26 Reasons Cats Vomit

Image of a yellow tabby cat

From hairballs to a more serious health condition, there are lots of reasons for feline vomiting. If your cat is throwing up, learn some of the possible causes and whether his upset stomach warrents a trip to the vet.

Why Cats Vomit

There are many reasons that a cat vomits. It could be a sign of a serious health condition, or the vomiting may be caused by something very minor. It is common for a healthy cat to vomit occasionally. This may be caused by something as simple as a food not agreeing with the cat, overeating, eating too quickly or running and playing too soon after eating.

The act of vomiting, known as emesis or throwing up, is a reflex action of the abdominal muscles and the central nervous system. A stimulus, such as an indigestible object or an inflamed stomach, triggers the reflex action. An occasional bout of throwing up is nothing to worry about; however, you need to watch your cat to make sure it is not a symptom of something serious.

Cat Health: Vomiting or Regurgitation

Knowing the difference between cat vomiting and regurgitation is important if your cat is ill. Vomiting is a reflex involving the stomach. Regurgitation is generally associated with problems of the esophagus.

When a cat is about to vomit, it generally seems apprehensive and heaves to throw up the contents of its stomach. There are usually a lot of abdominal contractions, movements and effort involved in vomiting. When a cat regurgitates, it usually simply lowers its head and expels the food with very little effort. Since the esophagus is a long narrow tube, the expelled undigested food often resembles a sausage.

The Causes of Cat Vomiting

There are two classifications for the causes of a cat vomiting: primary which are gastric causes and secondary which are non-gastric causes. Vomiting is also classified as either acute or chronic.

Dozens of reasons, conditions and diseases exist that cause vomiting in cats. The following are a few of the more common ones.

Gastric Causes

  • Swallowing a large amount of hair when grooming causing hairballs
  • Food allergies
  • Acute gastritis caused from eating food or garbage that does not agree with the cat
  • A foreign body stuck in the upper intestine or stomach
  • A bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Intestinal prolapse, known as intestinal intussusception
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Chronic colitis
  • Hiatal or diaphragmatic hernia

Non-Gastric Causes

  • Eating too quickly or overeating
  • Exercising too quickly after eating
  • Motion sickness
  • Toxins including antifreeze, lead, insecticides, flowers, plants and many other chemicals and poisonous items
  • Diseases of the middle ear
  • Severe constipation
  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Pancreatitis
  • Uterine infection known as pyometra
  • A bladder obstruction or rupture
  • Ketoacidosis
  • Feline panleukopenia virus
  • Elevated thyroid function or hyperthyroidism
  • Heartworm disease
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Stomach or upper intestinal cancer
  • Dilated or twisted stomach

When to Call the Veterinarian

If your cat has vomited and is playing and showing no signs of physical discomfort, it is most likely nothing to worry about. Just keep an eye on the cat to make sure there are no other signs of a possible illness. If any of the following signs or symptoms are noticed, you should take the cat to the veterinarian immediately:

  • The cat throws up continuously or vomits several times in an eight-hour time span.
  • Watch for blood in the vomit. Fresh blood will be red and blood that has been digested looks like coffee grinds.
  • Look for any objects or worms in the vomit.
  • Try to determine if cat is acting unusual in any way or seems depressed or lethargic.
  • If you know the cat has been near any poisonous materials such as antifreeze, poisonous plants or insecticides, see your vet right away.
  • Also watch for any of the following symptoms:


When it comes to cat health, vomiting may be a perfectly normal occurrence from time to time. However, as a responsible cat caretaker, you need to be aware that vomiting can also be a sign of a serious illness in your cat. Make an appointment with your cat's veterinarian if you feel the vomiting is not an isolated instance.

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26 Reasons Cats Vomit