Why does my cat keep being sick? Causes & treatment
Read time: 4 min
There’s nothing worse than lying in bed and hearing the telltale sound of your cat getting ready to vomit. Cat parents are no strangers to dashing to the back door to let the cat out before they make a mess on the carpet. Or having to clean up a lovely hairball left on the floor. First thing in the morning.
Cleaning up sick is just part of being a pet parent. But sometimes, it feels like cats can be particularly susceptible to random vomiting episodes. So if your cat has been sick lately, and you’re wondering why, we might have the answer.
Why is my cat being sick?
If your cat has been sick but is otherwise acting normal, it’s likely a one-off. Keep an eye on whether they’re off their food, newly lethargic or sick any other times.
If your cat has been sick once or twice but otherwise appears fine:
Remove their food for 2 hours. (Unless you have younger kittens.) But continue to provide water.
After 2 hours, try offering a teaspoon of their usual food. Or plain cooked food likebone- and skinless chicken or white fish.
If they keep it down, offer them small amounts every few hours for the next 24 hours.
If there’s no further vomiting, then you can go back to their usual routine.
Why does my cat keep being sick?
Repeated vomiting in a short period of time, or over more than 24 hours needs to be taken seriously.
Just as with humans, vomiting can dehydrate your cat and pose a risk to their health.
Your cat can’t keep water down.
They have blood in their vomit.
They have pale or cold gums.
They’re displaying signs of listlessness, diarrhoea, fever, or another illness.
Causes of cat vomiting & sickness:
A common reason cats throw up is hairballs. Hairballs are clumps of hair that collect in your cat’s stomach from cleaning themselves. Because they use their tongues to clean, they end up swallowing a lot of dead fur – the papillae on their tongue propell the hair down to the stomach. Usually, this hair passes through their gastrointestinal system and into the litter tray when they poop. But sometimes, the clumps become too big and they have to be vomited instead.
If your cat has a big hairball, they can be sick a few times in a row to get it out. Or their gagging can trigger further vomitus. It’s not uncommon for them to vomit a few times if the hairball isn’t in one piece. Symptoms of hairballs can include lethargy and loss of appetite. (You’d go off your food too if your stomach was full of hair).But once the hairball has passed, they should go back to acting normally.
Cat food poisoning
Another cause of vomiting is digestive upset from pathogens found in food. This is rare. But can occur. If you’re worried about potential spoilage of your cat’s food, get in touch with their vet.
Can cats get salmonella?
Yes, cats can get salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterial organism that causes an infection called salmonellosis. This type of digestive upset causes diarrhoea and vomiting. And can result in dehydration and weight loss.
To reduce the risk of your cat getting foodborne or waterborne illnesses, feed them a cooked meat diet like KatKin. And avoid feeding them raw meat or eggs.
What to do when your cat keeps throwing up but seems fine
If your cat has vomited repeatedly, you should take them to the vet. Even if they seem fine. Cats are masters at concealing when they feel unwell. And you don’t know if there is an underlying condition they’re not showing signs of.
Types of cat vomit
Inspecting your cat’s vomit might be a bit gross. But it can tell you important things about their health.
Cat hairball vomit
Hairball vomit will contain lumps of matted hair. There might be just one pile of sick, or a few. Despite being called hairballs, they’re usually more elongated. Because they form in your cat’s gastrointestinal tract.
Yellow cat vomit (bile)
Bile is produced in the liver. And helps to break down your cat's food. If too much is produced, or it leaks into the stomach, your cat will vomit it up as either a yellow or greenish liquid or foam. If this is present, contact your vet.
White foam cat vomit
A white, foamy substance means that your cat is being sick on an empty stomach. You might spot grass in there if they’re an outdoor cat. Which means they ate grass because they were feeling sick. And wanted to throw up.
Brown cat vomit
Brown vomit has a couple of potential meanings. If it looks chunky, like their food, it means the food didn’t make it past the stomach.
If the liquid is brown, black or red, this might be due to intestinal bleeding. Or they just ate something brown. It’s difficult to tell. But if you’re worried at all, take them to the vet.
Bloody vomit in cats
Blood can be pretty scary to see in your cat’s vomit. It can be caused by an internal injury, irritation, or disease, and could be coming from anywhere along the upper GI tract. If you see blood, it’s time to take them to the vet.
Worms in cat vomit
If you see worms in your cat’s vomit, this could signify a significant parasitic burden. Worms are parasites that can take up residence in your cat’s digestion tract. And in large quantities can threaten their health. Take them to a vet if you spot worms in their vomit for treatment.
Vomiting in cats: when to worry
It’s not uncommon for cats to vomit from time to time. But if your cat is vomiting frequently in a short period of time, or if they vomit regularly over a longer period of time, has ingested something toxic, has blood in their vomit, or also has other symptoms like diarrhoea, take them to the vet.
Treatments for cat sickness & vomiting
If it’s just a one-off vomit, follow the advice above or check in with your vet. But if your cat has an underlying condition, it’s important to treat the problem to help reduce the vomiting.
Food allergies – a common cause of vomiting in cats – can help to be treated by your vet. Who might recommend a special diet.
If your cat’s vomiting is severe, your vet might keep them in overnight. To reverse any dehydration with fluids and medication.
Home remedies & prevention of cat sickness
While there could be more serious causes of your cat’s vomiting, which should be diagnosed by your vet, we have a few tips for you to try if your cat is healthy and experiences occasional throwing up:
If your cat is healthy, and their vomiting is just an occasional occurrence, there are some things you can do at home to minimise the amount they vomit:
Regular grooming – Keeping your cat well groomed and brushed helps to reduce the number of hairballs they vomit. Giving them a hairball supplement can also help them pass the hair more easily in their poop. Rather than vomiting it back up.
Enrichment food puzzles and toys – If your cat tends to be sick after eating, it could be because they ate too fast. It’s okay – we all get a little too excited over dinner sometime. Feeding them in a slow feeder might be a good way to prevent them from eating too quickly.
Consider switching to a highly-digestible, low residue diet – If your cat has a bit of a sensitive stomach, think about switching them to a more suitable food. (Spoiler alert: KatKin sensitive cat food is ideal for cats with sensitive stomachs.)
Switching your cat to a diet based on their ancestral diet could help settle their stomachs. KatKin’s fresh cat food is made with 100% fresh, human-quality meat. And is closer to the natural diet of your cat’s wild ancestors. This makes it easy to digest. And gives them plenty of energy. Meaning you can enjoy your Sunday mornings again. And not have to clean up the cat sick in your slippers.