Kitty Keep Throwing Up? When Feline Vomiting May Be Cause for Concern


It’s common for cats to vomit occasionally as part of a normal and healthy digestive process. However, repeated or prolonged vomiting can indicate an underlying health issue. Knowing when vomiting has gone on too long and requires veterinary attention is important for every cat owner.

Cats have a strong gag reflex and may vomit more readily than other pets. But frequent vomiting that lasts over 24 hours is not normal and can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and electrolyte imbalances. Understanding the causes of vomiting and learning when to seek emergency vet care is key to keeping your cat healthy and reducing unnecessary vet bills for benign episodes.

This article will cover how long vomiting can be considered normal, what health issues may cause ongoing vomiting, warning signs that warrant an urgent vet visit, how vets diagnose vomiting, treatment options, and tips to reduce vomiting episodes.

Equipped with this information, cat owners can better monitor vomiting episodes and determine when their cat’s vomiting has gone on for too long and requires medical intervention.

Normal Vomiting Frequency

It’s not uncommon for cats to vomit occasionally. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, a healthy cat may vomit once weekly or less and not have an underlying issue (source). VCA Animal Hospitals also notes that periodic vomiting in an otherwise healthy cat, such as less than once per month, is often normal (source).

Vomiting is a protective reflex that helps clear irritants or toxins from a cat’s stomach. Hairballs are a common cause of occasional vomiting. Cats may also vomit after eating too quickly or consuming something that disagrees with them. Unless it becomes excessive, this type of vomiting is usually not a cause for concern.

In general, veterinarians consider vomiting normal or acceptable in cats when it happens once weekly or less in an adult cat. Kittens may vomit slightly more frequently. If vomiting becomes more frequent or is accompanied by other symptoms, it warrants a trip to the vet for evaluation.

Causes of Vomiting

Vomiting can occur for several normal reasons in cats. Some common causes include:

  • Hairballs – Cats groom themselves frequently and ingest hair that can form hairballs in their stomachs. Vomiting up hairballs is normal and happens occasionally in most cats, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (
  • Eating too fast – When cats eat their meals too quickly, they may vomit immediately afterwards. This is fairly common and normal.
  • Food sensitivities or allergies – Some cats may have sensitivities or allergies to ingredients in their food, which can cause vomiting.
  • Spoiled food – Eating food past its expiration or that has gone bad can cause vomiting and stomach upset.
  • Eating plants – Cats may chew on houseplants or plants outside, some of which are toxic. Ingesting plants can irritate a cat’s stomach and cause vomiting.

While the causes above are generally harmless, other signs like lethargy, diarrhea, weight loss, or persistent vomiting suggest an underlying health issue. It’s abnormal for a healthy cat to vomit frequently or have vomiting episodes that last more than 24 hours. Any significant change in vomiting frequency or appearance of vomit warrants a veterinary visit.

When to See the Vet

While occasional, isolated instances of vomiting are common and not a major cause for concern, there are certain warning signs that warrant seeking veterinary attention. According to Texas A&M University, you should contact your vet if your cat is vomiting multiple times a day, the vomit contains blood, or your cat seems lethargic after vomiting.

The American Animal Hospital Association advises seeing your vet if vomiting persists beyond 24 hours or if your cat vomits more than 2-3 times in one day. Frequent vomiting episodes can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and other complications. It’s also concerning if your cat is trying but unable to vomit or retch.

According to Carolina Veterinary Specialists, immediately contact an emergency vet if your cat vomits continuously for more than 4-6 hours or vomits up blood. These signs could indicate a life-threatening illness requiring urgent care.

Diagnosing the Cause

If a cat has been vomiting excessively or over a prolonged period of time, a veterinarian will run diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause. Some common diagnostic tests include:

Bloodwork – A complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile can identify infections, kidney issues, liver problems, pancreatic conditions, electrolyte imbalances, and other systemic issues that may be causing vomiting.

Urinalysis – Examining a urine sample can reveal kidney problems, urinary tract infections, stones, crystals, and other issues that may contribute to vomiting.

Imaging – X-rays, ultrasound, or CT scans of the abdomen can identify foreign objects, masses, obstructions, and other anatomical issues that could induce vomiting.

Endoscopy – A camera inserted down the throat allows visualization of the esophagus, stomach, and upper intestines. This helps identify inflammation, ulcers, tumors, foreign objects, and other gastrointestinal issues.

Biopsies – Taking small tissue samples for analysis can diagnose cancers, inflammatory bowel disease, and other conditions.

