Categories: vomiting

Cat Vomiting

Cat vomiting

This article on cat vomiting is a presentation of thoroughly researched sources. Treatments are not mentioned as this is for a veterinarian to decide on the symptoms. References in the text are to 5 books listed at the base of the page numbered 1 –5. I have made a reference to the books this way because if the same information comes up several times from different books this lends support to the fact that it is sound information. Infrequently, I have also referred to online sources which are embedded in the text (these tend to be less useful than a good book).

Can you share your experiences and help?

Vomiting is a common occurrence in cats. It is the result of stimulation of the “vomiting center of the brain” by receptors in the digestive tract (1). Sometimes the cat will yowl before or after vomiting (2).

It can be due to regurgitating at will to relieve indigestion (4). This is a passive act in contrast to the harsh gagging sound when vomiting (1). Sometimes undigested food is brought up with little effort. This is probably not serious (5). If the cat vomits 1 – 2 times and is otherwise in good health cat vomiting is not considered serious (1). The question is whether it is serious. It can be caused by (see more causes below):

  • many diseases
  • general ailments
  • digestive disorders
  • overeating or eating too fast (another common cause (1)). This may be due to competition between several kittens eating from the same bow. Separation and putting less food down will probably help (1).
  • food allergies
  • hair balls or grass or foreign indigestible substance (these are the most common reasons (1))

The way the cat vomits can help in diagnosis(1). Clearly this depends a bit on knowing our cat’s lifestyle. For instance does she go out? Does he tend to chew on odd objects etc. An outdoor cat that starts to vomit should be kept in for observation of behaviour and stools and to prevent further problems that may have occurred outside:

Type of cat vomiting or material vomited and symptoms (1 – unless stated otherwise)What it indicates (1 – unless stated otherwise)
Repeated – vomiting, retching, bringing up frothy clear liquid
  • Hairballs, grass other foreign objects that cannot be digested
  • infectious enteritis
Chronic & Episodic
  • inflammatory bowl syndrome (IBD) – older cat
Chronic & progressive – weight loss? – depression? – stomach distended? (2)
  • abdominal cancer (2)
  • organ failure (2)
Acute to occasional (2) – kittens – worms – potbellied? – diarrhea?
  • roundworms (2)
Acute to sporadic – cat eating plants? – cat is a hunter – eats prey? – drooling – lethargy (2)
Frequent & Acute – history of eating non-food things (2)
  • intestinal obstruction (2)
Acute (2)
  • urinary tract obstruction (2)
Rapid onset & Acute – diarrhea? – anemia? (2)
  • intoxication by drug or plant ingestion (2)
Sporadic – not continuous and unrelated to eating – appetite also poor – listless
Occasional – long haired cat?
  • hairballs
Blood – serious condition
  • fresh blood = intestinal lining broken between mouth and upper small bowel
  • foreign body
  • tumors (cat health and cancer) (2)
  • gastric ulcers (2)
  • rat poison (2)
  • drug ingestion (2)
Fecal – vomiting stuff that looks/smells like feces – serious
  • intestinal obstruction
  • trauma to the abdomen
Foreign objectsThese can be:
  • hairballs (see cat hairballs)
  • splinters
  • bone
  • stones
  • cloth etc
  • roundworms if infested (kittens) (see also cat cough)
Motion sicknessThis is what humans get sometimes. Apparently vets can prescribe medicine to minimize the effects. Best to travel on an empty stomach.


Cat vomiting – possible causes:

  • inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis) (1) see table below – the main symptom is vomiting that may be very bad, chronic (“something that continues or persists over an extended period of time” – Medline Plus – and sporadic.
  • IBD – inflammatory bowel disease (or IBS – inflammatory bowel syndrome) (3) – an immune reaction disease – can be caused by commercial dry food. Cure: hypoallergenic cat food commercially available or better: homemade cat food.
  • hepatic lipidosis & feline pancreatitis (3) (5) – linked to carbohydrate rich diet (3)
  • food hypersensitivity (1) – vomiting might occur a couple of hours after eating. Can be accompanied by watery, mucus like diarrhea.
  • peritonitis (see also preventing FIP). This is serious requiring quick action (1)
  • feline panleukopenia (AKA Feline Distemper) (1) – this is frequently associated with cat vomiting (1)
  • feline dysautonomia (paralysis of the autonomic nervous system, which controls the unconscious body functions). It is rare (5)
  • intussusception (a complete or partial obstruction to the passage of food due to the intestine becoming rolled up. A rare condition that is more commonly seen in young cats with diarrhea. Rare disease and operation is the treatment (5)
  • liver disease – see feline fatty liver disease (5)
  • megaoesophagus (5)
  • poisoning (5) such as antifreeze or aspirin (1) – see cat poison
  • salmonellosis (5)
  • colitis may cause vomiting (
  • sepsis and metabolic imbalances (
  • disease of the central nervous system (
  • congestive heart failure (
  • worms – round worms, hook worms (
  • hyperthyroidism (2)
  • viral or bacterial infection (2)
Type of Gastritis – symptomsCause
Acute – severe, continuous vomiting – lethargic – possible diarrheaSwallowed:
Chronic (“something that continues or persists over an extended period of time” – Medline Plus) – long term problem with sporadic vomiting – lethargic – lose weightCommon cause:

A cat vomiting will be a serious illness if (4):

  • it is persistent and severe (5)(1)
  • contains blood
  • it is ejected with force
  • the cat is weak
  • there is accompanying abdominal pain
  • there is fever

Cat Vomiting – Sources: As stated in text plus these medical sources:

  1. Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook by Drs Carlson and Giffin
  2. The Veterinarians’ Guide To Your Cat’s Symptoms by Drs Garvey, Hohenhaus, Houpt, Pinkney, Wallace and Elizabeth Randolph
  3. Your Cat by Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins
  4. The American Animal Hospital Association Encyclopaedia of Cat Health and Care
  5. A-Z of Cat Diseases & Health Problems by Dr Bradley Viner

Cat Vomiting – Photo: Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic – the picture is cropped as allowed under the license. The cat wearing soft paws.

Cat Vomiting to Cat Health Problems


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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