Much like with dogs, you wouldn’t be the first cat parent to wrestle something out of your buddy’s mouth – especially if it’s something cats shouldn’t be eating. But with all the shenanigans our feline friends get up to, it’s easy to miss the signs they’re sick until they’ve left a magnificent pile of vomit on your favorite couch…and now you’re wondering, Why is my cat throwing up?

But besides just regular vomit, you might also encounter your cat throwing up:

  • Undigested food
  • White foam
  • Clear foamy liquid
  • …and more

All of which can result from anything ranging from digestive distress, hairballs, or just eating something they shouldn’t have gotten their paws on in the first place.

So in this post we’re going to cover why your cat is throwing up – and what you can do to help them get back to better in no time. (Including figuring out where they’re getting their paws on those “forbidden” snacks or treats – both indoors or outdoors.)

Why is my cat throwing up so much?

Now unfortunately, your cat might be throwing up due to a whole bunch of reasons. Including:

Eating (or drinking) something they shouldn’t have

Aka, the number one reason you’ve got a pile of cat vomit on your carpet or couch.1 Which might include:

  • Foods that cats should stay clear of, including nuts, honey, raw food, bones, or even dog food.
  • A foreign object, which might include small toys, strings, or even plants – all of which can cause tummy trouble.
  • Their own fur, as a result of grooming themselves. This can end up with hairballs accumulating in their stomach – which they eventually regurgitate out.
  • Eating something they’re allergic to, or the result of a food intolerance. Usually, proteins in specific foods might trigger a food allergy in cats.
  • Drinking dirty water, like from a nearby pond or lake which might contain algae or bacteria.

Read more:

A cat opening its mouth wide to reach for food

Now you might be feeding your cat regular, healthy meals – and you’ve ideally set some firm boundaries with your friends, family, and house guests regarding feeding your cat any extra treats or snacks. (You do want to avoid overfeeding your cat – or someone feeding them something toxic, entirely by accident.)

⚠️ Which brings up the question: where’s your cat been getting those extra treats from?

It could be:

  • An indoor snack stash from unsupervised kitchen cabinets, fridges, or cupboards

But also more likely from:

  • Foraging or scavenging for food outdoors
  • Getting fed by your neighbors or other folks around town
  • Hunting for food outdoors (including smaller woodland animals or even fish, if your cat’s a swimmer)
A cat with a fish in its mouth outdoors

💡Makes tracking your cat’s everyday movements (both indoors and outdoors) a smart idea, if you ask us.

Which you can do by hovering over your buddy 24/7 – or strapping a cat GPS tracker to their collar and letting it do all the hard work for you.

one eyed cat wearing harness sitting outside in forest

Meaning, with just a glance at your phone, you can track your cat:

  • In real-time,
  • Over an unlimited range,
  • While on vacation (or over 175 countries, if you’re on a Premium subscription)

All of which can help you intervene if you notice they’re wandering a bit too far from safety – near your local garbage dump or a bit too close to the hotdog stand down the street.

Discover Tractive GPS

Stress & anxiety

Much like us humans, cats are creatures of routine. So a major change can be stressful – and even trigger some vomiting as a result.2

These could be changes like:

  • Moving apartments, cities, or even countries
  • A change in diet or new medication
  • Traveling, like if you’ve taken them out with you on a road trip
  • Bringing home a new baby or pet (with whom they now have to share your attention)
  • One of your kids moving away for college
  • A change in your work schedule (like if you’re now on a night shift – so not around during the “usual” times)
A woman shifting to a new apartment with her cat

Feeling stressed out in a new environment can make your cat reluctant to eat much. (It’s what their wild ancestors might’ve done.) Which is where an empty stomach might cause them to vomit out some stomach acids as a result.

Read more: Cat Not Eating As Much? These Might Be The Reasons Why

⚠️ Plus, besides messing up your cat’s feeding and sleep time, your absence could even trigger some separation anxiety in your cat.

Which can result in scratched furniture, peeing outside their litter box – or even an escape attempt from home. (Likely to find you!)

So make sure to spend plenty of quality time with your buddy and help them feel reassured you won’t suddenly up and leave and never return.

