Oh No! My Cat Threw Up – What Should I Do Now?


When a cat vomits, it’s important not to panic. Start by taking a few deep breaths and assessing whether this is an emergency situation or not. The key is determining if your cat is showing any signs of a life-threatening issue, or if it’s an isolated throwing up incident. Your main steps should be to withhold food briefly, encourage hydration, monitor behavior, and clean up the mess thoroughly. Calling the vet right away and collecting a sample of the vomit can also provide helpful insights. With the proper response, many cases of cat throwing up will resolve on their own. However, more serious cases that involve lethargy, diarrhea, or blood in the vomit may require prompt veterinary attention.

Assess Severity

It’s important to assess how severe the vomiting episode is and whether the cat is showing any concerning signs that may indicate a more serious issue. Look for signs of distress or lethargy like lack of appetite, low energy, hiding, or vocalizing in pain. Note the frequency, volume, and contents of the vomit. For example, vomit that is thick and yellow or contains foreign material or blood may point to an underlying condition, especially if accompanied by lethargy or other symptoms.

If your cat vomits repeatedly over a short period, brings up large volumes, or if the vomiting is accompanied by signs of lethargy or distress, contact your vet immediately. Mild, infrequent episodes of vomiting are less concerning. But continued monitoring and an eventual vet visit are still recommended if it persists.

Withhold Food Initially

After your cat vomits, it is generally recommended to withhold all food for 6-12 hours to give their stomach time to rest and settle1. This fasting period helps prevent your cat from immediately eating again, which could cause repeated vomiting. Allowing the stomach to empty can help reduce nausea and inflammation that may be causing the vomiting.

Withholding food for 6-12 hours gives your cat’s gastrointestinal system a chance to recover and stabilize before introducing food again. Their hunger may return before that time is up, but try to hold off on feeding for at least 6 full hours. Having patience and not immediately re-feeding will likely save your cat from another vomiting episode shortly after eating. This fasting period is especially important if your cat vomited immediately after a meal.

Encourage Hydration

It’s crucial to keep your cat hydrated after vomiting to prevent dehydration. Provide access to fresh, clean water at all times. Make sure the water bowl is cleaned and refilled frequently with cool, filtered water. Place multiple water bowls around your home so there’s always one in easy reach. According to VCA Hospitals, “Water should be freely available and is important to prevent dehydration.”

You can also offer low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth to encourage fluid intake. PetPlace recommends “You can offer fresh water, Pedialyte, or low-sodium chicken broth to keep your cat hydrated.” Give broth in small amounts frequently throughout the day.

Call the Vet

It’s very important to call your vet if your cat’s vomiting exhibits concerning signs that require immediate medical attention. Some emergency situations requiring a vet visit include:

  • Vomiting more than 2-3 times in one hour
  • Unproductive vomiting (nothing but bile and foam coming up)
  • Vomit that is bloody, or contains blood
  • Vomiting along with other symptoms like lethargy, weakness, or diarrhea
  • Vomiting and your cat is unable to keep any food or water down
  • Vomiting lasting more than 24 hours

If you notice any of these signs, contact your vet right away, even if they are closed. Most vet offices have an emergency or after-hours number you can call to speak with an on-call vet and determine next steps, such as bringing your cat in immediately.

Having the vet’s emergency contact number handy, along with your regular vet’s number, is a good idea so you can easily reach them if your cat has concerning vomiting episodes outside of regular office hours.

Collect a Sample

It’s important to collect a sample of your cat’s vomit and bring it to the vet for analysis. Vomiting can be caused by many conditions, so a sample allows the vet to run diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause.

Have a sealed plastic bag or container ready to collect a sample. Try to collect vomit before it dries out or mixes with litter. Even a small amount can be useful. Seal the sample to contain any smell.

Refrigerate the sample if bringing it to the vet within 24 hours. Otherwise, freeze it. Properly packaging the sample helps the vet run tests to identify potential toxins, parasites, or other issues leading to vomiting.

Diagnostic tests on a vomit sample can include:https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/testing-for-vomiting

  • Microscopy to check for parasites
  • Cultures to identify bacterial overgrowth
  • Chemistry for organ issues like kidney disease
  • Imaging to examine the gastrointestinal tract

Providing a fresh, well-sealed vomit sample gives your vet the best chance to diagnose the cause of vomiting in your cat.

Clean the Mess Thoroughly

It’s important to clean up any vomit right away to avoid stains and lingering odors. Use pet-safe cleaners and follow these tips:

  • For carpet, blot up as much as possible with paper towels. Then use a pet odor neutralizer spray made specifically for carpets and let it soak in for 5-10 minutes before blotting it up with towels.
  • For hard floors, wipe up with paper towels then use a pet-safe disinfecting floor cleaner and rinse thoroughly with water. Allow floors to air dry.
  • For fabric surfaces like pet beds, pillows, or blankets, remove any solids with a paper towel then put items directly into the washing machine. Use an enzymatic pet odor eliminator in the wash cycle.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning.

Using products made for pets can help eliminate odors and avoid damaging surfaces. Make sure to wash any bedding or fabrics the cat vomited on to prevent re-soiling.

Transition Back to Food

After your cat has gone 24 hours without vomiting, you can start to slowly reintroduce food. It’s best to start with small amounts of a bland, easily digestible diet. Boiled chicken or turkey, mashed pumpkin, and cooked white rice are good options. Give your cat 1-2 tablespoons at a time and wait several hours before offering more. What to Feed a Cat That’s Vomiting recommends sticking with a bland diet for 1-2 days to allow your cat’s stomach to fully settle.

Once your cat is consistently keeping the bland food down, you can start mixing in their regular food. Over 3-4 days, gradually increase the amount of regular food and decrease the bland food. This gradual transition gives their digestive system time to adjust. If vomiting returns at any point, stop the regular food and go back to offering just the bland diet for another 12-24 hours before trying again. Be patient and move slowly to avoid upsetting their stomach again.

Monitor Behavior

After a vomiting episode, it’s important to monitor your cat’s behavior for any concerning changes that could indicate illness. Pay close attention to the following:

Watch for changes indicating illness: Lethargy, weakness, hiding, lack of grooming, or other abnormal behaviors can be red flags. Monitor your cat closely for these signs.

Track litter box usage: Any decrease in the amount your cat urinates or defecates can indicate dehydration or other problems. Note the frequency and amount.

Appetite: Persistent decrease in appetite or refusal to eat may signal an underlying issue. Tempt your cat with favorite foods and note any changes.

Energy Level: Significantly decreased energy can indicate illness. Watch for changes in playfulness and activity.

Keeping a symptom journal tracking these behaviors can help you identify any worrying patterns. Don’t hesitate to call your vet if concerning signs emerge.

Prevent Future Episodes

If your cat continues to vomit frequently, it’s important to discuss this with your veterinarian, as there may be an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed. Your vet can run tests and examine your cat to determine if there is an infection, obstruction, inflammation, or other condition causing the vomiting.

Pay close attention to any dietary, stress or hairball triggers that seem to cause vomiting episodes. If a certain food or treat appears to cause vomiting, try an elimination diet under veterinary guidance to identify problem ingredients. Reduce stress by providing calming cat pheromones, sticking to a routine, and minimizing changes that worry your cat.

To tackle hairballs, brush your cat daily and consider switching to a hairball-control cat food or treats. Laxatives like petroleum jelly can help hair pass through instead of forming hairballs. Just be sure to consult your vet before making any major diet changes.

While random vomiting occasionally is normal, recurring vomiting likely signals an underlying issue. So be diligent about identifying triggers, vet exams and potential solutions to limit future vomiting episodes.

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