Why Do Cats Throw Up? (And When To Be Concerned)


Why Do Cats Throw Up? 

4 min read
Jan 25, 2022

Cats may have a reputation for vomiting often (furballs anyone?) but the truth is that frequent vomiting can be a cause for concern.

It’s easy to assume that throwing up is simply a symptom of an upset stomach, but sometimes it can be a sign of a much more serious condition.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the myriad of reasons why cats may throw up. We’ll also offer tips to help you determine when your cat’s vomit is cause for concern.

Vomiting Versus Regurgitating: 

It may surprise you to learn that the icky substances your cat coughs up may not always be vomit.

Vomiting occurs when a cat’s stomach begins contracting to force the contents (called vomitus) back out. Usually, vomitus contains stomach bile, a foul-smelling, yellowish fluid, but this is not always the case. 

Instead of Vomiting, Sometimes Cats Regurgitate.

Regurgitation is when a cat’s body simply expels a substance. There is no retching when it comes to regurgitation, the substance simply comes right back out a cat’s mouth prior to being digested.

Often the contents have not yet progressed past the cat’s esophagus. As a result, this often presents the substance in the shape of a long and thin log (the shape of the esophagus) when it comes back out.

As icky as all of this sounds, it’s important to understand the difference between vomiting and regurgitation.

Each of these actions can point to different types of illnesses in your cat. The ability to distinguish between vomitus and regurgitating could help your veterinarian make an accurate diagnosis.

Why Do Cats Throw Up?

There are all kinds of reasons why a cat might throw up. Understanding the possible causes is the first step in resolving the issue, so be sure to take note.  

Low-Quality Food 

Not all cat food is created equal. Some foods are made from high quality, healthy ingredients while others are made from slaughterhouse scraps which have poor nutritional value.

Sometimes the ingredients in these low-quality cat foods are difficult for cats to digest and may lead to indigestion and vomiting. If you’re unsure whether a food has a certain quality ask your veterinarian to recommend one they trust.

Food Allergies 

Just like humans, cats can suffer from food allergies.

Grains, corn products, dairy products, food preservatives, certain kinds of seafood, and meat byproducts are all common culprits of feline food allergies.

If you notice your cat throwing up frequently it’s possible that he or she is suffering from a food allergy. Through a careful food elimination process, you should be able to determine what the trigger is and ensure your cat isn’t exposed to it.


Vomiting is a natural response when a cat has ingested something toxic. If your cat has ingested pesticides, automotive fluids, toxic plants, rotten food, or cleaning products, he or she will likely vomit to purge the toxins. If you suspect your cat has ingested something poisonous, contact your veterinarian immediately.


Cats who groom themselves frequently often ingest a certain amount of their own hair. This is especially true for long-haired breeds. Hairballs don’t harm them, but it’s common that cats will vomit them up. Fortunately, this type of vomit is easy to identify due to the presence of hair!  

Chronic Illness 

There is a myriad of illnesses which could cause a cat to vomit. These include everything from irritable bowel disease and pancreatitis to hypothyroidism, liver or kidney disease, and even cancer.  

Why Do Cats Regurgitate? 

Regurgitation often has different causes than vomiting. Again, it’s important to note the possible reasons your cat could be regurgitating in order to help your vet make an educated diagnosis. A very common cause of regurgitation is some form of esophageal disease. There are a variety of different types of diseases including tumors, infections, and more. 

Cats who eat very quickly are also prone to regurgitation. The sudden onslaught of food in the esophagus can trigger their esophageal sphincter to regurgitate everything. If you notice this issue in your cat, try feeding him small portions throughout the day to see if it alleviates the problem.  

When Should I Worry That My Cat is Throwing Up? 

While the occasional vomiting episode isn’t typically cause for alarm, it’s worth taking note of how often it happens. Frequent vomiting can lead to dehydration and malnutrition. It can also be a symptom of a more serious problem. 

Any time your cat vomits take note of what the substance looks like.

Is it possible that it’s a regurgitation? Is there a stomach bile present? Is there another identifiable substance present? How often does this happen? All of this type of information will come in handy if you need to involve your veterinarian.

The first time you notice your cat vomit, make a note. If it occurs again in a short period of time, consider contacting your veterinarian.  If you notice that your cat’s vomiting occurs in conjunction with other symptoms or changes in behavior, take him or her to the veterinarian right away.

Additionally, if you notice the presence of blood in your cat’s vomit don’t hesitate to see the vet immediately. This could be a sign of a serious illness.

Naturally, the last thing any animal lover wants is to see their best friend suffer. A cat health insurance plan can help ensure your cat has access to medical care any time he or she needs it.

Consider Investing in Pet Insurance 

Looking for more ways to keep your pets happy and healthy? Consider investing in a pet insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1  Our dog insurance and cat insurance policies can provide the coverage and care your furry family members deserve.  Get your free quote today. 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

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