  • Leave them behind some scratching toys and posts, healthy treats, and something with your scent (like a shirt or a sweater) to help them relax when you’re gone.
  • Ideally, you aren’t leaving your cat home alone for too long either. Kittens need more frequent supervision and adult/senior cats do well being left alone for a few hours, tops.
  • Get a friend, loved one, or a neighbor to check in on your cat periodically. (And report to you if they’ve been vomiting, coughing up hairballs, or showing any signs of sickness – so you can get them to a vet right away.)
A woman playing with a cat indoors

💡And if you’ve invested in a Tractive device, you can even escape-proof your home and backyard by setting up a “safe zone” around it. (Aka, a Virtual Fence – or a geofence that monitors your cat’s movements.)

Edit Virtual Fence

Now the minute your cat tries sneaking past it, you’ll get an escape alert on your phone or device.

So you can intervene or get someone to check up on your buddy.

Set Up A Virtual Fence


A whole bunch of pesky critters can also cause your cat to throw up – besides other digestive-related symptoms like diarrhea. Including:

  • Parasites, including intestinal parasites – but also insects like ticks, mites, and fleas
  • Inner ear infections
  • Bacterial or viral infections

How is your cat coming in contact with these critters in the first place? Well, in the case of parasites like ticks, it’s likely from any time they spend outdoors.

A cat wearing a Tractive GPS tracker outdoors
  • Ticks, for example, live in woodland areas – or grassy spots like fields and forests. So if you’ve got an outdoor cat, they may brush up against grasses and plants containing ticks.
  • These parasites then grab on to your poor cat’s fur, climb on, and attach to your cat by biting their skin.
  • In many cases, tick bites can lead to vomiting or heaving in affected cats.

Which is where it makes sense to clean your cat a bit more frequently if they like to spend time outdoors than an indoor one. Regular brushing can help you catch on to ticks and mites quicker – and get them to a vet right away for some anti-pest treatment.

💡And if you’re wondering where your cat’s wandering in the first place, your trusty Tractive device even helps you mark out their territory – as well as any “danger zones” within it.

Every cat has a distinct territory – so here’s how it looks, marked out in yellow on your Tractive mobile app:

cat territory as shown in the tractive gps app

Which could include spots around you that contain:

  • Poison bait, which could lead to a bad case of digestive distress if your cat licks it
  • Plants that are poisonous to cats
  • Animal traps
  • Wild animals
  • And any other danger, including that one patch of woodland your cat comes back extra itchy from

So here’s how you can mark out a danger zone on your Tractive app:

And the best part? Your danger report gets broadcast to other pet parents in your area. Helping you both keep your buddy safe – and do your part as a responsible pet parent.

Mark Out A Danger Zone

Being pregnant

Congratulations, you might be graduating to cat grandparent! Turns out, just like humans, pregnant cats might also suffer morning sickness.3 This is usually a sign yours is around four weeks into their pregnancy – so they might vomit and seem more reluctant around mealtimes.

Vets recommend keeping an eye out for the frequency of vomit – and especially if your cat isn’t eating anything around mealtimes. Drop by for a checkup in case you notice frequent vomiting and a lack of appetite.

Read more: Is My Cat Pregnant? What To Watch Out For

A mother cat nursing a litter of kittens

⚠️ No matter how much of an indoor cat yours is, being in heat and seeking out a mate is one of the key reasons cats end up escaping home and venturing outdoors.

So make sure to:

  • Get your cat used to wearing a collar and ID tag containing your contact details. (In case they end up in a neighbor’s lawn, romancing their cats.)
  • A microchip can work even better, since it works like a permanent ID tag for your cat – in case they end up wandering out of town.
  • Watch out for your cat’s “heat times” – which can range from May to September, depending on which hemisphere you live in.

And if you’ve done all this and still find your cat missing…

  • Hit “LIVE” on your Tractive mobile app – and follow your cat’s every step as they make their every step.
Live tracking Cat GPS tracker
Lincoln the cat sitting on a couch

“Lincoln’s Tractive is an absolute must, and he will have it for the rest of his life.

My future pets will have one too. The peace of mind is invaluable.

– Lauren Watson & Lincoln the cat

Read more: Lauren & Lincoln The Cat: Roaming Safely With Tractive

Track Your Cat In Real-Time

Other, more serious medical conditions

Now if you’ve accounted for all the previous situations and you’re still wondering, Why is my cat throwing up?, it could be a more serious medical condition.

Here are a couple that include vomiting in cats as one of their symptoms:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • UTI
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Kidney disease

Which is why vets recommend watching out for how frequently your cat is vomiting and whether they’re showing any signs of sickness besides just throwing up.

