Cat Vomiting: How To Tell If It's Serious (2023)

Table of Contents

What is Acute Cat Vomiting?

Cat Vomiting: How To Tell If It's Serious (1)

Acute vomiting refers to a sudden vomiting episode that lasts for 1 to 2 days. Cats with acute vomiting don’t usually have other symptoms.

Acute vomiting is a relatively benign condition that more often than not resolves on its own, without treatment. In other words, most acute vomiting episodes are self-limiting.

What is Chronic Cat Vomiting?

Chronic vomiting, according to PetMd, refers to ongoing vomiting that lasts for more than a couple of days and several times per day.

Chronic vomiting is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as appetite loss, abdominal pain, weight loss, and depression. Unlike acute, chronic vomiting requires veterinary attention and proper management.

What Causes Cat Vomiting?

The list of cat vomiting causes is long and complex. To make things easier for understanding, we will review the causes of cat vomiting in two different categories – as causes of acute and causes of chronic cat vomiting.

(Video) Why Do Cats Vomit? A Vet Explains How to Help

Cat Vomiting: How To Tell If It's Serious (2)

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Acute Cat Vomiting. The underlying causes of acute vomiting range from benign to severe. Therefore, it is important for pet owners to know these causes and act accordingly. Here is an overview of the causes of acute cat vomiting:

(Video) Why Do Cats VOMIT? - 8 Most Common CAUSES

  • Dietary Reasons for Cat Vomiting. One of the most common causes of vomiting in cats is diet. Cat food may contain byproducts that can upset the cat’s stomach. Sudden changes in the cat’s diet can also trigger vomiting and diarrhea. Make sure your cat’s food is high-quality and free from harmful ingredients.
  • Treats and Milk. Just like cat food, cat treats often contain ingredients that can irritate the cat’s gastrointestinal tract and cause vomiting. Milk and other dairy products have the same effect since most adult cats are lactose intolerant.
  • Eating Too Fast. A cat vomiting or regurgitating undigested food is an indicator it ate the food too fast. Namely, if the food gets gulped down the esophagus too fast, chances are it will come back the same way.
  • Consuming Foreign Bodies. Cats may swallow a foreign body (pieces of string, hairballs) which, once in the digestive tract, triggers irritation, and vomiting. In more severe cases, a foreign object may cause blockage. Long-haired cats are particularly prone to hairballs.
  • Toxins or Chemicals. Ingestion of toxins or chemicals causes vomiting. Pet parents must know that many common household plants and products are toxic for cats. If your suspect your cat ate something toxic, call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435.
  • Intestinal Parasites. Intestinal parasites are common in cats, and they trigger an array of symptoms, including vomiting. Some parasites are dangerous for the cat owner as well. Common intestinal parasites are tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms.
  • Acute Kidney and Liver Failure. Kidney disease and liver disease may trigger vomiting in cats. Both conditions are life-threatening and require prompt and adequate veterinary attention. In such cases, vomiting is the least of the problems.
  • Gastrointestinal Inflammation and Infection. Inflammations and infections of any portion of the gastrointestinal tract will result in vomiting. The inflammation is often caused by poor dietary choices, while infections are caused by bacteria and viruses.
  • Pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas (also known as pancreatitis) is accompanied by vomiting. Pancreatitis is a severe condition – painful and potentially life-threatening. A cat with pancreatitis needs to be stabilized immediately.
  • Certain Human Medications. Some human medications can make cats experience nausea and develop acute vomiting. Considering that some meds can even be toxic to cats, it is highly recommended to consult with a vet before self-medicating your cat.

Chronic Cat Vomiting. The possible causes of chronic vomiting in cats are generally more severe and require a more detailed approach. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common causes of chronic cat vomiting:

  • Dietary Causes. Food allergies and intolerances are among the most common causes of chronic vomiting in cats. Getting to the bottom of your cat’s food allergies requires finding the offending protein and removing it from the diet.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) causes chronic vomiting in cats. IBD has a negative impact on the cat’s overall quality of life. The treatment for IBD depends on the exact type of cells involved in the inflammatory process.
  • Intestinal Obstruction. Intestinal obstruction results from the accumulation of ingested solids and fluids in the intestinal tract. In such cases, cats vomit to relieve the build-up. Large clumps of intestinal parasites may also cause blockage and vomiting in cats.
  • Neurological Disorders. Injuries and infections of the central nervous system in cats may trigger neurological disorders, which may end up causing vomiting. A cat with such issues will show many neurological signs in addition to vomiting.
  • Metabolic and Hormonal Imbalances. Problems with the normal metabolic processes may result in chronic vomiting. Chronic cat vomiting can also be triggered by hormonal issues like an overly active thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).

