What Does It Mean When Your Cat Vomits?

Some cats will vomit after eating another pet's food.
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A vomiting cat can cause no small amount of distress in his human family, especially if he exhibits other signs of illness. When your cat vomits, identifying the cause can help you and your feline friend's veterinarian determine the best course of action.


Although unpleasant, hairballs are one of the more benign culprits behind a vomiting cat. Your feline friend cleans himself with his tongue, and sometimes the hair he swallows does not make it all the way through his digestive system. If hair accumulates in the stomach, he might throw it up. The best way to prevent hairballs is to groom your cat on a daily basis to remove loose hair. This is especially true for long-haired cats prone to shedding.

Poisonous Plants

Several plant species are poisonous to cats, and if your furry friend ingests one of them, vomiting is one of the first signs of distress. Certain species of lily, for example, are toxic to cats, and according to the Cat Fanciers' Association, complete kidney failure is possible within 36 hours of ingesting the plant. Other plants that are poisonous to cats include aloe, mandrake, buttercup and fig. If you suspect your cat has ingested any poisonous plants, consult a veterinarian.


If you've ever walked outside on the first day of spring only to be overcome by a sneezing fit, you understand the health problems associated with allergies. When cats develop allergies to food and other substances, their stomachs sometimes reject the irritant in the form of vomit. This is the feline body's way of communicating that it cannot properly process and digest that substance. Consider not only your cat's food as a potential allergen, but also any treats you give him for good behavior -- or just because you love him.


Gastrointestinal illness can also cause vomiting in kittens and cats, so keep your veterinarian in the loop if your cat throws up. Functional GI, fecal and other diagnostic tests can narrow down the possibilities and indicate a proper course of treatment.

Speed Eating

Just like humans, cats eat at different speeds. Some linger over their food bowls, savoring every morsel, while others put their food away as fast as they can pull it into their mouths. If your cat tends to bolt his food and he vomits soon after, speed eating could be the culprit. This is especially likely if you have multiple cats who are fed at the same time, in the same room. Competition encourages cats to eat as quickly as possible so they are not left out. Pay attention if you have other pets, such as dogs, as well. Cats will sometimes sneak food from other pets' bowls, which can cause them to throw up. Feeding your cat in a separate room can eliminate these problems.

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.

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