Spotted something weird in your cat’s vomit? What it can tell you

It might seem gross, but…like it or not, examining your cat’s vomit can actually help you figure out the reasons why they’re throwing up in the first place. Which can help you describe your cat’s symptoms that much better to your vet and ensure they get proper treatment.

Why is my cat throwing up undigested food?

When your cat throws up undigested food, it usually means it just wasn’t in their stomachs long enough to digest properly.4 So your vet might refer to it as “regurgitating” rather than vomiting – especially if the food that turns up hasn’t been entirely digested yet. Most often, this might turn up as yellow, orange, brown or even green vomit.

Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Eating too quickly – or just too much. A slow feeder can help dispense kibble or treats at more spaced out intervals, so your buddy learns not to gorge themselves too quick.
  • Hairballs, which might end up mixed up with any food they eat – and come out as vomit that much quicker. Regular grooming can help prevent your cat’s fur from accumulating in their digestive tracts.
  • Eating grass, which…yes, we know, sounds weird – but is actually pretty normal for cats! Depending on the grass, though, it might end up irritating their digestive tracts and trigger vomiting as a reflex. It’s not clear why cats do it, but the reasons might range from wanting some more nutrients to just plain boredom.
A cat nibbling on the stalks of a potted plant
  • Foreign objects, like cotton, thread, wool, or even small toys that might end up blocking their digestive tracts – and trigger vomiting as a result.
  • Food allergies, especially if your cat is sensitive to specific ingredients (like protein.) This might lead to symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and even skin infections.

💡 Taking a video to show your vet can help them determine whether your cat is regurgitating or vomiting out food. In the latter case, it might be a more serious situation indicating illness.

Why is my cat throwing up white foam? Or clear, foamy liquid?

If your cat is throwing up white foam, it might signal an empty stomach.5 Bring your cat to a vet right away if you notice this, as it could signal an emergency.

  • This white foam is most likely a mixture of stomach acid and saliva – either from not eating for too long, or having eaten something they shouldn’t have.
  • In some cases, your cat might end up throwing up bile on an empty stomach, which might look like yellow vomit.
A cat sitting next to a food bowl refusing to eat

Some of the causes of a cat vomiting on an empty stomach include:

  • Indigestion
  • Gastritis, especially if their stomach acid has increased and has inflamed their stomach lining.
  • Hairballs
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Hepatic deficiency
  • Parasites
  • And other, more serious conditions, like diabetes and pancreatitis

What else to watch out for in your cat’s vomit

  • Blood in your cat’s vomit, especially if it’s red or pink. This might occur most commonly from your cat having swallowed a foreign object.6
  • Black vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds. Get in touch with your vet immediately if you notice this, as it might signal a serious problem with your cat’s gastrointestinal tract.
  • Mucus, which indicates your cat is regurgitating rather than vomiting.

When should I drop by my vet?

In general, you should drop by your vet for a checkup if your cat has been throwing up 2-3 times in a row.7 Keep an eye out for signs like your cat:

  • Not eating or drinking for over 12 hours
  • Or, on the other hand, drinking a lot of water
  • Coughing, hacking, or sneezing
  • Not going to the litter box as often as usual (i.e. constipated)
  • Going to the litter box way more than usual (or having diarrhea)
  • Relieving themselves outside of their litter box
  • Vomiting up worms

If a vet has already diagnosed your cat with a previous illness – and they’ve been vomiting continuously – this might count as an emergency. Head to your clinic immediately in these cases.

Also, avoid giving your cat any medicine, food, or even water by mouth if they’re vomiting. This might end up worsening the problem instead, especially if you do so without proper veterinary guidance.

