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Is Your Vomiting Cat Sick?

Updated on August 19, 2015

Your vomiting cat does not necessarily signal that an illness is present. A number of diseases and upsets in your cat are associated with vomiting, It is a fact, however, that cats vomit more easily than most other animals and frequently this action represents a flushing out of toxins from the body rather than an imminent illness. Some cats seem to do so almost at will, at times for no apparent reason.

A vomiting cat might expel undigested food and then eat it again. A mother may vomit her food so that her kittens will have a soft, predigested meal. As a general rule, the longer the interval between eating and vomiting, the lower in the digestive tract is the problem. Vomiting which is not related to eating frequently is associated with an infectious disease or central nervous system disorder.

The most common cause of vomiting is eating grass or some other indigestible material such as hair which is irritating to the stomach. Almost every cat experiences this at one time or another. Overeating, or eating too fast are two other common causes. If your cat vomits once or twice, but appears perfectly normal and shows no signs of illness, his condition is probably not serious and can be treated at home.

The serious causes of vomiting are infectious diseases, ingestion of poisons such as antifreeze or drugs (ex: aspirin), peritonitis and gastritis (stomach ache). Infectious diseases associated with vomiting include feline panleukopenia, tonsillitis, sore throat and acute metritis.

Most of the time it is possible to get a clue to your cat's problem by noticing how he vomits and what he vomits.

The following types of vomiting may be serious:

Repeated vomiting : The cat vomits his food, followed by a clear frothy liquid. This type of vomiting usually suggests a stomach irritant such as grass, hairballs or spoiled food, but also may suggest an infectious disease.

Sporadic vomiting : The cat vomits on and off but not continuously. There is usually no relation to meals and appetite is poor. The cat has a tired look. This could suggest a disorder of one of the internal organs like the liver or kidneys. It could also suggest either gastritis or diabetes. A vet call is definitely in order.

Vomiting blood : Fresh blood indicates a break in the mucous lining somewhere between the mouth and the upper small bowel. The most common cause is a foreign body, but this might also suggest the presence of a tumor or an ulcer. This condition is serious and also warrants a trip to the vet.

Fecal vomiting : If a cat vomits material that looks and smells like stool, he probably has an obstruction low in his intestinal tract or there is a penetrating abdominal wound. This condition will cause immediate dehydration due to loss of fluids and salts, and needs to be taken care of by a professional immediately.

Projectile vomiting : This is a forceful type of vomiting in which the stomach content is ejected suddenly at a considerable distance. It usually indicates a complete blockage of the upper gastrointestinal tract. It could be a harmless foreign object like a hairball or a more severe cause like a tumor or encephalitis.

Vomiting foreign objects : Hairballs, pieces of cloth, bone splinters, sticks and stones all can become too large to pass out of the stomach. These can be vomited by themselves, or with a clear frothy liquid. Kittens with heavy roundworm infestations might also vomit adult worms. These kittens must be treated.

Emotional Vomiting : Highly sensitive cats will vomit  when upset, excited jealous or in need of attention.

Motion Sickness :  Cats might suffer from car sickness. The usual signs are  restlessness followed by salivation, yawning, nausea and vomiting. Dramamine (12.5 mg) might become helpful if this behavior persists.

Your vomiting cat does not always require professional attention, but you should become aware of behavior patterns that exist prior to and during the act, in order to best treat the underlying cause.

 References: The Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Delbert G. Carlson, D.V.M and James M. Giffin, M.D. - First Edition

Chronic Vomiting in Cats - Part I

Chronic Vomiting in Cats - Part 2

Causes For Vomiting in Cats


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    • hglick profile image

      hglick 4 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      There are numerous reasons for throwing up. He may have ingested something that he shouldn't have. If this

      behavior continues I would seek professional help.

    • profile image

      bevsell7 4 years ago

      My cat 1yr started throwing up light brown liquid 1 day ago. This morning he was sitting over the water bowl. He took a few drinks. Will not eat & is lying around. The liquid had no particles in it at all. He is usually very active & has no problems eating. No plants in the house for him to eat. He is an only cat. Same cat food. Can't figure out his problems. He has urinated in the litter box, but bowels have not moved, but he has not eaten.

    • hglick profile image

      hglick 5 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      SandyCats, You should observe his behavior for a few days. If he continues crying when you touch his stomach, or he doesn't eat, you should get him to a vet immediately.

    • profile image

      SandyCats 5 years ago

      I gave my cat a bath 2 days ago and yesterday he threw up an epic hairball. I figured that stemmed from him licking himself dry catching all of that hair. Well today, he is definetly not himself, he doesn't want to be petted or loved. When I touch his belly he whines a little. And he can't seem to get comfortable. I put a little vasoline on his paws to maybe induce vomiting to maybe get another hairball out. What else should I do?

    • hglick profile image

      hglick 5 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      Matt, Good Luck

    • profile image

      Matt 5 years ago

      Our female gave birth on Friday night to 8 kittens, after caring throughout the night she was eating food line it was going out of fashion, she is bringing the food back up from time to time but is still very interested in the food and water, she has a slight diariha

    • hglick profile image

      hglick 6 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      thank you for the kind words timcgaa70. You may absolutely share this with others.

