Why Does My Cat Keep Throwing Up?

Most cats will occasionally vomit, but this is usually benign. A cat that keeps throwing up could have something else going on, keep reading to find out more.

May 28, 2024By Holly Ramsey
why does my cat keep throwing up

Occasional vomiting by your cat is not necessarily something to be concerned about, when the vomiting becomes chronic or your cat shows other symptoms, then you need to consult your veterinarian. The reason why your cat keeps throwing up can be anything from mild stomach upset or hairballs to food allergies, an obstruction, or parasites. Let’s find out why your cat is throwing up.

Common Causes of Why a Cat Throws Up

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There are many different reasons cats will drool and throw up. Most reasons are relatively benign and will probably resolve on their own. Other reasons could be much more serious and will require veterinarian attention. Some common reasons cats frequently vomit include gastroenteritis, hairballs, obstructions or foreign bodies, parasites, illness, or cancer.

Gastroenteritis

Many cases of gastroenteritis will resolve on their own and are considered mild. Gastroenteritis is an upset stomach caused by toxins, dietary changes, or indiscretion, or side effects of medications. In some severe cases of gastroenteritis, your cat will need to see their veterinarian.

Hairballs

Cats groom themselves by licking their fur. As they pull loose hair out, they often swallow it, leading to a large accumulation of hair in their stomach. As a result, cats will throw up hairballs that cannot pass through their intestines. Usually, throwing up hairballs is not worrisome. However, if your cat frequently throws up hairballs, you will want to discuss it with your veterinarian. Hairballs can be a sign of gastrointestinal problems and need special treatment. Regular grooming helps keep hairballs to a minimum.

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Obstructions and Foreign Bodies

Cats can be mischievous and play with things they are not supposed to. Sometimes they even swallow things like pieces of string, toys, hair ties, and other small objects. This can lead to an intestinal blockage and cats will start throwing up. If they are unable to expel the foreign body it causes a blockage. Obstructions are life-threatening and will require immediate veterinary attention.

Parasites

Intestinal parasites are common in cats and cause frequent vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. Roundworms and Giardia are especially common in kittens. In severe cases of parasite infestation, you may see live worms in your cat's vomit. A visit to the veterinarian will take care of any intestinal parasites.

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Chronic Illness

There are chronic illnesses, such as pancreatitis, kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism, that can cause upset stomach and nausea. If you notice your cat losing weight, in pain, or often fatigued, seek medical treatment. Your veterinarian will do a physical examination and order tests to determine if your cat is suffering from a chronic illness that requires lifelong management.

Cancer

Stomach cancer can cause your cat to throw up frequently and interfere with normal digestion. Other cancers can cause nausea, malaise, and discomfort. Consult your veterinarian if you feel your cat is throwing up more than normal. Cancer treatments can also cause nausea and vomiting.

Types of Vomit

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It may sound gross, but examining your cat’s vomit can provide clues to what is causing their tummy upset. Most cat owners know what a hairball looks like, undigested hair is thrown up in cylindrical wads. Hairballs are thrown up with bile and other fluids.

The timing, frequency, and appearance of the vomit should be discussed with your veterinarian. Taking a photo or video to show your vet may seem disgusting, but it may be helpful. Things to look for in cat vomit that require immediate attention include:

  • Mucus
  • Bile
  • Blood
  • Partially digested food

Vomit or Regurgitation

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Cat parents do not always know the difference between their cat throwing up or regurgitating. Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of the upper intestinal and stomach contents. Your cat will have abdominal heaving, retching, drooling, and look unwell while throwing up. Regurgitation happens quickly without warning; they are fine one minute and then suddenly spit up without heaving or retching.

Have a conversation with your veterinarian if you think your cat is regurgitating their food, this could be a symptom of a serious underlying condition.

Color and Consistency of Vomit

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Color is not a reliable way to diagnose the reason your cat is frequently throwing up, but you may find clues in the color and consistency. Depending on what your cat ate, food, and non-food items, the color could be interesting. Dyes used in food and treats can make vomit rather colorful, but you have to look beyond the dyes and determine if there are any other colors that might signal blood, urine, bile, or feces are present in the vomit.

Red or pink may indicate the presence of blood, whereas yellow, orange, or brown could indicate bile, feces, urine, or partially digested food. Clear or white vomit could be the regurgitation of saliva. Brown or black which looks like coffee grounds can indicate there is bleeding in the digestive tract.

When to See a Veterinarian

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Cats that frequently throw up may have an underlying problem. While it is normal for cats to throw up due to hairballs or stomach upset occasionally, chronic vomiting is cause for concern and you need to address it with your veterinarian.

If you notice an increase in the number of times your cat throws up or they are throwing up several times in a day, contact your veterinarian. Seek immediate care if your cat is also experiencing any of the following:

Treatments

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Depending on why your cat is throwing up, the treatments can vary. Underlying issues must be diagnosed by a veterinarian and a treatment plan be put in place. Chronic hairballs can be alleviated with extra grooming, especially if you have a longhair cat, and antiemetic medications or an antiacid may be prescribed.

Treatments for cancer or a systemic illness will require aggressive treatments that may cause more stomach upset. The underlying condition must be treated to alleviate the frequent vomiting. Chemotherapy treatments can have severe side effects, so make sure you talk with your veterinarian about any concerns you have regarding medications. You should look into pet insurance for your cat before an illness strikes.

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Special diets may also be recommended to help your feline friend. There are many cat foods on the market formulated specifically for sensitive stomachs. Research foods before you buy, you do not want to switch food too many times, this can also cause your cat to throw up.

Cats are known to throw up occasionally. Cat parents even expect it. However, when your cat is throwing up constantly, there is a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. Do not try to diagnose your cat’s illness without consulting your veterinarian. Many times, your vet can discover the cause and the treatment is simple and inexpensive.

Holly Ramsey
By Holly Ramsey

Holly is a 2nd generation dog breeder/trainer and has over 25 years of experience with several different breeds. She enjoys working with her Japanese Chin and Rough Collies and helping her mom and daughter with their chosen breeds. Most evenings, Holly is hanging out with her daughter watching movies, crafting, or playing with the fur-kids.