What to expect once you’re at your vet’s

Here are some of the tests your vet might run to determine the cause of why your cat is throwing up:

  • A physical exam, especially your cat’s mouth (and gums) or their stomachs
  • A blood test
  • Examining your cat’s urine or feces
  • In more serious cases, an X-ray or ultrasound
A vet examining a cat at a clinic

Come prepared to answer questions like:

  • Whether you’ve switched up your cat’s diet or introduced any new medication
  • When your cat began throwing up – and how long they’ve been at it
  • Any other symptoms your cat’s experiencing, including diarrhea or lethargy
  • How long it’s been since your cat’s eaten or drunk anything
  • What your cat’s diet is like on the regular (including what treats you feed them, if any)
  • Your cat’s wandering habits, i.e., whether they’re an indoor or outdoor cat
  • Anything weird you might’ve noticed in your cat’s vomit
  • If you have any other pets at home – and whether they’re throwing up as well

What your vet might prescribe

Depending on the cause of your cat throwing up, your vet might recommend:

  • A change in diet to bland, easily-digestible foods. Some vet-approved cat food options are specifically designed for cats with sensitive stomachs, so make sure to check with your vet before buying right away.
  • Plenty of fluids to help your cat replenish the water they’ve lost through vomiting. (To avoid dehydration down the line.)
  • Specific medications to help stop the vomiting. These might include anti-emetic medications, but also antibiotics, probiotics, and deworming pills.

⚠️ Avoid giving your cat any medicine built for us humans. These might contain ingredients that are toxic to cats and might do more harm than good.

Prevent your cat’s digestive distress – with these tips

Once you’re home, make sure to keep your cat on their medication schedule for as long as your vet recommends – even if the vomiting stops and they seem to be doing better. Keep an eye on their symptoms and get in touch with your vet if you notice them persisting.

Besides, it also makes sense to:

Make regular grooming a priority

Yes, your cat might be fussy about their fur – but with regular brushing and washes, you can help:

  • Prevent matting and tangling, which can attract critters like ticks and mites. Brushing your cat’s coat can also help prevent dry skin, which can cause itching.
  • Wash out hard-to-groom bits like dirt, mud, and pollen – which can also trigger an allergy in both dogs and cats.7
  • Prevent ear and eye infections, if you use special cat-friendly ear and eye wipes. Parasites can also cling to your cat’s eyelashes, not just their fur.
A woman brushing her cat's fur

Besides, we’d also recommend keeping your cat’s nails trimmed to prevent any scratching while you’re bathing them – and keep your buddy from clawing the furniture.

Read more: How to Trim Cat Nails Safely, By Yourself & At Home

Ensure your cat has access to enough water

Cats don’t actually need as much water as dogs – just around a cup of water per day. As a rule of thumb, a cat weighing around 10 lbs (or 4-5 kg) should drink around 7-9 ounces of water (or 0.2-0.3 liters) per day. Smaller cats consume less water, and larger cats drink a bit more.

Because in general, cats don’t need as much water due to their evolutionary history. Their wild ancestors primarily evolved to live in hot, desert areas – where water was hard to come by. So they had to learn to make do with having less water around.

A cat drinking water from a cup

However, factors like the climate and your cat’s activity level can all play a role in how much water they need.

And as the days get warmer, too much time outdoors and drinking too little water can all contribute to conditions like heat stroke in cats.

So besides following any change in diet, make sure your cat is drinking enough water as they recover from their vomiting episode. Offer them plenty of cool, shaded areas to keep them safe from the sun.

💡Got a cat not drinking water no matter how much you try? Check their territory from your Tractive mobile app.

This can help you figure out if these areas include any water bodies that might include contaminated water – or just any kind of algae or bacteria that can make your cat very sick.

A cat drinking water from a puddle

Discover Your Cat’s Territory

Help your cat de-stress

…by creating a relaxed home environment for them – especially if you aren’t around. If you’ve just changed your schedule or moved houses, your cat might be a bundle of nerves until they’re back to a predictable routine again.

Which might look like them:

  • Not eating at all – and throwing up from the stomach acids
  • Hiding somewhere “safe” – which could be outdoors, where they might end up eating or coming in contact with something potentially toxic
A cat hiding in the bushes at a park

So keep your cat busy at home with:

  • Interactive toys, like food puzzles and feeders that make them have to “work” to eat
  • Vertical scratching posts and perches to redirect their claws away from your furniture
  • A cozy “box-like” spot where they can hide and observe their surroundings – which can help them feel safe and less stressed out
A cat sitting in a basket hiding behind cloths
  • Give cat-specific music a whirl.8 This kind of music is specially designed to mimic the frequencies cats find familiar and comforting, including purring.
  • Another pet or person, whether that’s a pet sitter or ideally, someone your cat is familiar with. Who can ensure your cat has taken their medications on time and is eating and sleeping properly.

Monitor every morsel they eat

It bears repeating, but make sure to follow any change in diet your vet recommends to the T. This means no extra portions or treats – not even if your cat begs, whines, or yowls their head off.

