Cat Throwing Up: When To Go To The Vet

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / November 1, 2018
cat throwing up

Your furry feline is your best friend. Through thick and thin, they have always been by your side. You would do just about anything in the world to ensure their happiness and wellbeing. Therefore, when your kitty isn’t feeling their best it can really take a toll on both of you.

When health issues arise it can also be a bit frustrating for a pet parent. You do all that you can to make sure your cat is being fed a well-balanced diet. You make sure they are provided both physical and mental stimulation. Finally, you consistently monitor their health… so why are they suddenly vomiting without warning?

Studies show that there are a slew of reasons why your cat may be experiencing gastrointestinal upset. The causes range from mild to severe making it imperative for cat owners to get to the bottom of why their cat is vomiting. Let’s begin!

cat throwing up

Different Types of Cat Vomiting

Before we cover the exact causes as to why your cat may be throwing up, it is important for pet owners to understand that there are two main types of cat vomiting: acute and chronic.

Acute Cat Vomiting – refers to when the throw-up is sudden and without warning.

Chronic Vomiting – refers to when throwing up is ongoing. There may be periods of time where your cat doesn’t vomit as much, but the throwing up is continually happening.

Causes for Acute Throwing Up

Acute vomiting can often be hard to diagnose as its often over as quickly as it began. However, it is important to cat owners to recognize that vomiting itself is not an illness but rather a telltale symptom that something isn’t right. Therefore, whenever possible, getting to the bottom of why your cat is experiencing acute vomiting is key to preventing it from happening in the future.

Dietary Reasons Resulting in Throw Up

Diet is one of the most common culprits behind why your cat is throwing up. It is imperative that pet parents realize the importance of diet and how your cat’s food can make a world of difference in their life.

Rendered Food

We encourage our readers to take a look at the ingredients on the label of your cat’s food. Many brands of cat food are considered to be “rendered.” If you’re unfamiliar with the term it may surprise you as to what exactly it entails.

Rendered foods are not approved for human consumption, yet they often make up large portions of your cat’s diet. These foods often include things such as bird beaks and feathers and animal hooves, eyes, and heads. While these ingredients are considered to be “proteins,” they can cause your feline to experience a significant amount of gastrointestinal issues, including acute vomiting, due to the fact that they can be challenging for the stomach to fully digest. We recommend cat food that is “human-grade” whenever possible.


Additionally, treats are often a cause when it comes to why your cat is throwing up. We know that you want nothing more than to make your fur baby happy, and that often means showering them with treats. However, these treats can wreak havoc on your cat’s stomach.

Again, we encourage our readers to take a look at the ingredients included in your cat’s treats. Ingredients like surfactants, dyes, emulsifiers, propylene glycol, FDC red #4 (and plenty of others) are commonly found in cat treats, yet should always be avoided! It is important for pet owners to make sure that their cat’s treats are of the highest quality, just like their cat’s food should be.


The last dietary reason why your cat may be vomiting is milk. If you are a cat owner, you likely know how quickly your cat will slurp of a bowl of milk if it is placed in front of them. However, cats are unable to properly digest the cow’s milk. Therefore, after gobbling down a bowl of dairy milk, vomiting will often ensue.

Eating Too Fast

Aside from dietary causes of cat vomiting that are in your control, there are other reasons why your cat may be throwing up that also involve food. Cats are quadruped, their esophagus is horizontal, not vertical. Therefore, cats that eat way too fast are often prone to vomiting. In many cases, cats may regurgitate completely undigested food several minutes after eating it if they consumed it too quickly.

Many pet owners find themselves not knowing how to slow their cat’s eating habits down. We have found that the easiest fix for this is to only give your feline a small amount of food at a time. Also, if you live in a multi-cat household, your cat may be eating quickly for fear that if they don’t eat all their food, another member of their feline family will. In these cases, try separating your cats at mealtime. Ensuring that your cat has around 20 minutes of stress-free eating will allow them to consume their food slowly and avoid vomiting shortly after.

eating too fast can cause cat throwing up

Switching Food Too Quickly

We understand that you may have a picky eater on your hands. Some cats will turn their noses up at food that they happily gobbled down the week before. Many cat owners find themselves constantly switching up their cat’s food in order to make sure their feline is enjoying mealtime. However, switching food too quickly can often lead to gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea. Whenever switching food, be sure to do so slowly. Gradually introduce the new food with their current food in order to avoid any gastrointestinal upset and, therefore, prevent vomiting.

Ingesting Foreign Objects

Luckily, unlike dogs, cats don’t tend to eat everything in site, including inedible objects. However, cats are known to clean themselves on a consistent basis. Constant cleaning often results in ingesting foreign bodies like hairballs. If your cat has long hair, they may be inadvertently ingesting quite a bit of hair without realizing it. With that said, short-haired cats can also experience vomiting due to ingesting too much hair.

