Why Is My Cat Vomiting? The Top 6 Reasons

For many pet parents, frequent cat vomiting is a part of life. But it doesn't have to be that way. Here are the top reasons cat vomit — and what to do!

An orange cat with his mouth open — sneezing or hiccuping.
An orange cat with his mouth open — sneezing or hiccuping. Photography by Valery Kudryavtsev/Thinkstock.

After I graduated from college, I borrowed one of my family’s cats to keep me company in my new apartment. One morning after she had breakfast, she vomited. After supper, she did it again. The next day, the cat vomiting happened again. I freaked out. I called a vet clinic, explained in a shaking voice what was happening — I was sure she was dying! — and got an appointment the next morning. A quick consultation later, the vet sent me home with a tube of Petromalt, and after the first dose she ejected the biggest hairball I’d ever seen. Actually, most cat vomiting is caused by fairly innocuous things, and here are the top culprits.

1. Hairballs

A cat with his mouth open making some kind of sound.
Hairballs can cause cat vomiting. Photography © Seregraff | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Hairballs are one of the top reasons for cat vomiting. When your cat grooms himself, loose hairs get stuck on the little comblike barbs on his tongue. Because he can’t spit that fur out, he swallows it, and if too much of it clumps in his stomach, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for food. You can help to prevent hairballs by grooming your cat regularly. Even short-haired cats benefit from regular brushing.

2. Eating too fast

“Scarf and barf” is another common culprit when it comes to cat vomiting. My cat Bella is a puker, and the fact that she vacuums up her food as if she’s never going to eat again is the main reason. In order to get her to slow down, I squish her canned food down into the bottom of her bowl so she has to lap it up rather than scarf it down in huge chunks. Another trick is to use a food bowl with a lump in the center, which will force your cat to slow down.

3. New food

If you switch cat food brands, something in the new product could irritate your cat’s stomach. Switching from a dry-food-only diet to canned food can also cause vomiting, because canned food is quite rich compared to dry. Try switching back to the old food to see if your cat’s vomiting stops.

4. Eating grass or plants

If you have plants in your house, your cat may get the urge to chew on the leaves, which could result in your cat vomiting. Be sure that the plants in your home are non-toxic to cats. Consider planting a cat grass garden so your feline friend will leave your houseplants alone.

5. Parasites

Heavy worm infestations can cause cat vomiting. If you see evidence of worms in your cat’s vomit or feces, get to your vet and get some deworming medicine. You may pay more up front for the stuff your vet provides, but in the long run you’ll save because you won’t be buying dose after dose of ineffective over-the-counter remedies.

6. Stomach obstructions

Some cats eat plastic, paper, cat toys, rubber bands, clothes or whatever they can get their mouths on. If you suspect that your cat has eaten a foreign object, call your vet right away, because this can be a life-threatening situation.

A word of warning when it comes to cat vomiting

Cat vomiting can also be caused by poisoning or by very serious diseases. If you suspect your cat has eaten something toxic, call your vet right away for first-aid instructions. If your cat’s vomit is bloody or black like coffee grounds, get to the vet immediately. If your cat is vomiting every day, refusing to eat or drink, acting weird or isn’t grooming properly, call the vet and get him in for an appointment as soon as possible.

Tell us: Do you have a cat who frequently vomits? How do you handle cat vomiting? Please share your experiences in the comments!

Thumbnail: Photography by Valery Kudryavtsev/Thinkstock.

This piece was originally published in 2013.

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23 thoughts on “Why Is My Cat Vomiting? The Top 6 Reasons”

  1. My cat Matt has sensitivities to most cat foods he can’t have grains ,gluten byproducts, nothing artificial ,and no preservatives. He will puke if if has cheap cat food so ge can only have high quality food.❤️❤️

  2. I have 3 cats and they are all vomiting and off their food. Otherwise they are healthy. They have been sick for a couple of days. it seems to happen at the same time every year.

  3. Annette Alberts

    HELP! To slow down my two who are rescues and eat like they’ll never see food again, I put their wet food (no dry) in mugs. That slows them way down. And I put the reticent eater, Tommy’s bowl by me so I can be sure Penny won’t steal it. That has helped some. BUT the puking has started back up, nearly Every morning. BEFORE they have breakfast. WHAT is that about? Not sure who’s doing it either. It’s usually there awaiting me when I get up. Often there are hairballs. They are short haired cats and I brush them well. They do groom the food off each other a lot at bedtime.

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  5. My 7 mos kitten typically vomits in the morning after sleeping 8+ hours and waking up hungry. She eats super fast. I’ve used a slow feeder bowl but the only thing that works is feeding her a smaller amount in the morning. A tablespoon only and a new can as the refrigerated food tends to upset her stomach. We don’t leave hard food out as she will eat that and throw up if we don’t control her morning routine. We feed her more a couple hours later. No changes are needed to the rest of the day’s routine in our situation.

