Login Sign in
Login Sign in

Join thousands of pet parents and get vet-approved guidance, product reviews, exclusive deals, and more!

Cat Vomiting: 7 Causes and How to Help

Cat with open mouth about to vomit
Skip To


Severity: i Medium
Life stage: All
  • Cats may vomit occasionally from hairballs or mild stomach upset. This is usually benign.
  • However, in other instances, vomiting may signal a serious medical problem.
  • Cat vomiting may happen due to systemic illness, an obstruction, food allergies, parasites, and more.
  • Treatment for vomiting will depend on the cause.

Most cat owners are all too familiar with the hacking sound of cat vomiting. But just because we’ve all heard it, doesn’t mean it should be a regular occurrence. 

Vomiting in cats can often be an early sign of illness. Be careful not to overlook this important change in your cat’s health. Here are the top causes and what you can do to help.

Why Do Cats Vomit? 7 Causes of Cat Vomiting

All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the author. However, Great Pet Care may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Like humans, cats can throw up for many different reasons. Some causes are relatively benign and may even resolve on their own. Others can be much more serious. 

Here are a few of the most common reasons why cats might throw up.


As cats lick themselves, they pull loose fur out of their coats with their tongues and often swallow it. Cats can accumulate large volumes of hair in their stomach, leading them to vomit a hairball. Throwing up as a result of haircalls is usually nothing to worry about. But, if your cat has hairballs frequently, you may want to address this with your veterinarian. In some cases, hairballs can be an early sign of a gastrointestinal problem.


In simple terms, Gastroenteritis is an upset stomach caused by dietary indiscretion, toxins, or medication side effects, among other things. Many cases of gastroenteritis are mild and will resolve on their own. Others can be more serious and will need a vet’s attention.

Foreign Bodies or Obstructions

If swallowed, foreign materials like toys, pieces of string, hair ties, and other objects may cause an intestinal blockage in cats, leading them to expel the contents of their stomachs. Blockages are serious and require immediate veterinary attention.

Food Allergies and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

While allergies are fairly uncommon in cats, they can cause vomiting. When cats eat a trigger food, inflammation in their gastroentistinal tract may cause them to throw up. Some cats may also experience chronic diarrhea as a result of these conditions.

Systemic Illnesses

Chronic illnesses such as kidney disease, pancreatitis, and hyperthyroidism can all cause nausea and upset stomach. To address vomiting as a result of these illnesses, you’ll need to address the underlying condition. Many of these chronic illnesses require lifelong management.


Throwing up is a potential symptom in cats with intestinal parasites, especially roundworms and Giardia. Throwing up as a result of parasites is more common in kittens, but can occur in animals of any age. Occasionally, pet owners will even see live worms in the vomit. Fortunately, treating the parasites often resolves the issue.


Cancers of the digestive tract in cats, like stomach cancer, can cause your cat to throw up by interfering with normal digestion. Cancers in other areas of the body can also cause feelings of nausea, discomfort, and malaise, which can also lead to cats to evacuate the contents of their stomaches. 

Types of Cat Vomit

Cats can throw up for many reasons, and its appearance may provide clues to what caused it in the first place. 

Most cat owners are familiar with hairballs, cylindrical wads of undigested hair that collect in cat’s stomachs. Cats will expel this hair back out of the digestive tract along with bile and other digestive fluids.  

Vomit from other, more serious causes may include:

  • Blood
  • Bile
  • Mucus
  • Partially digested food

The frequency, timing, and appearance of the throw up are all important factors to discuss with your veterinarian.

What’s the difference between vomiting and regurgitation? 

Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of stomach and upper intestinal contents. It’s an active process, often lasting several minutes, during which cats may look unwell, drool, retch, display abdominal heaving, and finally evacuate their stomaches. 

Regurgitation, on the other hand, happens quickly and often without warning. Cats are typically fine one minute, then suddenly “spit up” without retching or heaving. Identifying which symptoms your cat is experiencing can help your veterinarian narrow down the cause of the problem.

Cat Vomit Color Chart

Cat Vomit Color Chart

Pet parents often try to diagnose the cause of their cat’s throw up based on its color or consistency. Unfortunately, the diagnosis is not that simple. The color of feline throw up varies depending on what the cat ate (including any non-food items!), dyes used in food or treats, and several other factors.

Because of this, color is not a reliable way to diagnose the cause of your cat’s vomiting. While the following chart may be helpful, you should talk to your veterinarian.


Cat Vomit ColorPossible Meaning
Yellow, orange, or brownMay occur due to the presence of partially digested food and bile in the stomach.
Red or pinkMay indicate the presence of blood. Or may be due to ingested foreign material or dyes used in the cat’s food and treats.
Clear or whiteMay occur due to the regurgitation of saliva from the esophagus or when the cat vomits with an empty stomach.
GreenCan sometimes occur due to the presence of bile or because the cat has ingested green foreign material or foods using green dyes.
Black or brownBlack or brown cat vomit that looks like coffee grounds can be a sign of bleeding in the digestive tract and should be addressed by your veterinarian immediately.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list. Always take your cat to the vet for an accurate diagnosis.