Additionally, if you have several cats you’ll want to make sure that one kitty isn’t grooming the rest of their feline family members. Your cat’s gastrointestinal tract isn’t designed to be able to digest so much fur, which often results in the cat throwing up.

Cat owners should look for cylindrical plugs in their cat’s vomit, a telltale sign that they are throwing up hairballs. In order to help your cat’s digestive tract work a bit more effectively, cat owners may want to consider adding a fiber supplement to their cat’s diet.

Chemicals & Toxins

Next, your cat’s acute vomiting may be linked to ingesting chemicals and/or toxins. Sudden, acute vomiting is often a result of poisoning. It is common for some cats to vomit from time to time, but if your cat is vomiting seemingly out of nowhere and the vomit appears severe, they may be experiencing some form of poisoning. If for any reason you feel that your cat may have ingested toxins it is imperative that you seek medical intervention straight away. You can also call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435. They will be able to walk you through exactly what to do next.

Intestinal Parasites

Another possible cause of acute vomiting in cats is due to the presence of intestinal parasites. Transmitted through a contaminated water source, intestinal parasites can greatly affect your cat’s gastrointestinal tract and lead to severe, acute vomiting. A parasitic infestation will also cause diarrhea, anemia, and a weakened immune system which can ultimately lead to your cat being more prone to contracting additional infections. It is imperative that cat owners understand their feline’s risk of intestinal parasites. In certain areas of the country, prevalence rates can be as high as 45%.

worms in cats can cause cat throwing up

Intestinal parasites include:

  • Roundworms
  • Stomach Worms
  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Whipworms
  • Isospora sp. (coccidia)
  • Giardia
  • Toxoplasma

Additionally, some gastrointestinal parasites have the ability to be transmitted to humans. This fact is troubling for more reason than one (obviously). Therefore, a timely diagnosis and effective treatment plan are paramount in ensuring that not only your cat starts feeling better, but also so that you do not contract the disease.

Gastrointestinal Inflammation

Inflammation of the gallbladder, small intestine, and colon can also result in vomiting in cats. However, when it comes to inflammation, vomiting is only the beginning of possible problems. In fact, when we trace the vast majority of ailments back to the root cause, we find they have one major thing in common: inflammation.

Inflammation is often the cause of diseases like cancer as well as responsible for the development of severe health concerns. Of course, you’ll want to first cure your cat’s vomiting, however, it is even more so important that the cat owner determines how to best resolve and manage their inflammation.

Acute Liver Failure and Acute Kidney Failure

We likely don’t have to tell you how important it is to have a properly functioning liver and kidney. When there is something wrong with the detoxifying organs, one clinical sign is acute vomiting. This is not to say that if your cat is throwing up that there is something wrong with their liver or kidneys. In fact, vomiting is a non-specific symptom. Yes, it is a symptom of acute liver failure and acute kidney failure, yet (as you can see from the aforementioned causes), it is also a symptom of many other ailments. With that said, it is always important for your veterinarian to make sure that the vital organs are fully functioning.

A Bacterial Infection in the Gastrointestinal Tract

A small amount of bacteria in your cat’s gastrointestinal tract is completely normal. However, if there is an overgrowth of bacteria it can cause quite a bit of gastrointestinal upset and thus lead to acute vomiting. Most bacterial infections clear up on their own in about a week. However, we always recommend consulting with your veterinarian regarding an appropriate treatment plan when it comes to bacterial infections. Many will reappear if not handled correctly in the beginning and it is better to resolve the issue sooner rather than later.


Acute vomiting in cats is also a sign of inflammation of the pancreas. Again, inflammation is at the root of countless conditions. When it comes to vomiting, it is always important for your vet to get to the bottom of what is causing it to occur. Pancreatitis is a disease that can often progress quite rapidly. However, if caught early enough, treatment can help prevent any permanent damage to the pancreas.

Cat Throwing Up Bile

While vomiting bile is often related to hairballs, it can also be a sign of a kidney problem, a viral infection, or an endocrine issue. If you cat vomits bile once in a blue moon, it typically isn’t a cause for alarm. However, if your cat is persistently vomiting the yellow, foamy bile, it is important to receive a proper medical diagnosis in order to ensure that there isn’t a larger issue that needs to be addressed.

Post-Operative Vomit

It is also common for cats to experience severe nausea as well as acute vomiting after they have surgery. Once your cat’s body fully flushes out any medications, the acute vomiting will stop. However, in the meantime, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-vomiting medications to help alleviate additional distress.

Side Effect of Medication

Lastly, acute vomiting is also a common side effect of many conventional medications. If the medication responsible for causing the acute vomiting is for a chronic condition, you will want to talk to your veterinarian about the other medicinal options available.

