What It Means When Your Cat Is Vomiting Clear Liquid

The reasons your cat might vomit clear liquid

The Spruce / Ellen Lindner

When your cat vomits clear liquid, it can be a sign of a serious illness. The clear liquid your cat is vomiting up comes from the digestive tract. Vomiting is associated with an array of health concerns including things like hairballs, internal obstructions, pancreatitis, eating too quickly, constipation, indigestion, parasitic infections, poisoning, stress, depression, or even anxiety. Consider other symptoms your cat is exhibiting to determine the cause of the vomiting. A cat that is repeatedly vomiting clear liquid and showing other symptoms of distress or illness should be seen by a vet.

Possible Causes for Your Cat Vomiting Clear Liquid

Hairballs

Cats are naturally meticulously clean animals and groom themselves for a large part of their day. As your cat grooms themselves, tiny hook-like structures on their tongue catch loose and dead hair, which is then swallowed. The majority of the hair passes all the way through the digestive tract with no problems, but sometimes the hair stays in the stomach and forms a hairball.

Commonly, cats will vomit up clear liquid prior to a hairball. Although, a cat vomiting up clear liquid with a hairball occasionally can be normal and not a concern, it is important to note that hairballs should not be frequent, painful, or difficult for your cat to pass. Some commercial cat diets and treats are formulated to help prevent the formation of hairballs. Adopting a regular brushing schedule and getting your cat comfortable with brushing can also help get rid of any loose fur in your cat's coat that they may otherwise ingest when grooming themselves.

Food and Dietary Changes

When there is a change in your cat's feeding schedule, if your cat misses a meal or eats later than normal, your cat may vomit up clear liquid.

In addition, you may have switched your cat’s food too quickly. When changing your cat to a new diet, do it gradually over a one to two-week period, decreasing the amount of current cat food while increasing the amount of new cat food.

Your cat may eat too quickly, and this can cause clear vomit or clear vomit with food present. If your cat is a habitual 'scarf and barf' cat or if they have intestinal sensitivities, that may be causing them to vomit up partially digested or undigested food. If your vet has ruled out other medical issues and thinks that what your cat is vomiting up is actually food, they may want you to try a commercial, sensitive systems food with your cat. If your cat is still struggling with vomiting food on this special diet, they may then want to put your cat on a strict, hydrolyzed protein diet.

Your vet may also suggest food puzzles for your cat. Food puzzles are a great source of both play and enrichment for your cat. There are more and more manufactured food puzzles available on the market that stimulate both your cat's predatory and foraging instincts. The added benefit of food puzzles for a cat that chronically vomits its food, though, is that it slows down the chow time so that a cat cannot eat too quickly and then get sick.

Indigestion 

Just like in people, a cat's stomach produces various gastric juices as well as hydrochloric acid to digest their food. If, however, a cat skips a meal for some reason, or if they are not fed on time, that buildup of juice and acid can irritate the stomach and cause your cat to vomit. Cats with indigestion may vomit yellow foam in addition to white foam. If you and your vet suspect your cat's vomiting is from indigestion, and has ruled out other more serious causes, your vet may suggest feeding small, frequent meals at the same time throughout the day so as to alleviate any buildup of stomach acid.

Gastritis 

If your cat is one to get into things they shouldn't, it is possible that they have irritated their stomach with something that they have eaten. When this happens, you may see vomiting clear liquid in addition to vomiting blood and/or bile. Your cat may also be exhibiting a decrease in appetite, a depressed attitude, lethargy, or dehydration. Your vet will know just what to do if your cat is vomiting because of gastritis.

Other Possible Causes

  • Parasites
  • Constipation
  • An obstruction of foreign material in the intestinal tract
  • Ingesting a toxin
  • Metabolic disorders such as diabetes, kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism 
  • Cancer

What Should I Do If My Cat Is Vomiting Clear Liquid?

Some cat owners may describe their cat as "puke-y," but it should be noted that frequent vomiting is never normal for a cat. Vomiting more than once a week is definitely a sign of a problem. If your cat is vomiting clear liquid several times and/or in conjunction with other symptoms such as lack of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, or diarrhea, you should make an appointment with your vet right away. Your vet will start with a physical exam, checking your cat's vital signs, and palpating your cat's abdomen. After a thorough examination, your vet may also run some tests, including blood work and x-rays. Blood work will check your cat's organ function, making sure that there are no signs of liver disease or kidney disease, as well as your cat's red blood cell and platelet levels. An x-ray study will check for any fluid in the abdomen that could potentially be blood and it may also show intestinal gas patterns that could be indicative of a blockage.

Depending on what your doctor finds, your cat may require hospitalization for fluid therapy and supportive care, or they may just need outpatient treatments and oral medications to take home. If your vet suspects an intestinal blockage your cat may require surgery to remove the blockage.

FAQ
  • When should I be concerned about my cat vomiting?

    Cats will vomit occasionally, so an episode now and then isn't something to worry about. However, if your cat throws up more than usual (more than once a week may be cause for concern), is listless, tired, and not itself, it's time to call your veterinarian.

  • What can I give my cat for vomiting?

    There are not many over-the-counter solutions to prevent cat vomiting.

  • What should you feed a vomiting cat?

    It's best to give it small amounts of food to see if they stay down. Try to stick to the same type of food they are used to, rather than adding in new foods. Sometimes your vet may recommend a sensitive stomach diet or a hydrolyzed protein diet.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.
Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Vomiting in Cats. Merck Veterinary Manual.

  2. Gastritis in Cats. VCA Hospitals.

  3. Vomiting. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.