  6. Our Willow has been vomiting on an almost daily basis. She’s a scarfer – which is why I smash down the food like Jane said. We also bought the puzzle bowls for crunchies – so she could work for her food. Unfortunately, none of these has solved the problem – she’s just a nervous little “person”. The blood work is fine, she’s active, maintains her weight with very good muscle tone, but she’s very anxious. We’re trying anti-anxiety medicine, but we’re always concerned that we could be trading one problem for another so we don’t want to keep her on it long-term. This only after years of Rescue Remedy (great product, we’ve found, for our others, and for Willow to some extent) and Feliway diffusers (also very good). I’ve come to view the first tiny breakfast as the “practice breakfast”. Any suggestions? Thanks for your thoughts!

  7. My cat used to vomit constantly, sometimes it was mostly food, sometimes just bile (clear and yellow). Something made me ask my vet if it could be acid reflux. We put him on daily Pepcid and he is a whole different cat. Rarely ever throws up now. The Pepcid is a life saver for him and me.

    1. Lynda A DelGaudio

      Hi what is Pepcid and were do you get it. My cat Rudy is 14 yrs old and he through up quite often. I have taken him to the vet and he gave me the food the sell but it did not help. I have tried different foods and treats. He is ok for a day or two the he starts again. Sometimes durning the night and sometimes in the day. this has ben going on since he was a kitten. Thanks for anything you can offer. Thank You, Lynda

    2. My cat just threw up and I don’t know what to do.This is the first time my cat threw u so does it work if a cat does not throw up constantly [Pepcid]? I ‘m really scared right now!!!!!

  8. Best thing for cat with tummy issues is cooked pumpkin (usually from a can). Cats love cooked pumpkin – they will lick it off a spoon – give about 1 level teaspoon.

    1. Make sure you are using pumpkin and not ‘pumpkin PIE’ from a can. The PIE has spices that kitty doesn’t need.

  9. Our 17 year sweetheart throws up often, the cat hospital said said she has hyperthyroidism and put her on Med. She was better but eliminating is also a huge problem and straining to do in litter box causes her to vomit.
    SHe is very thin – vet said she will not put on weight w/hyperthyroidism. She has very few teeth so she gets puréed food. Loves tune, salmon and chicken, drinks lots of water. Does not like pumpkin. Help please?! Jane

  10. My Moon vomits all the time and not hairball related. He has more tests than you can poke a stick at. He has dry food in the morning and wet food in the evening. Depending on his mood (?) he throws up both types. He will not eat fresh chicken or fish. The vet is stumped, I am stumped. He won’t eat food that the vet gives that is good for his tummy, he would rather starve than eat it. He also will clean up Skye’s food bowl even after he has just vomited. It is a real problem, he throws up at least twice a week, and is almost nine years old. Believe it not he is also a fatty!!!!

    1. Tresha K Shelton

      Eh, my 6 y.o. BattyBoo has thrown up once or twice every day of her life; sometimes hairball related, often not. Vet told me unless I suspected something the tests would cost a lot and might not show anything. I always keep her on the same food the vet prescribed. I quit worrying about it long ago.

    2. My cat, same age, does the same thing. The vet wants to do alot of blood work which is very expensive. Before doing this I changed his food to wet, pate, and small amounts so he has to lick. This has really helped. I think the dried kibbles he could not digest . When he vomit the tried, it came out in same form , kibbles. Also my cat is over weight and vet said he needs to loose. I cut down but he cries all the time cause he wants more food. I read that cats should have no more than 350 cal. But on the box it does not say cal per serving except for these weird numbers. I feed him Sheba, Pate, chicken and turkey. Read the back of box of how much, and holly molly! with what a box of 16 cost, he will need at least 6 or more servings. I need to go on line and find out cal on this brand. Hope some of this helps.

    3. I have a 3 1/2 year old male cat that is part bobcat. Besides being one of the oddest cats I have ever owned, he takes spells of vomiting. During these vomiting episodes, he lays on the bed & will not eat anything, & will still vomit with nothing in his system. Every once in awhile he will drink water, but often times, ends up throwing it back up. He, too, has had every test available performed, and his x-rays during these vomiting spells look awful. After seeing a few different vets about this continuous problem (it started a little over a year ago now), besides opting for an exploratory surgery with a high price tag & low chance of survival—-we decided to try steroid injections. So far, so good. He will have to go back in 8-9 months for another one. I don’t know if this is a problem related to the bobcat blood in him or not. You might want to ask your vet about this treatment option.

  11. My boy Louie has always been a puker…often hairball related, but sometimes not. We cut out hard food altogether and cut back on canned foods other than the pate ones, and added fresh cooked chicken. Although I think I started a bad habit with boiling chicken legs everyday…I have noticed a significant difference in the puking!

    1. Patricia J Carson

      My Cat is named Bella too. She is also a puker. She loves to eat, and she eats too fast, and then pukes it up. This usually happens only in the morning, but last night she puked up her dinner.

  12. My kitty Dusty is one of those kitties that eats too fast. He also has some reflux issues if he eats TOO much. I put his dry food (the only kind his stomach tolerates) in a treat box so he has to get the food out to eat it. This slows him down and allows my other cats to finish their food before he goes looking to see if they have left anything! It took quite some time to get him under control and he still throws up occasionally but not as much as he did a few years ago.

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