Why Does My Cat Throw Up So Much?

There are many reasons cats throw up.  So there may not be a quick and easy answer to the question, “Why does my cat throw up?”   Below are various reasons for cats’ vomiting.


Eating a rendered, poor quality diet could be a contributor.  Rendered means the proteins found in your cat’s food are not approved for human consumption. These probably consist of leftovers from the slaughterhouse – bird beaks and feathers, hooves, animal skin, eyes, and heads. These pieces and parts are considered protein, but they can be very difficult for your cat’s body to digest and assimilate, causing your cat to throw up.

cat eats too fast

Some cats develop food allergies.  This is a common reason for occasional vomiting over a long time period. If your cat acts fine, has a healthy weight, doesn’t seem sick and has a normal amount of energy, but just throws up occasionally, you should consider a food allergy as a possible cause.  Try feeding a high quality food, and see if your cat’s vomiting stops.

Treats and Milk:

Another area to look at is kitty treats. Some cat parents feed a very high quality food, but give poor quality treats to their pets.

Look at the label on your cat’s treats and see if they contain things like propylene glycol, FDC red #4, ethoxyquin, chemical dyes or emulsifiers, surfactants, and other ingredients you can’t pronounce.  These additives, preservatives and cheap fillers can cause GI inflammation, which causes vomiting.

Another possible culprit is milk.  Most mammals drink milk if given, but it’s important that the milk is from the same species.  Drinking milk (‘nursing’) from a different species can cause gastrointestinal issues..

Cats do not have the enzymes required to break down the milk sugar in cow’s milk.  The pancreas doesn’t secrete the lactase necessary to break down the lactose in cow’s milk. This results in secondary GI symptoms, including vomiting.

Does Your Cat Eat Too Fast?

Another very common reason cats throw up is eating too quickly. Your kitty’s esophagus is a quadruped – meaning that it is horizontal rather than vertical.  Food can slap against the lower esophageal sphincter and cause regurgitation of whole, undigested food several minutes after it’s consumed. Slowing down your kitty’s eating will help.

This seems to be a special problem in homes with several cats where the cats are portion fed, and competition occurs.

If this is happening in your house, try feeding your kitties in separate areas or rooms so they can’t see or hear the other cats eat.  It’s best if you can close the door behind each cat because it won’t take long for your gobbler to figure out where the rest of the bowls are located if he can still get to them.

Give the cats about 20 minutes of solitude to eat their food slowly and uninterrupted, then remove the bowls. This may slow down your gobbler (and keep him from getting fat), and at the same time allow your slower-eating cats to relax while they eat.

If you have one kitty, but she’s a gobbler, you may need to split her meals into smaller portions and feed her more often so there isn’t vomiting.

The Timing of Meals Makes a Difference:

Portion-fed animals that are fed at the same time each day will begin to anticipate the next meal in advance – sometimes far in advance.

You might find your kitty waking you at 5:00 am because she knows meal time is near.

For the next hour, your cat’s stomach will release hydrochloric acid,  gastric juices and bile, all of which are needed to digest her meal.

Now let’s say for some reason you don’t feed your kitty until 7:00 am. There’s a good chance she will throw up some white foam and a bit of yellow bile between 6:00 am and 7:00 am. That’s because the hydrochloric acid irritates her stomach, and since there is no food there for the acid to digest, her body gets rid of some of the acid to avoid further irritation.

In this situation, it’s best to give your cat a little bit of food to nibble on before you feed her, like a treat or a small portion of her meal. If your cat is prone to vomiting before meals, try giving her a treat ahead of time so the hydrochloric acid she’s producing will have something to work on. This will decrease GI irritation and should resolve the vomiting as well.


If you’re not sure whether your cat has hairball issues, look for cylindrical plugs that appear on your floor in a pool of fluid.

Cats with long hair and those that groom themselves will need some help to reduce the amount of hair they are swallowing.

You’ll need to brush your cat, and you can also facilitate hair passage through your cat with a bit of fiber added to the diet or a petroleum free hairball remedy.

Brushing and even shaving down very hairy cats can dramatically reduce the amount of hair swallowed, and therefore the amount of hairballs your kitty must contend with.

Enzyme Deficiency:

If your cat’s pancreas doesn’t produce enough lipase, protease, and amylase, this can create a chronic or acute low-grade case of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

Adding a digestive enzyme to your cat’s diet is like buying insurance. You may never need it, but it’s always good to have. If your cat’s pancreas is properly producing enzymes, adding additional enzymes to the food is not a problem.

However, if  your cat’s pancreas is not secreting sufficient enzymes, supplementing is a great way to assure she’ll have needed enzymes to process the meal you’re feeding her.

Other Reasons Cats Throw Up:

Poisoning is a common cause of sudden vomiting in cats.  If your cat suddenly starts throwing up – especially if she doesn’t do it often – you should be concerned she has ingested something toxic.

Common household toxins for cats are plants.  If your kitty likes to eat your houseplants, she’s probably trying to compensate for a lack of certain nutrients.

Supplying your kitty with cat grass (wheat grass) is one way to offer her some living foods, and it might be enough to keep her away from potentially toxic household plants.

Other things poisonous for kitties include chemical herbicides, pesticides, and household cleaners. These will cause vomiting if ingested.

If you suspect your cat has ingested a poison, you should immediately call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

Cats will also vomit due to inflammatory bowel disease, which encompasses conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastritis, enteritis, colitis, and pancreatitis. Chronic GI inflammation in your kitty which often features intermittent vomiting, can lead to GI lymphoma. GI cancers can also cause vomiting.

Metabolic disorders like hyperthyroidism often up-regulate a cat’s metabolism, causing her to vomit.

also, organ disease or a malfunctioning organ such as the liver or kidneys will also cause vomiting in animals.

GI Testing for Your Cat:

Throwing up is not normal for cats, despite what you might have been told by your veterinarian or other cat owners.  Vomiting is a sign that something is not right inside your pet’s body.

The only animals that vomit regularly as part of their biology are vultures.  Cats and other mammals should not throw up on a regular basis.

If you have a cat that throws up intermittently, please visit your vet to investigate potential causes.  If you happen to have a vet who thinks it is normal for cats to throw up, you may want to find another vet – preferably an integrative or holistic practitioner.

Your vet should first rule out all the serious causes for vomiting, such as hyperthyroidism or organ disease.

The next step might be to consider a functional GI test, using a blood sample.  This can help determine if your cat is dealing with malabsorption and maldigestion, a disease of the small intestine, or some other problem that might be causing the vomiting.

Of utmost priority is to find the underlying cause of the vomiting so that the vomiting subsides, and your cat becomes as healthy as possible.

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The statements above have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product(s) is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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