What does the Color of Cat Vomit Mean?

Emergency Vets USA states that the color of a cat’s vomit is important to note, and may help a vet better diagnose the underlying issue on a cat’s health.

Here is a short overview of the different cat vomit colors and their meaning.

Brown Cat Vomit. Regular cat food and treats are brown, which may affect the color of the vomit. The cat’s vomit may also be colored brown if it contains blood. It is recommended to clean up vomit with a white paper towel so blood can be easier to spot.

Green Cat Vomit. If a cat’s vomit is green, this could be due to the cat eating some kind of plant material. Green vomit can also be an indicator of bile presence. This can happen if a cat gets sick on an empty stomach.

Yellow Cat Vomit. If a cat’s vomit is yellow, this is also an indicator that bile is present. This typically means they are vomiting on an empty stomach and not because of something they ate. Basically, yellow cat vomit is relatively benign.

Red Cat Vomit. If a cat’s vomit is red, there might be some source of bleeding in the digestive tract (for example, an ulcer). Internal bleeding can be life-threatening and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Black Cat Vomit. If a cat’s vomit is black and tarry, it usually contains digested blood (which looks like coffee grounds). Black cat vomit is a red flag that requires veterinary attention. It can also be caused by the cat eating black-colored human foods.

White Cat Vomit. If a cat’s vomit is white, it usually means there is foam present in the vomit. This does not make a cat’s condition more serious and is usually a result of the cat vomiting on an empty stomach.

How Much Cat Vomit is Normal?

Although all cats throw up occasionally, vomiting is not normal behavior according to WebMD. It is important to see a vet if the cat is vomiting more than once a week or consistently every few weeks.

(Video) What Should I Do If My Cat Is Vomiting

A cat throwing up may signify she is eating too fast, too much, or simply attempting to get rid of hairballs. These reasons are not life-threatening but are uncomfortable, so it is better to prevent them.

What to Give a Cat for Vomiting?

Cat Vomiting: How To Tell If It's Serious (3)

If a cat is experiencing acute vomiting due to issues like excessive hairballs, there are certain treats and chews that can be purchased.

  1. Natural Hairball Control Chews for Cats.

These chicken and cranberry flavored chews will help to prevent and eliminate hairball formation. They also promote skin, fur, and coat health while relieving itch and irritation.

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  1. Dechra Cat Lax Hairball Formula.

This edible gel is not only tasty for cats but also helps to prevent and eliminate hairballs in cats. It comes in a three-pack of two-ounce tubes.

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  1. HomeoPet Digestive Upsets Drops

These digestive drops are great for cats with constipation, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. They are specifically good for cats who vomit after eating or from eating too much.

Get it on Chewy

  1. Sentry Hairball gel Relief for Cats

This edible gel helps in the prevention and elimination of hairballs. The gel is also useful for relieving hairball-related constipation, dry cough, and vomiting.

(Video) Is cat vomiting serious? Should you see a vet?

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  1. Greenies Hairball Prevention Chews

These chicken-flavored chewable treats help minimize hairball formation. They are made of plant-based fiber and promote healthy digestion.

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When Should I Be Concerned About My Cat Vomiting?

In many cases, vomiting is considered to be a non-specific symptom, making it challenging to diagnose a disorder solely in the presence of vomiting. In general, you should be concerned if the vomiting is chronic or accompanied by other signs and symptoms.

Common signs and symptoms accompanying cat vomiting are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Retching
  • Weight loss
  • Upset Stomach
  • Dehydration
  • Bloody vomit
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Appetite loss
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Fluctuation in water intake
  • Frequent trips to the litter box

Furthermore, pet owners should monitor the frequency of the vomit and when it occurs (e.g., after eating, being outdoors).

How do Veterinarians Diagnose Cat Vomiting?

To diagnose cat vomiting, the vet will start with a physical exam. It should be noted that vomiting is not a diagnosis – it is a symptom. Therefore, the vet’s goal is to determine what is making the cat vomit.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the veterinarian will perform the following diagnostic tests and procedures:

  • Blood Work
  • X-rays of the abdomen
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Endoscopy
  • Exploratory laparotomy.

