cats having a veterinary check up after vomiting

Help! My cat is being sick. Identifying the causes of cat vomiting

Cats are accustomed to eating small birds or rodents in the wild, so feeding your cat little and often may naturally suit their digestive system better than a large meal twice a day. But however your cat is used to eating, chances are they may still be sick from time to time – and it’s natural to be concerned if you notice your pet vomiting.

While one-off vomiting may be no cause for alarm – your cat may vomit simply because they’ve eaten too much or too fast, for example – there are numerous reasons for a cat being sick. 

Your local vet will help you establish the cause and recommend treatment, if necessary. Always seek help from your vet if your cat or kitten keeps being sick, if you suspect they’ve been in contact with a toxic or harmful substance, or if you spot blood in their vomit.

Furballs in cats

Most cats occasionally bring up furballs after grooming. It’s natural for the cat’s hairs to become tangled and irritate the lining of the stomach, and this is perfectly normal. Your cat may also vomit food, frothy mucus or bile.

Sickness in cats: the warning signs

If your cat is sick once and is otherwise alert, active, and showing no other symptoms, there’s likely to be nothing to worry about. If your cat is lethargic, persistently vomiting, has diarrhoea, loses his or her appetite, or displays any other symptoms, don’t delay – get them to your local vet, fast. Prolonged vomiting can quickly lead to dehydration, so always be vigilant.

Common causes of a cat being sick

There’s a vast range of possible causes for sickness in cats. While it’s impossible to cover all of these, here are a few of the most common reasons. (This list is no substitute for the advice and expertise of your local vet, so always get in contact if you have any concerns about your cat’s health.)

  • Worms
  • Sensitive stomach
  • Stomach infections (gastritis)
  • Viruses
  • Colitis
  • Serious conditions
  • Poisonous or harmful substances

Reasons for a cat vomiting

An infestation of worms, such as roundworm or tapeworm, can cause your cat to vomit. As always, prevention is better than cure, and it’s important to get into a regular worming routine to keep your cat worm free.  (It is worth noting that young cats and kittens are more likely to experience vomiting as a result of worms).

If your cat has a particularly sensitive stomach they may be unable to tolerate certain foods or sudden changes in their diet, both of which can trigger vomiting. Your vet can advise you on a suitably bland diet – such as chicken with rice, or fish with pasta – for cats with a delicate stomach. It’s also best not to give your cat cow’s milk, which can trigger a reaction in the form of lactose intolerance. 

Stomach infections (gastritis) are a common cause of vomiting in cats – and are often marked by both sickness and diarrhoea. A bland diet (see above) and plenty of water can help clear up the problem in a few days, but always consult your vet if your cat doesn’t recover quickly.

Your cat vomiting may be a symptom of a number of viruses that are common in cats, including feline parvovirus (FPV), feline coronavirus (FCoV), feline infectious leukaemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

Sickness accompanied by diarrhoea may be a sign of colitis in your cat. Colitis is often eased by feeding your cat a bland diet (see above).

A number of serious conditions can cause cats to be sick, including congestive heart failure, disease of the central nervous system, cancer, liver and kidney diseases. Your vet will test your cat to rule out these conditions if necessary, and to establish the best course of treatment to get your cat back in tip-top health.

Ingesting poisonous or harmful substances can cause your cat to be sick. If you believe your cat has come into contact with a toxic substance, get them to your local vet as quickly as possible. 

Did you know? 

Vomiting isn’t the same as regurgitation, which happens after a meal and contains visible lumps of undigested food. Regurgitation can be a sign that your cat has eaten too quickly, or something more sinister so ask your vet for advice if the problem persists.

“Your vet can advise you on a suitably bland diet – such as chicken with rice, or fish with pasta – for cats with a delicate stomach.” 

Need help and advice on a cat being sick?

For expert advice on vomiting in cats, get in touch with your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.