Vomiting in Cats – Most common reasons

Vomiting in Cats – Causes & Treatment

A number of diseases and digestive problems in the cat are linked with vomiting. It is one of the most common nonspecific symptoms you are likely to encounter. Cats vomit more easily than most other animals. Some cats seem to do so almost at their own will, at times for no apparent reason. A cat may vomit undigested food immediately after eating, then eat it again, I know it feels gross. A mother vomits food so that kittens will have a predigested meal. All vomiting is the result of stimulation of the vomiting center in the brain, area postrema,  by numerous receptors located in the digestive tract and elsewhere in the cat’s body. As the need to vomit is perceived, the cat appears anxious and may seek attention and reassurance. You will also see the cat begin to salivate and make repeated efforts to swallow. 

Cat vomiting
Cat Vomiting

As vomiting starts, a simultaneous contraction of the muscles of the stomach and abdominal wall occurs. And it leads to a sudden surge and buildup in intra-abdominal pressure. At the same time, the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes. The stomach contents travel up the esophagus and out the mouth, finally. As the cat vomits, it extends its neck and makes a harsh gagging sound. This sequence should be distinguished from the passive act of regurgitation described in start of this paragraph.

The most common cause of vomiting is swallowing hair or some other indigestible foreign material, such as grass, that causes irritation to the stomach. Most cats experience this at one time or another. Intestinal parasites may also cause stomach irritation. Another common cause is overeating or eating too fast. When kittens gobble their food and exercise immediately after their meal, they are more likely to vomit. This kind of vomiting is not very serious, if not persistent. It may be the result of feeding several kittens from a single bowl, which encourages rapid eating. Separating kittens or feeding smaller meals is separate bowls often help to eliminates this problem.


Vomiting unrelated to eating is frequently a sign of:

  • An infectious disease
    1. Bacterial infection
    2. Viral infection
  • Kidney or liver disease
    1. Acute kidney failure
    2. Acute liver failure
  • Central nervous system disorder
  • Toxins & Certain Medicine

Diseases frequently associated with vomiting include:

  • Feline panleukopenia
  • Tonsillitis
  • Sore throat
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Infected uterus (acute metritis)

Other signs of illness will also be present along with the frequent vomiting. In young cats, sudden vomiting with fever is a sign of feline panleukopenia. Another serious cause of vomiting is ingesting poison or a drug. Poisons & treatments for poisonings in cats are discussed here. A most serious cause of vomiting is associated with peritonitis, a viral disease caused by feline corona virus. This is an emergency.

It is often possible to understand your cat’s problem by noticing how and when he vomits. Note whether it is repeated, and if so, whether it is sporadic or persistent. How soon after eating does vomiting occur? Is it projectile? Inspect the vomitus for blood, fecal material, and foreign objects except the food particles.

Vomiting in Cats After Vaccination:

Several mild signs of side effects of vaccination are very common. Mild fever, less food intake, sneezing and swelling at the site of vaccination are common but sometime after vaccination your cat may develop vomiting and diarrhea. If this vomiting persists after vaccination, contact your veterinarian because it’s life threatening sometimes.

Persistent Vomiting:

The cat vomits, then continues to eject the contents of the stomach through the mouth, bringing up a frothy, clear fluid. This kind of vomiting may be due to spoiled food, grass, hairballs, other indigestible(s), and certain diseases such as infectious enteritis, which irritate the stomach lining. Other causes are:

  • Visceral disease
  • Metabolic or toxic
  • Central nervous system disease
  • Psychiatric illness

Sporadic Vomiting:

Sometimes a cat vomits off and on over a period of days or weeks. There is no relationship to meals. The appetite becomes poor. The cat looks like weak, exhausted and listless. Suspect liver or kidney disease, or an illness such as chronic gastritis, irritable bowel disease, hairballs, a heavy worm infestation, or diabetes mellitus. A foreign body in the stomach is also one of the causes. In an older cat, you may suspect gastric or intestinal. A veterinary checkup is important.

Vomiting Blood:

Red blood in the vomitus indicates active bleeding somewhere between the mouth and the upper digestive tract. This is most commonly caused by a pointer or sharp foreign body ingestion. Material that looks like coffee grounds is probably old, partially digested blood. This also indicates a bleeding point between the mouth and upper small bowel. Any cat who vomits blood has a serious condition and must be taken away to a veterinarian immediately.

Vomiting Feces:

A cat who vomits foul material that looks and smells like feces is most probably  having an intestinal obstruction or peritonitis. Blunt or penetrating abdominal trauma is another cause of fecal vomiting. Seek immediate professional surgical treatment in this problem.

Projectile Vomiting:

Projectile vomiting is forceful vomiting in which food contents in stomach are ejected out suddenly, often at a considerable distance. It indicates a complete blockage/obstruction in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Foreign bodies, hairballs, tumors, and strictures are possible causes of projectile vomiting. Brain diseases that cause increased intracranial pressure also produce projectile vomiting. They include brain tumor, encephalitis, and blood clots.

Vomiting Foreign Objects:

Hairballs may form a ball like mass too large to pass out of the stomach. Other foreign objects cats may vomit include pieces of cloth, bone splinters, sticks, stones, and other small household objects. Kittens with a heavy roundworm infestation may vomit adult worms, so de-worming is important after 8-10 weeks age of kitten. Vomiting cats can rapidly become dehydrated as they lose body fluids and electrolytes. If vomiting is combined with diarrhea, the chance of dehydration increases dramatically. Consult your veterinarian for re-hydration therapy and treatment if vomiting continues for more than 24 hours, if the cat becomes dehydrated, or if vomiting recurs.

Home Treatment:

Home treatment is advised only for normal, healthy adult cats who show no signs other than vomiting. Kittens, cats with pre-existing diseases, and older cats are more prone to dehydration and should be treated carefully by an expert veterinarian. When the stomach responds promptly, the foreign material is expelled out. Afterward, an important initial step is to rest the stomach by withholding food and water for 12-18 hours. You can allow to lick ice cubes if your cat is thirsty. After 12 hours, if the vomiting stops, offer few sips of water. A pediatric electrolyte solution can be given in very small amounts, in addition to the water sips. If the water is well tolerated, move to a strained meat baby food (low in fat contents and with no onion powder it it). Offer small meals for four to six times in a day for the next two days. Then return to a regular diet slowly. Stop all food and water and obtain immediate veterinary assistance when:

  •  Vomiting persists even though the cat has received no food or water for several hours.
  • Vomiting recurs during attempts to re-introduce food and water.
  • Vomiting is also accompanied by severe diarrhea.
  • The cat vomits fresh blood or material that looks like coffee grounds (partially digested old blood).
  • The cat becomes weak and lethargic or shows other signs of systemic illness.

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