How will a Vet Treat Cat Vomiting?

Cat Vomiting: How To Tell If It's Serious (4)

Typically, the treatment of cat vomiting involves withholding food and water until to give the upset stomach time to settle. Once the vomiting has stopped, pet parents will be advised to slowly reintroduce water and then a bland diet.

(Video) VOMITING IN CATS 😿Types, Causes and What to Do

The above-mentioned approach works for cats with acute vomiting. Chronic cat vomiting is a more serious condition that requires veterinary attention – finding and treating the underlying cause while providing supportive care.

The treatment for cat vomiting can be costly, especially if the underlying issue is severe. In such cases, it is helpful to have good pet insurance. We strongly recommend OneVet, which provides 24/7 access to licensed vets and up to $3.000 in emergency funds.

FAQs

When should I be concerned about my cat vomiting? ›

If your cat is experiencing repeated bouts of vomiting, you should contact your vet immediately. Continuous or severe vomiting could be a sign that your cat is seriously ill and requires immediate treatment. Contact your vet if your cat displays any of the symptoms below: Repeated vomiting.

What is abnormal cat vomit? ›

Many cats vomit on occasion, but cats that vomit more frequently than once per week or that show signs of lethargy, weakness, decreased appetite, blood in the vomitus, increased thirst, increased or decreased urination, or simultaneous diarrhea should be evaluated by a veterinarian promptly.

How long should a cat vomit before going to the hospital? ›

“But any cat who vomits and doesn't eat for longer than 12 hours, seems lethargic and appears to be losing weight, should be evaluated by a veterinarian,” he advises.

What color should a cat's vomit be? ›

Dark, tarry or coffee ground-like bits in vomit can indicate partially digested blood, and that means a visit to the veterinarian. If cat vomit is yellow or pale green, that could be bile and indicate an underlying disease or condition.

What do different types of cat vomit mean? ›

Clear vomit: This can be regurgitation from the esophagus or from an empty stomach. White, foamy vomit: Again, this is typically regurgitation from the esophagus or from an empty stomach. Blood in the vomit: The blood is from the mouth, esophagus or stomach.

What will a vet do for a vomiting cat? ›

Treatment may include intravenous fluids, antiemetics (anti-vomiting drugs) and stomach protectants. If a blockage is suspected then surgery may be discussed.

Do cats throw up when they have an infection? ›

Some common infections that can cause cats to vomit include intestinal worms, a bacterial infection in the stomach, FeLV (feline leukemia virus), FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), FIP (feline infectious peritonitis), or Panleukopenia (“feline distemper”). Even heartworm disease can cause your cat to vomit.

How often is normal for cats to throw up? ›

All cats are going to throw up every once in a while, but a common misconception is that vomiting is normal behavior for cats. If your cat is throwing up more than once a week, or even consistently every few weeks, you should see your vet. Frequent or repeated vomiting is not normal behavior for your cat.

How can I settle my cats stomach? ›

White rice in their regular cat food. Canned pumpkin or pumpkin treats for the fiber (Nummy Tum-Tum is a great pumpkin-based treat for cats) Bland food (Hill's Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care Cat Food) Probiotics labeled for cats (Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Fortiflora Probiotic)

Does my cat have food poisoning? ›

Symptoms of cat food poisoning by Salmonella

Diarrhoea. Lethargy. Dehydration. Mucus in the stool.

What does nausea in cats look like? ›

The most common symptoms of nausea in cats are lack of appetite, licking, excessive chewing, hypervocalization (excessive meowing), restlessness, and drooling. Nausea can make cats feel uncomfortable and restless. Some cats will pace around while meowing, while others will lie in the same spot drooling.

What is considered an emergency for a cat? ›

Any penetrating wound to the chest or abdomen and virtually any injury involving the eye should be regarded as a medical emergency. Injuries to the head or those causing difficulty breathing should also be treated as immediate emergencies.

Should I feed my cat after vomiting? ›

If your cat is vomiting, continue to offer food. If they are not eating well, let your veterinarian know. A diet change or even nutritional support in the hospital may be necessary, depending on how severe the cat's problem is. Pain medications may be necessary if your cat has abdominal pain.

Is brown cat throw up normal? ›

If your cat hasn't been chronically vomiting, brown liquid vomit may be indicative of internal bleeding further down the gastrointestinal track. This could be the result of something like a foreign body ingestion or a large hairball impaction that is blocking the intestines and creating inflammation and trauma.

