Why Do Cats Throw Up?

Written by Austin S.
Published: May 27, 2022
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Cats usually throw up even without suffering from any ailment, but it is not safe if it becomes frequent.  

Knowing what to do when your cat constantly throws up is essential to the cat’s life as most causes could be life-threatening. 

To better understand why your cat throws up, we will be providing you with details of the cause and the steps you can take when you notice any unusual vomiting from your cat. You will also learn how to identify vomits in your cats that require medical attention from the normal ones. 

Why Cats Throw Up 

Hairballs are a natural trigger of vomit in cats. If your cat throws up a hairball once in a week or two, that is nothing to be worried about – it helps them avoid blockage of their intestines. Cats with longhair frequently swallow wads of fur. 

Other causes of cats’ vomiting include; food poisoning, internal parasites, foreign objects in their digestive system, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, cancer, kidney diseases, and hyperthyroidism

These causes can be life-threatening, but quick intervention and treatment can save your cat’s life. If you notice an unusually prolonged vomiting, check with your vet. 

While sometimes, It can be challenging to understand the real ‘Why’ behind your cat throwing up, a constant check-up with your vet would be a great way to start. 

However, in other not to give your vet false alerts, compare your cat’s health and behavioral history with its present reaction; this will help you a sound judgment of the possible reasons why your cat vomits. 

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Consider some of these questions when trying to figure out exactly why your dog is vomiting;

  • Does the cat eat well?
  • Is your cat currently under medication?
  • Do they have diarrhea?
  • Do they vomit during or after eating? If after eating, what time and how often?
  • Does your cat seem to be losing weight?
  • Did you notice excess urination or excess water consumption?
  • Do you notice any exposition to plants and other toxins?
  • At what point did you notice the abnormal vomiting?
  • What does your cat eat?
  • Does your cat hunt or often prefer to be outdoor?
  • What do you see in its vomit?
  • Do you notice an abnormal eating disorder?
  • Does your cat love to play with strings?

The answer to the above questions can give you an insight into why your cat is vomiting and give your vet an insight into what should be done. 

While the color of your cat’s vomit does not give a perfect correlation to the reason or cause of their unusual throw-up, it can profer some clues; 

White, Foamy Vomit

White foamy vomit is often just regurgitation from an empty stomach or the esophagus. 

Blood in the Vomit

It’s either the blood from the mouth, stomach, or esophagus, whichever one it is. It requires prompt medical attention. 

Brown, Smelly Vomit

It could result from some brown smelly food or bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract. 

Yellow Vomit

Though it could mean your cat ate some yellowish substance, this can also be bile or liver disease. 

Clear Vomit

It’s either due to an empty stomach or regurgitation from the esophagus. 

Coffee-Ground Vomit

Coffee-colored vomit is often due to an ulcer – it is a kind of bleeding from the stomach. 

Undigested-Food Vomit

Anything that causes upper gastrointestinal tract irritation can make your cat vomit. It could be a food intolerance, allergies, or just obstructions. Note that if your cat has not had food in a day but still vomits undigested food, this could be due to an obstruction. 

Cat Throwing Up: Difference Between Vomiting and Regurgitation 

As a cat owner, you must have seen your cat throw up before, and sometimes you’re confused if you should be worried or not. 

While it is normal for cats to throw up a hairball due to significant ingestion of fur or hair during grooming, it’s a Reg flag you should pay attention to if they are throwing up habitually. 

The timelines, frequency, and colors of the vomit also play a significant role in identifying the reason and seriousness of the situation. 

Vomiting and Regurgitating happen concurrently, but both are not the same. For pet parents, an awareness of the difference between vomiting and regurgitating is key to knowing what is happening to your cat. 


Regurgitating refers to the expulsion of the mouth, throat, and esophagus contents; this often happens when they probably overate or try to digest the ones they ate. Contrary to vomiting happens spontaneously, without prior notice. Your cat is fine this minute, and the next, it spits up without heaving or retching. 


