Do Cats Vomit White Liquid Because of Hairballs?

Hairballs, although unsightly, are usually harmless.
i Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Cats are diligent about cleaning themselves -- almost obsessive, in fact. Although that sounds just fine and dandy, there actually is a downside -- hairballs. The more your cat grooms her coat, the higher the chance she has of coughing up icky and messy hairballs.


If your cat is throwing up a white liquid, take note of whether she is exhibiting other typical signs of hairball havoc. When cats are vomiting up hairballs, they often experience other unpleasant symptoms, including upset stomach, withdrawal, exhaustion, appetite loss and dry heaving. If poor kitty is just throwing up a white substance without any of the other telltale indications, it may be completely unrelated to a hairball.


If you are aware of what a typical hairball looks like, you may be able to determine what is going on with your precious pet. Although the name would make you think otherwise, hairballs usually aren't actually shaped like balls. They actually are on the long and stringy side. If the white liquid is accompanied by what looks like a long, tubular clump of dense cat fur, then you may be onto something, as the substance may just be a remnant of something kitty ate or drank earlier.


If your cat is vomiting a white liquid and you have determined that you don't believe it's a hairball, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. Although cats often throw up for minor reasons like overeating, it also could be a symptom of another medical condition -- think parasites or diabetes.


If the white substance is actually part of the hairball, there are many easy solutions you can try to spare your kitty in the future. If you groom your cat's coat regularly, you help her get rid of persistent loose hairs, which, when accidentally swallowed, help to form the pesky balls in the first place! Frequent trips to an animal groomer -- especially for long-haired breeds -- also may do the trick. Take a trip to your local pet supplies shop, as well. Many brands offer foods that are specifically designed to prevent hairballs via promoting healthy digestion.

Intestinal Blockage

Although very rare, hairballs can sometimes be dangerous. If the ball grows especially large and thick, it can cause intestinal obstruction, an often very serious condition for kitty. If your cat seems unusually uninterested in eating and is experiencing frequent nausea and gastrointestinal distress, seek medical attention for her without delay.

Other Causes

As mentioned previously, cats throwing up is occasionally a sign of other ailments, including parasites and diabetes. If the substance appears to be a white fluid, it may actually be bile, a word for stomach acids. Diabetes and parasites can both lead to gastric distress, so this is certainly a possibility. Bile generally has a yellowish color to it, but if it's on the lighter yellow side, it may appear white to you, especially when combined with particles of food and other substances. In any event, take your cat to the veterinarian for further examination.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

the nest