    • tlmcgaa70 profile image

      tlmcgaa70 6 years ago from south dakota, usa

      excellent hub. as a rescuer of cats i have had to deal with many types of vomiting. voted up, useful and interesting. also would like to share this on twitter and facebook for my cat loving friends if you don't mind.

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 6 years ago from Winnipeg

      Makes me sick to think of my little cats getting sick. Fortunately so far, they have only vomited due to hairballs or eating too much grass. Really good info here though, I never knew there were so many different reasons. Thanks for sharing!

    • lilash84 profile image

      lilash84 6 years ago from TX

      good info!

    • hglick profile image

      hglick 6 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      Zannie, eating too fast is a common habit of cats. My cats do it all the time, and frequently leave behind messes.

      PegCole, that is correct. You can confirm the absence of a health problem if your Auntie's cat does not change it's eating habits or behavior.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      You have eased my mind on this subject. My 91 yo Auntie's cat occasionally throws up and I was concerned. Sounds like it is pretty normal for cats to do.

    • Zannie10 profile image

      Zannie10 7 years ago

      You are definitely correct with this. My cat vomits quite often and it is because she has a sensitive stomach and eats her food too fast. Vets can definitely help if one doesn't know why his or her cat is vomitting.

    • brettb profile image

      brettb 7 years ago from London

      I think cats vomit just to annoy us.

    • hglick profile image

      hglick 7 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      thank you Ceholmes and Debby

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 7 years ago

      Great Hub. Thank you so much. Debby

    • profile image

      cooly 7 years ago

      i don't know f my cat has an illness

    • ceholmes profile image

      ceholmes 7 years ago from Chicago

      great article, but that cat pic is something else! lol.

    • hglick profile image

      hglick 7 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      littlemelch, this article does not claim to be the foremost authority on "why a cat vomits" . It is meant to be a general guide. You are free to seek information from numerous other sources on the internet regarding vomiting cats, If you don't feel your questions are answered here.

      Also, you should take all comments with a grain of salt. They definitely do not claim to be experts.

    • profile image

      littlemelch 7 years ago

      I find this article irresponsible in that it completely skips over a number of very important reasons why cats vomit. For example, chronic projectile vomiting is a symptom of renal (kidney) failure issues and it can be managed with a renal diet (which also can extend the cat's life). People here are commenting that barfing after eating is because they eat to fast. Sometimes, yes, and sometimes NO!! Sometimes the problem is much worse.

    • Cindy Letchworth profile image

      Cindy Letchworth 7 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

      Thanks for all the info here. You've provided some good things to consider should an owner have this problem.

    • hglick profile image

      hglick 7 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      Excellent info LucyBelle

    • profile image

      LucyBelle 7 years ago

      My two cats suffered from car sickness,nausea and vomiting. I couldn't even take them on a very short trip. I tried Dramamine but it didn't work. An antistatic strap solved my problem.

    • hglick profile image

      hglick 8 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      Thank You Lady G for your kind comments

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 8 years ago from West By God

      Thank you very much for this article. I have a few outdoor cats that will vomit right after they eat. Now I know why. I assumed they were sick when it really is tht they ate too fast. It usually is right after I feed them in the morning. They don't do it at any other time and then after they do it they act as if nothing happened. They will continue to munch the rest of the day. I cannot keep food down for them at night because I have raccoons and possums that will come and eat it and think it is free food and they have the right to it.

      Thanks again for your hub!

    • hglick profile image

      hglick 8 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      engagementring, cats vomit for many benign reasons and are not necessarily sick.

    • Hongliang Zhang profile image

      Hongliang Zhang 8 years ago from China

      Here kitten is too cute!

    • EngagementRing profile image

      EngagementRing 8 years ago from Los Angeles

      This article caught my attention, I have 4 cats and they all vomit from time to time but they are all old and the vet says that they're alright.

    • hglick profile image

      hglick 8 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      Hairball vomiting is very common. Yes stars that's what it probably is related to

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 8 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      our cat missy is very particular and dainty. she is pretty long haired white and once in a great while she will upchuck food. we think it might be hair ball related. informative articles that are very good. god bless

    • hglick profile image

      hglick 8 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      yes indeed Leslie, those quick eating cats sometimes can be cured by feeding them small portions periodically until their limit is reached

    • broussardleslie profile image

      Leslie Broussard 8 years ago

      The hairball gels seems to really work well.

      My cats typically vomit from eating too quickly. Very annoying, but thankfully no illness.

      Thanks for the hub!


    • hglick profile image

      hglick 8 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY

      Yes Peggy, you are quite correct. Hairballs are the most common irritant. There are many hairball remedy dry foods made by popular brands like ONE and IAMS. In addition, there is an inexpensive remedy that you can pick up at your local Petco or WalMart called Petromalt. It comes in a squeeze tube. You squeeze a small amount onto the paws of your cat and they will lick it clean.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Ours are inside cats and hairballs seem to be the most common irritant. Since we have changed to more expensive cat food with no artificial dyes, there seems to be much less of that. Also does not stain the carpet as much when they do have the occasional incident.

    • Charia Samher profile image

      Charia Samher 8 years ago

      Yeah I think it's kinda normal thing for cats to vomit. I always see one in the neighborhood.