Can cats vomit from stress? ›

Anxiety can definitely do a number on a person's stomach. The same is true with kitties. Stress can cause vomiting and diarrhea in cats. It can also cause Fluffy to lose her appetite.

What to feed cat after vomiting? ›

Your veterinarian will usually advise you to feed your cat an easily digested, bland diet in small quantities given frequently. A veterinary prescription diet specifically formulated to be easy to digest is often recommended. Alternatively, a specific home-cooked diet may be recommended.

Why is my cat throwing up undigested food hours after eating? ›

If your cat vomits undigested food, it can be a sign of a serious illness. Some of these can include things like hairballs, internal obstructions, pancreatitis, eating too quickly, constipation, indigestion, parasitic infections, poisoning, stress, depression, or even anxiety.

Can worms cause cats to vomit? ›

Most cats will not have signs of infection; however, cats with major roundworm infections commonly show vomiting, weight loss, dull hair, and a potbellied appearance. The cat may cough if the roundworms move into the lungs. You may notice adult roundworms in your cat's feces or vomit.

How long does cat gastroenteritis last? ›

With acute gastritis, most cats recover in one to three days with supportive treatment, which includes a short period of withholding food. The prognosis is usually good, even if the primary cause is not identified.

How much does it cost to treat gastroenteritis in cats? ›

Cost of treatment

Mild cases may be treated for less than $400 while severe cases requiring hospitalization, intensive care and/or surgery may cost $3000 or more.

Can ear mites make cats throw up? ›

Outer ear infections are much less common in cats than they are in dogs, but when they do occur these infections can quickly spread to your cat's middle ear or inner ear. Inner ear infections can cause your cat some significant pain and can affect their balance and cause nausea.

Why does my indoor cat keep throwing up? ›

If your cat is vomiting frequently, it could be from a simple issue such as hairballs. It could indicate your cat has eaten a toxic substance or has a serious illness. Whatever reason you suspect, see your vet as soon as possible. A thorough exam can give an accurate diagnosis and provide treatment options.

Why is my cat throwing up her dry food? ›

Here's what happens: a cat eats so fast that she swallows food without chewing and ingests a lot of air, too. Large pieces of food and air in the stomach will likely come back up. If your cat throws up a whole kibble shortly after eating, regurgitation is likely to blame.

Can cats get a stomach bug? ›

Gastroenteritis is common in cats. Early recognition and treatment are the cornerstones to returning your cat to her normal healthy state as quickly as possible.

Does catnip help settle a cat's stomach? ›

Catnip can actually help to relieve stomach upset, as can ginger. You can mix a pinch of fresh ground ginger into a bit of wet food for your cat and give it to him up to three times a day. Special cat foods and diets can also help your cat to recover from stomach upset.

How can I tell if my cat has a stomach ache? ›

Symptoms and Types
  1. Lethargy.
  2. Trembling.
  3. Crying, Whimpering.
  4. Abnormal posture (i.e., may be "guarding" the stomach by curling up, or leaning forward with back end higher in attempt to relieve pain )
  5. Heavy breathing.
  6. Swollen abdomen (may be rigid to the touch )
  7. Diarrhea, which may be black (also known as melena)
20 Dec 2009

What can I give my cat over the counter for upset stomach? ›

Pepcid (famotidine) is a commonly prescribed heartburn medication to relieve tummy troubles for dogs and cats. Pepcid lowers the amount of stomach acid the body makes and helps relieve acid reflux. This medication works best before the first meal of the day on an empty stomach.

What cat food poisoning looks like? ›

If your cat has ingested a toxin, you may see: GI issues like vomiting and diarrhea. Wheezing or difficulty breathing. Lethargy or weakness.

Can cats vomit from hunger? ›

As the cat grows hungry, the stomach acid builds in anticipation of a meal. If the cat doesn't have food available to consume and digest, the overproduction of that stomach acid will result in vomiting yellow foamy bile.

How long should I wait to take my cat to the vet? ›

Once a year check-ups are recommended for adult cats until age 6–8 years old, though cats at any age with health concerns (especially chronic conditions) may need to see the vet more often for monitoring. Vaccine boosters will continue as your pet eases out of the kitten stage (1 year old and onward, Wheeler says).

