It is a common myth that vomiting is normal in cats. Most animals will be sick on occasion, but regular vomiting is not normal. Cats can get upset stomachs for a variety of reasons, some more serious than others. If you notice that your cat is a ‘sicky cat’ – vomiting more than once a week, or consistently vomiting every couple of weeks, an appointment with your vet would be an excellent first step to make sure nothing serious is amiss. 

Common reasons for cats to be sick

Most of the reasons that cats are sick are not hugely concerning, but it is always worth knowing what is happening, and therefore how to help. 

Eating too much, or too quickly

Greedy cats who bolt their food may bring it all straight back up again. For an easy tip, spread their dry food out onto a tray or mat rather than a bowl as this helps them slow down their eating. Puzzle feeders can also be great in these cases, and provide some excellent mental stimulation at the same time. It can also be helpful to split their daily food into smaller portions given frequently over the day rather than one big meal. 

New food

Introducing a new food too quickly can cause a tummy upset. If you need to change your cat’s food, try and do so gradually over the course of a few days, slowly reducing the amount of the old food and increasing the new. 


Long-haired cats are particularly prone to this problem, but short-haired cats who are fastidious and frequent groomers can also have trouble. Passing a hairball every week or so easily and quickly is not a problem. However, if your cat seems to be having difficulty bringing up hairballs, or is bringing them up very frequently, they may need some help. A regular grooming routine reduces the amount of hair ingested. There are also some over-the-counter medications that can help, but it’s wise to have a chat with your vet first and make sure there’s nothing else to look into. 

Health conditions causing cats to be sick

Vomiting after food can also be caused by more serious health concerns. There may be additional symptoms with some of these conditions, but being sick can be the only sign, or at least the most obvious. These diseases are an excellent reason why a vomiting cat should have a check over with a veterinary surgeon.


Cats, especially those that hunt, can become infected with various types of internal parasite. Worms that infest the gut can cause tummy upsets and weight loss. It is always recommended to speak to your vet about a suitable worming program for your pet, especially as some worms can also infect humans. 

Foreign body 

If your cat eats something that isn’t actually food – such as a length of string or a small toy, it is called a ‘foreign body’. These objects can get lodged in the stomach or somewhere along the digestive tract. They then cause a blockage, as well as damaging the area of intestine they are stuck in. Vomiting is a common symptom, but they may also be very quiet and depressed, react badly if you try and touch their tummy, as it is painful and stop eating. 


Inflammation of the pancreas can cause vomiting, a lack of appetite and a painful tummy in cats. Cats often need fairly intensive treatment at the vets to recover. 


An upset tummy, perhaps caused by a bacterial or viral infection, can cause cats to be acutely sick for a few days. 


Cats are curious creatures, and as well as eating things they are not meant to, they can also eat things which are toxic. Lilies, onions, anti-freeze, detergents and human medications are all common culprits, but there is a more extensive list here. Different toxins will cause different symptoms, but vomiting and lethargy are both common ones. 

Food allergies, food sensitivities and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Cats can be intolerant to certain foods – ranging from a mild sensitivity to more dramatic allergic responses. Vomiting is a common symptom, often regularly. They may also have intermittent or chronic diarrhoea, and struggle to gain weight. Cats can also suffer from IBD, an inflammatory condition of the intestines which makes it difficult for them to absorb the nutrition from their food and can lead to similar symptoms. 


This is a fairly common disease in older cats, and involves an overactive thyroid gland producing too much thyroid hormone. Affected cats are often ravenously hungry and thirsty but still lose weight, and can often vomit as well. 

Kidney disease

Another common health concern for those older felines, kidney disease can start with very mild signs. Increased thirst and urination, alongside a poor appetite, weight loss or vomiting can all be indications worth assessing. 


Various forms of cancer can occur in cats, and there are a huge range of symptoms. Cancers that affect the stomach and intestines commonly cause vomiting, alongside weight loss and often a change in bowel movements. 

This is not an exhaustive list, there are other illnesses that may cause vomiting, but are less common. If you are concerned about your cat, seek veterinary advice.

When to go to the vets

If you are concerned about your cat’s health, a veterinary appointment is always a sensible step. The odd episode of being sick can be normal, but more frequent vomiting is always worth investigating, especially as vomiting multiple times in a short period can lead to dehydration. If there is any blood in the vomit, they are not keeping any food or water down, your cat is very listless, or if their gums are pale and cold, speak to your vet urgently. 

If you have changed your cat’s food over rapidly, try feeding something plain for a couple of days (such as plain boiled chicken or white fish), and then gradually try again. It is worth looking out for any other signs of illness, such as being quiet and hiding away, and any changes to their poo, weight or drinking habits. This will all be useful information to discuss with the vet. 

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