Cats can vomit for a multitude of reasons and what they vomit can be just as varied. Water or clear liquid, though, can be a sign of a serious illness. Vomiting itself is what is considered to be a nonspecific symptom. It could be associated with an array of health concerns. Some of these can include things like allergic reactions, internal obstructions, pancreatitis, heatstroke/hyperthermia, hypothermia, parasitic infections, liver disease, poisoning, stress, depression, or even anxiety. But what could be causing your cat to vomit water or clear liquid specifically?
It can be difficult to tell the difference between water and clear liquid. Clear liquid vomit is a sign that the cat is bringing up fluid from the digestive tract. Occasionally, if your cat is vomiting right after drinking a large amount of water, they will also vomit clear liquid, the water they just drank. When a cat drinks too much water too fast, the stomach becomes filled up with water, will be stretched and enlarged causing the cat to throw up water. Conditions that can cause increased thirst and consequently increased water consumption include kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus. Other causes of a cat throwing up water is motion sickness, hairballs, gastritis, and more.
Possible Causes for Your Cat Vomiting Clear Liquid
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. To help prevent hairballs in your cat, there are over the counter dietary supplements, in either chew or gel forms. 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 cats 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, it is recommended to do it gradually over a five to seven-day period gradually 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 you 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 their food, though, is that it slows down the chow time so that a cat cannot eat too quickly and then get sick from it.
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 clear liquid, yellow foam, and white foam. If you and your vet suspect your cat's vomiting is from indigestion, your vet may suggest feeding small, frequent meals at the same time throughout the day so as to alleviate any buildup of stomach acid.
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.
Some other causes can include
· An obstruction of foreign material in the intestinal tract
· Ingesting a toxin
· Metabolic disorders such as diabetes, kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism
What Should I Do if My Cat Is Vomiting Water?
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 problem. If your cat is vomiting clear liquid or water 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 want to 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 want to 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 go home on. If your vet suspects your cat has an intestinal blockage your cat may require surgery to remove whatever the blockage is.
Vomiting in Cats. Merck Veterinary Manual.
AMA StyleSordo L, Breheny C, Halls V, Cotter A, Tørnqvist-Johnsen C, Caney SMA, Gunn-Moore DA. Prevalence of Disease and Age-Related Behavioural Changes in Cats: Past and Present. Veterinary Sciences. 7(3):85, 2020. doi:10.3390/vetsci7030085
Vomiting in Cats. Merck Veterinary Manual.
Feeding Practices in Small Animals. Merck Veterinary Manual.
Gastroenteritis in Cats. VCA Animal Hospitals.
Vomiting Pets. Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.