may vomit, have diarrhea, abdominal pain, and lose their appetite.

Foreign Bodies or Obstructions

Cats love to investigate everything, including items that are not food. Ingesting foreign objects can cause a blockage in the digestive tract, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and damage to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Sharp objects like bones and metal can even cause a tear or puncture in the GI tract, which requires immediate surgery.

Food Allergies and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Cats, like humans, can develop food allergies that manifest as vomiting, diarrhea, and skin issues. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, can also cause chronic vomiting.

Systemic Illnesses

Systemic illnesses like kidney disease, pancreatitis, and hyperthyroidism can cause cats to vomit. Nausea and chronic vomiting are also associated with these systemic illnesses.


Kittens are especially susceptible to parasites like live worms.

Parasites can irritate the digestive tract, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.


Digestive tract cancer can interfere with digestion, causing nausea, discomfort, and malaise. Other signs of cancer include sudden weight loss, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

Types of Cat Vomit


Hairball vomiting is characterized by balls of hair that are mixed with partially digested food. Hairball vomiting is normal, but it becomes a concern when it is frequent or prolonged.


Vomiting blood can be a sign of a serious health issue.

Blood in vomit can be bright red or black.

Black vomit, called melena, indicates blood that has been digested and comes from the lower GI tract.


Bile is a yellowish-green fluid that is produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Vomiting bile can be a sign of an empty stomach, gallbladder issues, or an obstruction in the small intestine.


Mucus is a protective layer that lines the digestive tract, and its presence in vomit indicates inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining.

Partially Digested Food

Partially digested food in vomiting can be due to the body not digesting food properly or from a blockage preventing food from continuing through the digestive tract.

When to Worry

While occasional vomiting is normal, chronic vomiting can be a sign of an underlying health issue. If you notice any of the following signs, you should seek veterinary help:

– Chronic vomiting

– Loss of appetite

– Lethargy

– Fever

– Diarrhea

– Changes in litter box habits

– Other changes in health and behavior

Treatment for Cat Vomiting

Treatment for cat vomiting depends on the underlying cause of the vomiting. Treatment options include:

Antiemetic Medications

Antiemetic medications are used to control nausea and prevent vomiting. These medications can help your cat feel more comfortable and reduce vomiting episodes.


Antacids can help reduce the acid in your cat’s stomach, reducing nausea and the likelihood of vomiting.

Change in Diet

A change in diet can help cats with food allergies and IBD. Special diets can be formulated to meet your cat’s specific nutritional needs.

Prescription Diet

Prescription diets can help manage chronic vomiting. These diets are formulated to provide optimal nutrition while reducing the likelihood of vomiting.


Surgery is necessary to remove any foreign objects or portions of the digestive tract that have been damaged by foreign objects.

Prevention of Cat Vomiting

Prevention of cat vomiting includes:

High-Quality and Balanced Diet

Feeding your cat high-quality and balanced food can provide the essential nutrients your cat needs for optimal health. Feeding your cat a healthy diet can also reduce the likelihood of food allergies and IBD.

Non-Food Items

Ensure that your cat does not ingest non-food items. If your cat loves to chew on objects, provide them with cat-safe chew toys to redirect their chewing habit.

Special Diets

Consult with your veterinarian to determine if your cat requires a special diet to manage chronic vomiting.

Hairball Remedy

Use hairball remedies like special diets and lubricants to help reduce the likelihood of hairball formation.


Cat vomiting can be a sign of underlying health issues that require your immediate attention. Understanding the causes, types, when to worry, and treatment options can help you provide the best possible care for your furry friend.

With preventative measures like providing a high-quality diet and removing non-food objects, you can keep your cat healthy and happy. If your cat vomits chronically, consult with your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

Types of Cat Vomit:

Hairballs, Other Causes, and the

Difference Between Vomiting and Regurgitation

As a cat owner, it can be particularly distressing to see your feline friend throwing up. Understanding the different types of vomit can help you determine the root cause and find a solution.

Here we will look at hairballs, other causes of vomit, and the difference between vomiting and regurgitation.


Hairballs are one of the most common types of cat vomit. As a cat licks their fur, they can ingest loose strands, which accumulate in the stomach.

Over time, these strands of hair grow to form a hairball, which can cause gastrointestinal distress and nausea. The hairball is expelled through the mouth in a process called vomiting.

It is characterized by small globules of hardened hair accompanied by partially-digested food. Other Causes of Vomit


If you see bright red or dark red blood in your cat’s vomit, this can be a sign of injury or bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.

Blood in the vomit is often mixed with partially-digested food.

If the blood is brownish-black, this indicates that it has been digested and has come from a higher area of the gastrointestinal tract. In either case, vomiting blood is a serious symptom that should be discussed with a veterinarian immediately.


Bile is a greenish-yellow fluid that is produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. If your cat vomits a yellow or green liquid, this may be bile.

Bile can be expelled when the stomach is empty, and it can emit a strong odor.


Mucus, which lines the digestive system, is a slimy substance that protects the digestive tract from inflammation or irritation. If you observe mucus in the vomit, this may be an indication that the cat’s digestive tract is inflamed or irritated.

Partially-Digested Food

This type of vomit is characterized by food that has not fully processed in the stomach. The food may be recognizable, indicating that your cat’s digestive system is not working correctly or that they have not chewed their food thoroughly enough.

