Why does my cat keep throwing up?
Cat vomit. It’s part of being a cat owner, right? You put up with it, like scooping the litter box and finding toys under the sofa, because that’s what it means to have a cat in your life.
What if I told you that wasn’t true? What if it’s not normal for a cat to keep throwing up?
Do a little research on this topic and you’ll find yourself with a lot of misinformation about cat vomiting. One site actually referred to chronic puking in cats as “normal cat vomiting behavior.” Another blamed canned food kept in the refrigerator for the behavior.
Professor of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Ohio State University Tony Buffington told Science Daily, “There is not another mammal on the planet that wouldn’t be hospitalized for throwing up once a week.” Just because this behavior in cats is very common, doesn’t mean it’s normal.
Think about it the next time you’re scrubbing a little cat stain from the rug in your bedroom. Ask yourself, should my cat be throwing up this much?
There are two kinds of vomiting: acute and chronic
While neither kind of vomiting is something you or your cat should have to put up with, it’s important to distinguish whether your cat is experiencing an acute or chronic bout of throwing up. Both types may ultimately require a trip to the vet, but one type may require you to get your cat to the vet immediately.
Chronic cat vomiting
Acute cat vomiting
Do I need to bring my vomiting cat to the vet right now?
If you cat is a chronic vomiter, you are probably not experiencing a cat emergency. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to get to the bottom of why your cat is throwing up, but there is no need to rush out in the middle of the night to the emergency clinic.
If your cat is vomiting acutely, you may need to take her in to see a veterinarian sooner rather than later.
If your cat has only vomited one to three times, but is then interested in food and does not vomit again after eating, and if she seems comfortable, it’s probably OK if you hold off rushing her to the vet.
The only exception would be if you know your cat ate something poisonous, like a plant, or your medication, or an object like a string. In that case, a trip to the veterinarian is an emergency. Do not wait to see if your cat gets better on his own.
If your cat has vomited more than three times, cannot keep food down, and seems lethargic, she needs to be seen as soon as possible. If your cat is in severe discomfort, does not want to move, or seems to be deteriorating quickly, do not wait. Rush her to the emergency vet.
How to prepare for your visit with your veterinarian if your cat is throwing up
Whether your cat has been throwing up regularly for some time, or whether the vomiting just started and you’re bringing your cat to the emergency clinic, there are some things you can do to help your vet get to the bottom of your cat’s problem.
Make note of the answers to these questions and be prepared to share them with your vet:
- Did your cat consume something he shouldn’t have, like plants, medications, antifreeze, spoiled food, dangerous human food (such as chocolate or onions), or a dead animal?
- Has your cat’s diet changed suddenly?
- When did the vomiting begin?
- Is your cat allowed outside?
- Does your cat take any medications?
- Is your cat having diarrhea, too?
- Is your cat eating? If not, when was the last time he ate?
- When does the vomiting occur? (After eating? Only in the morning? After using the litter box?)
- Is your cat drinking or peeing a lot?
Make a note of what you notice about the quality of your cat’s vomit, too. Color can sometimes direct your vet to the problem. Yellow vomit can be a sign of liver disease (but can also be a sign that your cat has eaten something yellow!). Undigested food in the vomit can point to food intolerances, allergies, irritation in the upper gastrointestinal tract, or an obstruction.
Chronic causes of vomiting in cats
Just because your cat vomits all the time, doesn’t mean it’s “normal.” If your cat is throwing up regularly, you need to find out why. Here are some possible reasons why your cat may be throwing up on a chronic basis:
- She fed and cared for all the cats at the same time in the same way every day.
- She kept their litter boxes very, very clean.
- She kept their litter boxes in the exact same place.
- She washed the cats’ bedding and hiding boxes on a regular schedule.
- She made sure the cats had numerous toys to play with, and she played music for them for up to two hours each day.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Other gastro-intestinal diseases
If your cat vomits regularly, you need to find out why
This is far from an exhaustive list. There are too many diseases that can cause a cat to vomit. But the main point is that chronic vomiting may be a sign that your cat is unwell and not a “behavior” that you should simply accept.
Start by keeping a log of your cat’s vomiting. After a month or two, you may be surprised to see a pattern, or to see how frequently your cat throws up. This kind of hard data will be very helpful to your vet in pinpointing the cause of your cat’s vomiting.
Think about how to apply the lessons of the FIC study to your cat’s life. Cat stress is real. A cat may not have a mortgage to pay, or an angry boss to deal with, but their “things” cause them as much stress as yours. Is there something you can do to make your cat’s life more predictable and also more enriching?
Pursue your concerns with your vet. Don’t let anyone tell you that “all cats vomit” and that you should ignore what could be a serious underlying medical problem.
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Dawn LaFontaine is a lifelong animal lover who always seems to have a little pet hair in her keyboard. Her blog, Kitty Contemplations, helps cat guardians better understand and care for the special beings they share their lives and homes with. Her cat-products business, Cat in the Box, sells beautiful, well-made, and award-winning products that she designed to meet the biological needs of cats.
 Peters, Lucia. “Why Does My Cat Throw Up All The Time? Here's What Might Be Making Your Feline Friend Sick.” Bustle, Bustle, 8 June 2018, www.bustle.com/p/why-does-my-cat-throw-up-all-the-time-heres-what-might-be-making-your-feline-friend-sick-9258616.
 “Even Healthy Cats Act Sick When Their Routine Is Disrupted.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 4 Jan. 2011, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110103110357.htm.
 “Cat Vomiting: Types, Causes and Treatments.” Best Friends Animal Society, resources.bestfriends.org/article/cat-vomiting-types-causes-and-treatments.
 Norsworthy, Gary D, et al. “Diagnosis of Chronic Small Bowel Disease in Cats: 100 Cases (2008-2012).” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 Nov. 2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24171376/.
 Norsworthy, Gary D, et al. “Prevalence and Underlying Causes of Histologic Abnormalities in Cats Suspected to Have Chronic Small Bowel Disease: 300 Cases (2008-2013).” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 Sept. 2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26331421/.
 Center, Sharon A. “Disorders of the Liver and Gallbladder in Cats - Cat Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, Aug. 2018, www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/digestive-disorders-of-cats/disorders-of-the-liver-and-gallbladder-in-cats.
 “Feline Pancreatitis: Serious.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 19 Apr. 2021, www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-pancreatitis-serious.