Cat Vomiting: When to Worry

We used to think that some cats were just “pukers.” However, we now know that chronic vomiting is a sign of an underlying problem.

It’s normal for cats to occasionally experience acute vomiting caused by hairballs. But throwing up that’s unrelated to their fastidious grooming is a sign of a medical issue.  

If your cat is throwing up several times in a day, you notice an increase in the frequency of vomiting and changes to their eating and drinking habits, or if your cat is vomiting blood, discuss the problem with your veterinarian.

Throwing up is especially concerning for felines if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as:

If you notice these symptoms in your pet, contact your veterinarian for further guidance.

Cat Vomiting Treatment

Many cat owners wonder what to give a cat to stop them from throwing up. However, because vomiting can be caused by so many different conditions, there are also many different treatments to address the underlying issue. 

If your cat’s vomiting is due to cancer or a systemic illness like chronic kidney disease, the primary goal is diagnosing and treating the underlying condition. 

For mild cases of throwing up due to hairballs or gastroenteritis, your veterinarian may prescribe a treatment plan that includes antiemetic medications like Cerenia (frequently used “off label” for cats) or an antacid, like Famotidine.  

Regardless of the cause, veterinarians will often prescribe some intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy, as well as a bland diet to avoid further complications until the throwing up has stopped.

Occasionally, your cat may need to switch to a diet formulated to support gastrointestinal health, such as Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Fiber Response cat food, or even a prescription diet, such as Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Low Allergen cat food, particularly if the vomiting is due to an underlying food allergy or inflammatory bowel disease.

Vomiting due to a foreign object or obstruction of the GI tract is particularly serious. In many cases, the foreign material will not pass through the GI tract on its own and may cause serious damage if it is not removed immediately. To treat this type of vomiting, your veterinarian may recommend emergency surgery to remove the foreign material and any damaged sections of intestine. 

What to Give Cats to Stop Vomiting

It’s best not to try to treat your cat’s vomiting at home without consulting your veterinarian first. Many causes of cat vomiting, such as a foreign body or obstruction, can cause severe damage or even death if not appropriately treated right away. 

If your cat’s vomiting is simply due to hairballs, your veterinarian may recommend giving an over-the-counter hairball treatment daily to help the hair pass through your cat’s digestive tract, such as Hairball Soft Chews for Cats from VetriScience. You can also ask about diets specifically formulated to reduce hairballs, such as Royal Canin Hairball Care cat food. 

Never give your cat any medications—either prescription or over-the-counter products—unless directed to do so by your veterinarian. 

General Cost to Treat Cat Vomiting

The reasons a cat vomit are varied, so the cost depends on the severity of the cause. If your cat requires emergency care for vomiting, the costs are likely to be higher than a regular veterinary visit. After-hours and emergency services tend to have higher rates due to their availability and breadth of services. 

If your cat is treated for gastroenteritis, this usually means rehydration with intravenous fluids, blood panels, possible X-rays, or an abdominal ultrasound. Medications such as antiemetics (to stop vomiting), probiotics (to build gut flora), and antidiarrheals may be administered. Medication costs range from $10 to $100, with blood panels costing between $100 and $250. The more blood tests performed, the higher the costs. 

Feline abdominal X-rays hover between $200 and $500, while an abdominal ultrasound costs range between $300 and $600. Should your cat require overnight care and fluid hydration, this could be an additional $200 to $500. 

If your cat has a foreign body lodged in their esophagus or gut, endoscopy or surgery may be required. A typical endoscopy costs between $800 and $2,000, while surgery tends to be $1,000 or more. 

Chronic illnesses such as pancreatitis and hyperthyroidism have ongoing costs. For example, an acute episode of pancreatitis costs between $400 and $1,500. Ongoing testing, exams, and medication for feline thyroid issues range between $600 and $900 per year. 

Costs can quickly add up. Having a pet health insurance policy from a company such as Lemonade can come in handy. When your cat is vomiting, it’s always best to talk to your veterinarian and have peace of mind. 

A basic policy covers medical care and treatment for things like vomiting, diarrhea, and feline injuries. This may be covered under their basic plan if any procedures or diagnostic testing are required.

How to Prevent Cat Vomiting

Many causes of cat vomiting can be prevented. Try these measures to keep your cat’s digestive system healthy:

Consider your cat’s diet. Make sure your cat is eating a high-quality and balanced diet. That also applies to feeding too many treats or table scraps. 

Watch for non-food items. Do not allow your cat to ingest any non-food items such as pieces of toys, string, or house plants. 

Ask your vet about special diets. If your cat has been diagnosed with a condition such as food allergies or inflammatory bowel disease, feeding a special diet as prescribed by your veterinarian may prevent vomiting. 

Consider an OTC hairball remedy. Finally, for long-haired cats or those that have frequent hairballs, ask your veterinarian about over-the-counter products to help prevent vomiting due to hairballs.