As they recover, it makes sense to monitor your cat’s movements as well – especially if they’re an outdoor cat. Which could mean they’re also getting fed at:

  • Your neighbors
  • Among other folks around town
  • Your local hotdog stand – or other restaurants and cafes around you
  • …or any other place they’re getting their feline charm on – and a few extra bites, licks, and nibbles while at it – all of which could make them sick again.
A cat eating leftovers from a city sidewalk

💡But if you’ve invested in a Tractive device, you can actually figure out your cat’s favorite hangout spots over 24 hours. (Or 365 days if you’re on a Premium subscription.)

Aka, from your cat’s Heat Map and Location History. Here’s one pictured, featuring the adventures of Parsley the Maine Coon whose outdoor wanderings led his mom, Fiona, to get him his very own Tractive GPS.

Tractive CAT Mini Location History

In her words:

Parsley the Maine Coon wearing his Tractive GPS adventure tracker

He goes everywhere! His confidence knows no bounds. He has been in lots of different shops…he visits pubs, hotels and even churches

He regularly goes to other people’s houses, whether he knows them or not, and he doesn’t care if they have another cat. He just walks past and makes himself at home. He even crashed a party once

“Sometimes I’m at my wits’ end with him as he causes so much worry, not to mention them midnight visits dragging him out of a pub – sometimes in my pyjamas!

Read more: Why Parsley The Maine Coon Needs His Own Adventure Tracker

Discover Location History

So, why is my cat throwing up?

A whole bunch of reasons can cause your cat to end up barfing all over your couches or carpets. Primarily, it could be due to:

  • Infections, including from parasites, bacteria, or viruses.
  • Feeling stressed out or anxious, which might cause them to not eat as much – and their stomach acids to build up and barf out as a result.
  • Being pregnant, which is normal within the first 4 weeks – but not too frequently or for much longer.
  • Other, more serious medical conditions, including gastrointestinal issues, diabetes, pancreatitis, and more.

But most importantly, your cat might be throwing up due to eating or drinking something they shouldn’t have – which might be either toxic to cats or that’s gone bad.

⚠️ Which you can keep an eye out for by monitoring every morsel your cat eats – including where they’re getting fed from, whether that’s from one of your housemates or around town.

A woman feeding a cat on the street

When should I head to the vet?

In general, you should head to your vet if your cat vomits 2-3 times in a row – and also shows signs of sickness like:

  • Not eating or drinking for over 12 hours
  • Or, on the other hand, drinking a lot of water
  • Coughing, hacking, or sneezing
  • Not going to the litter box as often as usual (i.e. constipated)
  • Going to the litter box way more than usual (or having diarrhea)
  • Relieving themselves outside of their litter box
  • Vomiting up worms

Make sure to follow any medication or change in diet your vet prescribes to the full course – even if your cat seems to be getting better.

How can I prevent my cat from eating or drinking something off-limits?

If you’ve got a cat that lunges for any treats or snacks, it’s most likely a learned behavior. So it helps to wean them off it by:

  • Following regular mealtimes and helping them go back to a predictable routine.
  • Setting some firm boundaries with your friends, loved ones, and even neighbors – meaning no extra snacks or treats, no matter how much your cat behaves like it’s their last meal on the planet.
  • Keeping your cat busy with an enriched home environment, including plenty of toys, scratching surfaces, and ideally, some company – whether that’s another pet or person.
A pair of kids playing with a cat

And most importantly:

  • Keeping track of where your cat’s off exploring.

Yes, even your indoor cat can find a billion ways to sneak outdoors when you’re busy – and especially if they’re:

  • Bored,
  • In heat,
  • Not the best at being discerning about accepting food from strangers.

💡Plus, with just a glance at your phone, your trusty Tractive device can help you follow their every step – as they make their every step.

An outdoor cat wearing a Tractive GPS tracker in a lawn
Tractive Trustpilot review

Know everywhere your cat goes

See where they are in real-time, no matter how far they go. Get alerts if they roam too far home. Find out where they’ve been and discover their favorite spots. Let others track with you.

Discover Cat GPS Trackers

Feeling queasy examining your cat’s vomit for clues? Here’s a video that can help you out:

And if you’ve liked this post, share it with a friend or a loved one – and let’s help build a safer, kinder world for our furry friends together.