Difference Between Vomiting and Regurgitation

While both vomiting and regurgitation involve expulsion of fluid or food from the mouth, there is a significant difference between them. Vomiting is a forceful and violent expulsion of contents from the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine through the mouth.

Regurgitation, on the other hand, is a more passive action where food or water is brought back up from the throat or esophagus without any forceful act of the abdominal muscles.

Vomiting is often accompanied by retching, gagging, and abdominal contractions.

Regurgitation, in contrast, is often a passive reflex wherein the contents come up without effort, and the cat usually swallows them immediately. Vomiting is a more severe problem because it implies that something is not working right in the gastrointestinal tract, whereas regurgitation can be relatively harmless

Cat Vomit Color Chart

Determining the color of your cats vomit can help identify potential health problems they may be experiencing.

Partially Digested Food

If your cat’s vomit is brown, yellow, or beige, this typical means that your cat is throwing up partially digested food. This is a common type of cat vomit that usually arises when your cat is eating too quickly or hasn’t properly chewed their food.

Presence of


Vomit that contains red or red-black blood indicates that your cat likely has an injury or bleeding somewhere in their digestive tract.

Blood in cat vomit can be a sign of severe health issues, and you should take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Regurgitation of Saliva from Esophagus

If your cat’s vomit is clear and contains only saliva, they may be suffering from regurgitation of saliva from the esophagus. Regurgitation is not the same as vomiting.

If your cats vomit looks foamy, it may be mixed with saliva.


Bile is a digestive fluid that is green or yellow in color.

Bile may be present in vomit as a result of reflux or an empty stomach. It can also occur because of an obstruction in the small intestine.

Green Foreign Material

If your cat’s vomit has green foreign particles, this may indicate that they have ingested something that they cannot digest easily. Cats can accidentally consume household items, such as strings, hair elastics, or even plants that can get stuck in their gastrointestinal tract and cause vomiting.


Cats may vomit for various reasons, including hairballs, gastrointestinal disorders, and other health problems. Vomiting is not the same as regurgitation, and the distinction between the two can help pinpoint what is wrong with your feline friend.

Determining the color and appearance of your cat’s vomit can also assist in identifying potential issues. If you notice anything unusual, it’s crucial to take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

When to Worry: Recognizing Signs that Your Cat Needs Veterinary Attention

Vomiting is a common occurrence in cats, but it is essential to distinguish when it is normal and when it might be a sign of underlying health problems. This article aims to help cat owners understand when to worry about their cat’s vomiting and take appropriate steps to help their feline friend regain their health.

Chronic Vomiting

If your cat vomits frequently, it could be a sign of an underlying problem. Chronic vomiting is not normal, and it’s important to understand what may be causing the issue.

Vomiting two or three times a week is not normal, and if left untreated, can lead to dehydration and malnutrition.

Symptoms to Look Out For

In addition to chronic vomiting, there are other symptoms to look out for that may indicate your cat needs veterinary attention. These include:

Loss of Appetite: A loss of appetite is often a symptom of underlying health problems and can indicate nausea and discomfort.

Lethargy: Excessive sleepiness or lack of energy can be an indicator of illness in cats. If your cat is not as lively as usual, there could be an underlying problem.

Fever: Elevated body temperature can be a sign of infection or other health problems. Diarrhea: A sudden change in bowel movements could be a sign of gastrointestinal problems or other health issues.

Changes in Litter Box Habits: A change in your cat’s litter box habits, such as urinating outside of the litter box, could be a sign of underlying systemic illness or urinary tract infections. Other Changes in Health or Behavior: Changes in your cat’s behavior, such as hiding or vocalizing excessively, can indicate that something is wrong.

Importance of Veterinary Attention

If your cat is vomiting multiple times a day, shows an increase in vomiting frequency, or is vomiting blood, you should seek veterinary attention immediately. Your veterinarian will be able to conduct tests to diagnose the underlying problem and provide appropriate treatment.

Cat Vomit Treatment

Treatment of cat vomiting depends on the underlying cause of the issue. Here are some treatment options for various conditions that cause cat vomiting.

Importance of Diagnosing and Treating Underlying Conditions

Diagnosing and treating underlying conditions is essential to help your cat regain their health. Some severe medical conditions like cancer, systemic illness, and chronic kidney disease can cause vomiting.

Supportive Care for Mild Cases

For mild cases of vomiting, supportive care may be all that is required. This can include antiemetic medication and antacids, which can ease the discomforts of nausea and vomiting.

Diet and

Prescription Diet Changes

Changing your cat’s diet can help manage chronic vomiting caused by hairballs, food allergies, or inflammatory bowel disease. Your veterinarian can recommend a prescription diet or a diet plan that will provide your cat with adequate nutrition while preventing further vomiting episodes.

Serious Causes Requiring Immediate Veterinary Attention

Some causes of cat vomiting require immediate medical attention. These include foreign body and obstruction cases, which can require emergency surgery.

It’s important to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible and not attempt to remove the foreign object yourself. Detection and prompt treatment are essential for good health and long-term management of cat vomiting issues.

Observing your cat’s behavior and understanding the different signs and symptoms can help you take appropriate steps to address cat vomiting at the earliest. It is always important to see a veterinarian before any illness worsens, as the earlier they will treat it, the easier it will be for your cat.

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