On the other hand, vomiting is a forceful expulsion of the intestine and stomatal contents. Unlike regurgitation, vomiting lasts for several hours, during which the cat may look unwell, drool, and exhibit abnormal heaving, before finally vomiting. 

Knowing the one your cat is experiencing will allow you and your vet to narrow down the possible reason and cause of their throw-up. 

Causes Of Vomiting In Cats

Many reasons can make your cat vomit, but we have highlighted the typical and severe causes, see below;


Cats use their rough tongues to extract loosened fur from their coat when they lick themselves, which is later swallowed; this could result in a high amount of hair being stored in their stomach. The accumulated hairball forces the cat to expunge the hair to prevent its digestive system from being blocked. 

You can reduce their chances of swallowing more hairs by brushing their fur more often and getting rid of shed hair.

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Gastroenteritis means stomach upset – which occurs due to pills or prescription side effects, harmful toxins, or even changes in diet. It often reverses with time, but some might require vet attention. 

Obstructions or Foreign Bodies

Things like toys, pieces of rope, hair ties, or foreign objects can lead to vomit in cats. Ingesting any of them can lead to blockage of the gastrointestinal tract, which can cause vomiting. You will need to consult with your vet for immediate medical attention in such a scenario. 

IBD and Food Allergies 

Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD and food allergies are not common in cats. Still, they can happen if the cat eats any food that triggers the inflammation in the digestive system. Some cats can also have severe diarrhea due to IBD and allergies. 

System Illness

Chronic diseases like kidney ailment, pancreatitis, and hyperthyroidism can make your cat nauseous and throw up. Once the illness has been treated, the throwing up also stops in this instance. 


Kittens suffer more parasite vomits even though it can happen to animals of any age. Pet owners might find worms in their pets, but the good news is that treating the parasites will also stop the vomit. 


Common in most cats is cancer of the digestive system, and it can cause them to throw up by hindering their regular digestion. Cancers of any other body part can make your cat queasy, uncomfortable, and malaise, leading to vomiting. 

Why Should I Be Concerned About My Cat Throwing Up? 

While it is not unusual for your cat to experience occasional hairball throw-up, any difference in the volume, frequency, and consistency of vomits is a cause for concern. 

When you notice any of the symptoms listed below, you should worry about your cat and offer them up for vet treatment; 

  • Fever
  • Appetite loss
  • Fever
  • A difference in litter box habits 
  • Diarrhea
  • Other health or behavioral changes. 

Consult with your doctor if you notice any of the above in your cat for further recommendation. 

What To Do If My Cat Is Throwing Up: Home Remedies 

You are only advised to give your cat over-the-counter hairball medicine often to prevent its hair from passing through its digestive system based on veterinary recommendations. 

Most causes of vomits in cats could be life-threatening, hence the need for quick medical expert intervention. 

Do not administer any medication to your cat, even if it is an over-the-counter treatment except prescribed by your vet. 

How To Prevent Vomiting In Cats

Often, the causes of vomiting in cats can be controlled or managed. Try some of these suggestions highlighted below to prevent your cat from abnormal throw up;

  • Watch out for their diet: Your cat should not be eating table scraps – make sure they eat a balanced diet and high-quality foods
  • Protect them from eating non-consumable items; Keep watch over your cat to prevent them from ingesting non-food items like toys, house plants, or string. 
  • Please consult with your vet about special diets: If your cat has been identified with conditions like food allergies or IBD, feeding them a particular diet according to your vet’s prescription can prevent vomiting. 
  • Try an over-the-counter hairball remedy: If your cat has long hair or frequently grows hairballs, talk to your vet about the OTC medication to help stop throwing caused by hairballs. 
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Though expected, throwing up in cats can be managed if it becomes frequent. Always check with your vets to know your cat’s health status – some severe conditions with vomit symptoms can be managed long before they escalate if your cat constantly checks with the vet. 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Jeng_Niamwhan

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

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