Which conditions can be immediately life threatening for a cat if not treated by a vet? ›

Is It An Emergency? 10 Situations That Require Immediate Veterinary Care
  • #1: A pet having difficulty breathing. ...
  • #2: Intractable vomiting in pets. ...
  • #3: Pets who are bleeding severely. ...
  • #4: Pets with pale or blue mucous membranes. ...
  • #5: Pets unable to urinate. ...
  • #6: Pets who cannot walk. ...
  • #7: Toxin exposure in pets. ...
  • #8: Seizuring pets.
22 Jan 2021

How do you know if your cat is crying for help? ›

Signs That Your Cat Is Crying For Help - YouTube

Why is my cat vomiting undigested food? ›

If your cat vomits undigested food, it can be a sign of a serious illness. Some of these can include things like hairballs, internal obstructions, pancreatitis, eating too quickly, constipation, indigestion, parasitic infections, poisoning, stress, depression, or even anxiety.

What helps a cat's upset stomach? ›

White rice in their regular cat food. Canned pumpkin or pumpkin treats for the fiber (Nummy Tum-Tum is a great pumpkin-based treat for cats) Bland food (Hill's Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care Cat Food) Probiotics labeled for cats (Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Fortiflora Probiotic)

Why is my cat throwing up for 2 days? ›

It's abnormal for a cat to vomit daily or even several times a month. If your cat is vomiting frequently, it could be from a simple issue such as hairballs. It could indicate your cat has eaten a toxic substance or has a serious illness. Whatever reason you suspect, see your vet as soon as possible.

What is the difference between regurgitation and vomiting in cats? ›

Features that help to differentiate vomiting from regurgitation include: vomiting typically involves abdominal contractions and effort. regurgitation typically occurs quickly without abdominal contractions. regurgitation often occurs right after eating or drinking.

What are the symptoms of pancreatitis in cats? ›

The most common clinical signs include nausea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and decreased appetite. If the attack is severe, acute shock or death may occur.

Can cold cat food cause vomiting? ›

- Stay away from cold food: Cats usually get an upset stomach when they eat something super cold. Prevent stomach aches by letting the food warm till room temperature before you feed the cat. - Stop your cat from eating too fast: Another reason for frequent vomits could be because the cat eats food too quickly.

How long does a cat's upset stomach last? ›

Most cases of acute gastroenteritis improve rapidly after rehydration. If the vomiting and diarrhea do not improve significantly within 24-48 hours of treatment, call your veterinarian. Gastroenteritis is common in cats.

How can I tell if my cat has a stomach ache? ›

Symptoms and Types
  1. Lethargy.
  2. Trembling.
  3. Crying, Whimpering.
  4. Abnormal posture (i.e., may be "guarding" the stomach by curling up, or leaning forward with back end higher in attempt to relieve pain )
  5. Heavy breathing.
  6. Swollen abdomen (may be rigid to the touch )
  7. Diarrhea, which may be black (also known as melena)
20 Dec 2009

How often is it normal for cats to throw up? ›

All cats are going to throw up every once in a while, but a common misconception is that vomiting is normal behavior for cats. If your cat is throwing up more than once a week, or even consistently every few weeks, you should see your vet. Frequent or repeated vomiting is not normal behavior for your cat.

What does nausea in cats look like? ›

The most common symptoms of nausea in cats are lack of appetite, licking, excessive chewing, hypervocalization (excessive meowing), restlessness, and drooling. Nausea can make cats feel uncomfortable and restless. Some cats will pace around while meowing, while others will lie in the same spot drooling.

How can I treat my cats gastroenteritis at home? ›

Withhold food for 24 to 48 hours. Offer small amounts of water frequently during the first 24 hours. (If fluids cannot be given orally without inducing vomiting, seek immediate veterinary treatment) If there is no vomiting for 24 hours, feed a small amount of a highly-digestible, low-fat food.

Can cats vomit from stress? ›

Anxiety can definitely do a number on a person's stomach. The same is true with kitties. Stress can cause vomiting and diarrhea in cats. It can also cause Fluffy to lose her appetite.

What is Megaesophagus in cats? ›

Megaesophagus is a flaccid dilated esophagus resulting from a severe diffuse motility disorder of the esophagus. Congenital and acquired forms of megaesophagus occur. A hereditary form of megaesophagus has been suspected in young cats, especially Siamese.

How long after eating will a cat vomit? ›

Vomiting is a lot more common in cats than regurgitation in my opinion. However, if the action happens within 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating, it can be regurgitation. Let's start by explaining the difference. Regurgitation is a passive action where undigested food is expelled from the esophagus.

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