Why is Your Cat Throwing Up? The Hidden Meanings Behind Feline Vomit


Cats are prone to vomiting because of their fastidious grooming habits that can lead to hairballs. Vomiting is also a cat’s way of expelling things from their body that shouldn’t be there or that are causing irritation. While occasional vomiting is normal, understanding the causes and patterns of your cat’s vomiting is important, so that you know when it may be a sign of an underlying health issue that requires veterinary attention.

This guide covers the common causes and meanings behind different types of cat vomit. By learning what your cat’s vomit may be trying to tell you, you can better monitor their health and wellbeing.


Hairballs are a common type of cat vomit. As cats groom themselves, they ingest hair which accumulates in their stomach and forms into hairballs over time. Cats need to periodically regurgitate these hairballs as they are unable to digest them properly. According to Cats.com, hairballs typically have a cylindrical, feces-like shape and come up along with some clear or yellowish liquid.

Hairballs are generally long and tubular in shape since they consist of compacted hair that has formed inside the cat’s stomach. The texture is solid but pliable. Hairballs can range in size but are often around 2-4 inches long. Their color is usually yellowish to brown. It’s important not to confuse hairballs for feces or other abnormal vomit, as they have a very distinct appearance.

While harmless, frequent hairball vomiting can be a sign your cat needs more brushing or hairball remedies. Overall though, periodic hairball regurgitation is normal for most cats as part of their grooming process.


Cats will sometimes eat grass when they need to vomit in order to clear their stomachs. Eating grass triggers vomiting which helps them expel things like hairballs, bones, feathers or other foreign objects that may be causing them discomfort [1]. The grass irritates their digestive tract and causes them to throw up.

When cats vomit after eating grass, it will look like partially digested blades of grass. The vomit may be green and tube-shaped or more mushy, depending on how thoroughly the grass was chewed. Some cats will eat grass rapidly without chewing in order to induce vomiting quickly. Other cats will nibble on it more slowly. Either way, the vomit will be clearly recognizable as mostly grass.


Cats may vomit undigested food if they eat too quickly or if their food has recently been changed (Source). Eating too fast can lead to indigestion, while a sudden change in diet may upset their digestive system. In these cases, the vomit will look like the undigested food they recently ate. It may contain recognizable pieces of kibble or canned cat food.

To prevent this, try feeding smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. You can also mix a small amount of the new food with their old food at first, then gradually transition to the new food over 7-10 days. This gives their stomach time to adjust. Slow feeder bowls may help cats who gobble down their meals too quickly. If vomiting persists more than a day or two, consult your veterinarian to rule out other potential causes.


Intestinal parasites like roundworms or tapeworms can cause cats to vomit. According to the article “Roundworms – Cat Owners” from Pets and Parasites, you may notice whole adult roundworms in your cat’s vomit. Roundworms will appear white or light brown and can be several inches long.

The article “Roundworm Infection in Cats” on the VCA Hospitals website states that roundworms are common in kittens, and can cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, dull coat, and poor growth. Tapeworms can also lead to vomiting in cats when the worm segments detach inside the intestines.

Seeing roundworms, tapeworms, or parts of worms in your cat’s vomit is a sign of a parasitic infection. You should take your cat to the veterinarian for proper diagnosis and deworming treatment if worms are present.


If your cat vomits up a yellow liquid, this is likely bile. Bile is a digestive fluid produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Vomiting bile usually means your cat’s stomach is empty and the bile is irritating their digestive tract.

The best way to prevent bile vomiting is to feed your cat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to keep their stomach from being completely empty for long periods of time. Or, feed your cat a snack before bed to help prevent their stomach from being empty all night. Just a small amount of food can help absorb and dilute the bile.

If your cat is vomiting bile frequently or in large amounts, take them to the vet to rule out more serious conditions like gallbladder disease or gastrointestinal obstruction.


Frothy white or yellow foam is often an indication that the cat is bringing up a hairball. Cats groom themselves regularly, ingesting loose hair in the process. When this hair accumulates in the stomach, the cat may vomit up the hairball along with foamy liquid from the stomach. Hairballs are a normal part of a cat’s digestive process. As long as the cat is otherwise acting normal, there is no need for concern. Giving hairball remedies can help cats pass hairballs more easily.

However, foamy vomit can also indicate irritation of the stomach. This could be caused by eating something unsuitable, ingesting toxins or chemicals, or having an infection or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. If the cat is vomiting white foam repeatedly or seems unwell, it’s a good idea to see the veterinarian to identify and treat the cause.




Bloody vomit is very serious sign in cats. Blood found in a cat’s vomit often indicates an underlying health issue that requires prompt veterinary attention. Some potential causes of bloody vomit include:

– Internal bleeding or trauma: This can occur from blunt force injuries, getting hit by a car, or falling from high heights. The impact can cause internal damage and bleeding.

– Cancer: Certain cancers like lymphoma or tumors in the stomach/intestines can lead to bleeding.

– Foreign object: If a cat swallows something sharp like a bone fragment, it can damage the gastrointestinal tract and cause bleeding.

– Ulcers: Severe ulcers in the stomach, esophagus or intestines can erode through tissue and cause bleeding.

– Coagulation disorders: Problems with blood clotting can lead to excessive bleeding from even minor lesions.

– Parasites: Some parasites like hookworms damage the intestinal lining as they burrow, causing bleeding.

– Kidney or liver disease: End-stage organ failure impairs blood clotting.

If a cat is vomiting blood, do not wait to see if the symptoms resolve. Get emergency veterinary care right away, as timely treatment greatly improves the chances of survival and recovery. Bloody vomit indicates something seriously wrong and should never be ignored.

When to see the vet

It’s important to monitor your cat’s vomiting and know when it’s time to see the vet. Here’s an overview of situations that require a vet visit:

Frequent vomiting – If your cat vomits more than 2-3 times in one day or has persistent vomiting over multiple days, take them to the vet. Frequent vomiting can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances (VCA Animal Hospitals).

Vomiting and lethargy – If your cat is vomiting and acting lethargic or depressed, see your vet. The combination of vomiting and lethargy often indicates your cat is unwell (My cat keeps vomiting! Should I head to the emergency vet?).

Vomiting with blood – Any vomit that contains blood warrants an immediate vet visit, as it could indicate a serious medical issue (When To Be Concerned About Feline Vomiting).

Inability to keep food down – If your cat vomits constantly and can’t keep any food down, take them to the vet to rule out blockages or other issues.

Weight loss or appetite changes – A cat that loses weight or has appetite changes along with vomiting needs to see the vet to determine if an underlying condition is causing the symptoms.

Let me know if you would like me to make any revisions to this section. I aimed to provide an informative overview citing sources per the instructions.

Preventing Vomiting

There are several steps you can take to help prevent your cat from vomiting:

– Stick to a regular feeding schedule. Feeding your cat smaller, more frequent meals can help prevent vomiting caused by eating too much or too fast. Feed your cat 2-3 times per day rather than leaving food out at all times. (Source)

– Give your cat hairball remedies. Hairballs are a common cause of vomiting in cats. Giving your cat hairball remedies like petroleum jelly or hairball treats can help pass hairballs and prevent vomiting. Brushing your cat regularly also reduces excess hair ingestion. (Source)

– Prevent your cat from eating non-food items (pica). Cats with pica will eat plastic, fabrics, plants, and other inedible items, which can lead to vomiting. Keep household items out of reach and monitor your cat’s environment. (Source)

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