Cats and vomiting - Why is your cat throwing up?

Cats and vomiting - Why is your cat throwing up?

Health & Safety

Even cats in good health and in the prime of their life are apt to vomit now and again, and surprisingly, this is not always a sign of sickness! While vomiting does of course sometimes accompany various illnesses and underlying problems, regurgitation in cats under some circumstances can actually be a good thing and is a perfectly natural part of the way that cats self-regulate their own heath and wellness.

Do you know how to tell why your cat is vomiting and whether or not it poses a problem? In this article we will cover the most common causes of vomiting in cats, plus the reasons behind them and what to do about them. Read on to learn more about cat vomiting.

Digestive upsets

One of the most obvious causes of vomiting in cats is due to their contracting a minor digestive upset or stomach bug. This may or may not come accompanied by diarrhoea and a general depression and lethargy that should pass within a couple of days, and usually corrects itself. Most cases of minor digestive upset in cats will correct themselves within a day or two without intervention. If your cat is dehydrated, loses condition quickly, is vomiting profusely, if the problem continues for more than 48 hours, or if it recurs frequently, seek veterinary treatment.


If your cat has a particularly sensitive digestive system, they may be more prone to vomiting as a result of feeding a diet that is too rich, contains artificial additives or is of a poor quality. Dietary changes will usually resolve this, and you may need to feed a rather bland diet to a cat with a sensitive stomach, or invest in a special hypoallergenic veterinary diet for cats that have problems digesting regular cat food.

Eating something inappropriate

If your cat eats something that they shouldn’t, this will usually become clear in short order as your cat promptly vomits up the offending foodstuff! While cats are generally fairly picky eaters, sometimes live prey and other things that your cat may find to snack on may not agree with them, and they will generally throw up the offending item in short order, and feel much better for it!

Vomiting and worms

All cats should undergo a regular worming protocol in consultation with your vet, to ensure that they do not suffer from the associated problems caused by having a high worm count. Intestinal worms can lead to digestive upsets, loss of condition and vomiting. If your cat is not wormed regularly, or of course if you actually see worms in their stools or vomit, getting your cat treated with an appropriate dosage of wormer as recommended by your vet should be your first course of action.


A rare but potentially serious cause of vomiting in cats is poisoning, and something that every cat owner should be on the lookout for. Various compounds, plants and objects are poisonous to cats, including rodenticides that can be ingested inadvertently by eating a poisoned rat or mouse, anti freeze and de-icer for cars, and even plants such as lilies. You can read more about common household items that can poison cats here.

Poisoning in cats is of course a veterinary emergency, and if you know or suspect that your cat has been poisoned, you should seek immediate veterinary treatment. If your cat’s vomiting is bloody, accompanied by foaming at the mouth, involves pain or cramps, rapid breathing or other respiratory distress or stiff joints, call your vet right away. If you know or suspect the source of potential poisoning, take this along to your vet too, as this can help with diagnosis and finding the right course of treatment.

Coughing up hairballs

Coughing up hairballs is something that most cat owners will have to contend with now and then, and while bringing up a hairball is often accompanied with light coughing, the hairball itself is regurgitated from the stomach. Hairballs are usually clearly visible in the vomit, and may consist of a simple bundle of mucky hair, or a larger firm hairy mass. If your cat frequently regurgitates hairballs, you may wish to speak to your vet about ways that you can prevent and tackle this by means of grooming and diet, as larger hairballs can eventually form a hard, solid mass within the digestive tract, and cause a potentially serious obstruction. Regular brushing and grooming, particularly in the case of longhaired cats, can go a long way towards preventing hairball formation.

Eating grass

Grass eating behaviour in cats will often lead to vomiting, and it can be infuriating for the cat owner to observe their cat eating grass with the knowledge that there is a high change of them vomiting it back up in short order!

But grass eating and vomiting is actually a perfectly normal cat behaviour, and consuming grass can help to bind hairballs in the stomach to make for easier regurgitation. Cats should have free access to grass, including cats that do not have access to the outdoors, and you can even grow special trays of cat-suitable grass indoors to provide grazing for your cat when they need it!

As a symptom of a disease or illness

Finally, vomiting is a very generalised symptom that may sometimes accompany other illnesses and conditions both minor and major. As well as the potential causes of vomiting in cats as outlined above, you should always be alert to the possibility that your cat’s vomiting is a symptom of another underlying cause, particularly if accompanied by other symptoms or if the root cause of vomiting is unclear. Getting to know your cat’s normal health and condition can help you to identify the patterns of your cat’s normal behaviour, and should go some way towards alerting you if something is amiss.

As ever, if you have any concerns about your cat’s health, the cause of vomiting or if something might be amiss, contact your vet for further advice.



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