Chronic Reasons for Cat Throw Up

The second type of vomiting is known as chronic. Chronic cat vomiting refers to ongoing episodes of throwing up. It is important for pet parents to understand that no type of cat vomiting should be considered “normal.” When it comes to chronic vomiting, it is also important to realize that your cat’s persistent vomiting is a telltale sign that there is an underlying issue that has not been rectified.

Food Allergies = Chronic Cat Puking

Chronic vomiting can be a telltale sign of a food intolerance or food allergy in cats. Just like people, certain foods may not be happily digested by your cat’s stomach, thus resulting in chronic vomiting until the food source is changed.the same protein source can cause cat throwing up

Additionally, cats can develop an allergy if the same food is given year after year. If your cat is maintaining a healthy weight and hasn’t had a shift in their energy levels, yet is experiencing chronic vomiting, it is possible that they may have developed a food allergy.

Many cat owners don’t realize that feeding their feline friend the same protein source over and over (even if it is high quality) can actually lead to the development of a food allergy. The food allergy is a result of inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Switching up your cat’s food every three months is an effective way to help prevent the gastrointestinal inflammation and the development of food allergies and therefore also prevent vomiting.

As always, we recommend talking to your veterinarian regarding any dietary changes that you may want to consider making.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastritis, enteritis, pancreatitis, and colitis can all be causes of chronic vomiting. Each condition can lead to the development of serious issues if not handled appropriately. For example, chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and can directly lead to GI lymphoma. With that said, chronic vomiting should never be overlooked.

Chronic Toxicity

Persistent, chronic vomiting may also be due to consuming or inhaling a poisonous substance for an extended period of time. The most common culprit which affects both people and cats is lead.

Neurological Disorders

There are a number of neurological disorders that can result from both injury or infection. While they are significantly different, all of these neurological disorders have chronic vomiting as a main symptom.

Intestinal Obstruction

The accumulation of ingested solids and fluids within the intestinal tract often causes intestinal obstruction. A common symptom of intestinal obstruction is chronic vomiting.

Intestinal Parasites

Finally, like acute vomiting, chronic vomiting can often result from the presence of intestinal parasites if the infestation isn’t treated straight away.

Other Symptoms to Be Aware Of!

As we previously mentioned, chronic vomiting is a non-specific symptom. In other words, it is a symptom of a slew of conditions making the cause of the vomiting often difficult to diagnose. In order to help your veterinarian get to the bottom of why your cat is throwing up, be sure to take note of whether the following symptoms are also present:

  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in appetite and water intake
  • Blood in vomit
  • Blood in diarrhea

When to Go to the Vet

If your cat is experiencing either acute or chronic vomiting there are a few questions you should ask yourself.

  1. How old is your cat?
  2. How is your cat’s overall health?
  3. Is it possible your feline consumed something poisonous?
  4. How often is the vomiting occurring?
  5. Was the vomiting a one-time occurrence?

Again, no vomit should be considered “normal.” We feel that it is always better to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to our furbabies. If you feel like something is wrong, trust your gut. Make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Treatment for Cat Throwing Up

Most often, treatment for cat vomiting involves withholding food and water until the vomiting subsides for at least two hours. Then, pet parents will be advised to slowly reintroduce water and a bland diet.

It is important for cat owners to understand that treating their cat’s vomiting by no means is a “cure” for the underlying issue that is ultimately causing the vomiting to occur in the first place.

Preventing Cat Throwing Up

Preventing cat vomiting first entails understanding what caused it to develop. In many cases, cat owners are able to make lifestyle changes in order to help prevent their cat from experiencing both acute and chronic episodes of throwing up.

Simple changes like switching to a high-quality food source and removing any potentially toxic plants is a great way to start.

If your cat’s acute vomiting is due to ingesting too much hair, pet owners may want to purchase a grooming brush to help out in the maintenance department. This will help to prevent your cat from swallowing too much hair and, therefore, help prevent vomiting.

Preventing cat vomiting ultimately depends on what caused it to develop.

Cat Throwing Up: A Final Thought

At the end of the day, we know that you want nothing but the best for your four-legged friend. When it comes to throwing up, do your best to try not to panic. The most important thing is recognizing that there is an issue that needs to be addressed, so you’re already on your way to getting your feline back on track.

While we understand that sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly why your cat is throwing up. Yet, whenever possible, it is important to do so. The only way to truly cure your cat’s vomiting and prevent it from recurring in the future is to understand what caused it to happen in the first place.

When all is said and done, cat vomiting is a condition that should be taken seriously. Small amounts of vomit every once in a while may not be a cause for alarm. However, we feel it is always better to be safe than sorry… particularly when it comes to your feline. From all of us at Simple Wag, we sincerely hope your kitty feels better soon!

About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for