By running a combination of tests, the veterinarian narrows down the list of probable causes. They will analyze all the test results together to determine the most likely reason for the cat’s excessive vomiting. Additional focused testing may be needed in difficult cases.

Treating Vomiting

There are several treatment options available for cats suffering from vomiting:

Diet change – Switching to a bland, easily digestible diet like boiled chicken and rice for a few days can help settle an upset stomach. Gradually transition back to the regular diet. [1]

Anti-nausea medication – Drugs like Cerenia help control nausea and vomiting. They are available as injections or tablets. [2]

Antacids – Medications that reduce stomach acid may be prescribed if the cause is gastric irritation. Famotidine and omeprazole are examples. [3]

At home, make sure your cat has access to fresh water to avoid dehydration. Feed smaller, more frequent meals. Monitor litter box use and contact your vet if there are changes. Provide a quiet, comfortable area for rest.

Preventing Vomiting

There are several ways cat owners can help prevent their cats from vomiting frequently. One of the most common causes of cat vomiting is hairballs. Regular grooming can help reduce hairballs by removing loose hair before it’s ingested. Using a deshedding tool or brushing your cat daily is recommended. Switching to a hairball control cat food formula can also help move hairballs through the digestive tract (source).

Eating too quickly can lead to vomiting in some cats. Using a puzzle feeder or ball that dispenses food slowly can encourage a cat to eat at a slower, more comfortable pace. Breaking up mealtimes into smaller, more frequent portions may also help prevent gorging and vomiting. Place multiple feeding stations around the home to prevent competition at mealtimes with multi-cat households.

Cats with sensitivities or allergies to certain ingredients may benefit from a hydrolyzed protein or limited ingredient diet prescribed by a vet. Ensuring your cat stays well-hydrated by providing fresh, clean water sources around the home can help with digestion and prevent vomiting as well.

When to Seek Emergency Care

In some cases, vomiting in cats requires immediate veterinary attention. According to the VCA Hospitals, you should seek emergency care if your cat is showing any of the following symptoms along with vomiting:

  • Projectile or forceful vomiting
  • Unproductive retching and gagging
  • Vomiting up blood or coffee-ground looking material
  • Severe abdominal pain or bloating
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Bloody diarrhea

Projectile vomiting, where vomit shoots out with force, could indicate a gastrointestinal obstruction that requires surgery. Coffee-ground vomit may signal bleeding in the stomach or upper small intestine. Any presence of blood is concerning and needs to be addressed quickly.

Persistent vomiting leads to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and metabolic issues. It can also cause aspiration pneumonia if the cat inhales vomit into the lungs. Kittens and smaller cats are especially prone to dehydration from fluid loss. Seek immediate veterinary care if vomiting persists for more than 24 hours or leads to lethargy and weakness.

Outlook and Prognosis

The prognosis for cats with vomiting depends on the underlying cause and whether it is treated appropriately. With treatment, many cats can recover well and have a good long-term prognosis.

For cats with inflammatory bowel disease that receive proper dietary management and medications, the prognosis is often good, with 85-90% achieving remission or significant improvement in symptoms [1].

In cases of food allergies, switching to a hypoallergenic diet leads to complete recovery in 80-90% of cats [2].

Treatment of gastrointestinal motility disorders with prokinetic medications can successfully control vomiting in over 75% of affected cats [1].

For cats with cancer, the prognosis varies dramatically depending on the type, stage, and location of the tumor. With aggressive treatment, average survival times range from 6 months to 2 years.

Without proper treatment, chronic vomiting can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and electrolyte imbalances. This severely impacts quality of life and may result in hospitalization or even death. However, by identifying the underlying cause and pursuing targeted treatment, most cats with chronic vomiting issues can go on to lead happy and healthy lives.

The Takeaway

Vomiting is common in cats, but frequent or prolonged vomiting can indicate an underlying health issue. Look out for vomiting more than 2-3 times per week or vomiting that lasts more than 1-2 days. Seek veterinary care if your cat is lethargic, has a loss of appetite, is vomiting blood, or seems otherwise unwell.

Try switching to a bland diet like boiled chicken and rice during an episode of vomiting. Ensure your cat has access to fresh water. Limit exercise and stimulate the stomach by gently rubbing the abdomen. Over-the-counter anti-nausea medication can help reduce vomiting.

Recurring or severe vomiting may require prescription medication, dietary changes, or testing to diagnose the underlying cause. With proper care and treatment, cases of feline vomiting can often be managed. Stay vigilant to your cat’s symptoms and establish a plan with your vet to help get the vomiting under control.

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