It’s 3:00 AM. You’re fast asleep when all of a sudden you’re woken up by the dreaded sound of your cat getting ready to vomit. You know the sound. It’s an instant alarm clock no matter how tired you are. You jump out of bed and scream when you realize your cat has decided that your favorite throw rug is their chosen target.
Once the initial scare is over and multiple expletives have left your mouth, you get ready to head back to bed. But should you be concerned? What color was your cat’s vomit and should you call your veterinarian when they open? Depending on what color your cat’s vomit was and how they are acting, emergency veterinary care may or may not be needed. Let’s discuss what to look for and when to be the most concerned.
Cat Vomit Colors – Identifying Colors & What They Mean
Yellow liquid and froth
Animals who vomit stomach acid, or bile, will often vomit yellow liquid and/or froth. This is typically an indication that your cats’ stomach is empty. The stomach never stops producing acid, even when there is no food present. If your cat has been eating normally, is defecating normally, has formed stool, and is still acting themselves, then one or a few episodes of acid vomit may not be a reason to be concerned.
If your cat starts running around after they’ve vomited, is begging for food and/or goes back to bed, don’t stress yourself out. While there are numerous reasons for some acid reflux, vomiting due to an empty stomach should be no reason for concern if your cat is otherwise acting normal.
If you notice that your cat vomited green liquid, it could just be secondary to something they ate. Does your cat have access to cat grass? Or perhaps it had a dental chew or some cat nip. Make sure that the color is not green from eating a leaf of a plant as some plants are toxic to animals.
However, if the color is not secondary to something your cat ate, green-colored liquid can sometimes signify a gastrointestinal obstruction. If your cat vomits green, has no appetite, is lethargic or can’t keep water down, then we recommend seeing your veterinarian for testing.
There are two types of cats in this world. Cats who believe they are starving 24 hours a day and eat an entire bowl of food in two seconds. And cats who will go back to the same bowl of food and graze throughout the day. The starving cats who gorge themselves with food will often vomit shortly after eating. The vomit will be the color of the food and look almost exactly like it does in the bowl. This may just be secondary to the cat eating too much too fast.
Cats may also vomit undigested food if they have problems with motility (movement of food through the GI tract), parasites or stomach obstructions. Obstructions can occur if your cat ate something it was not supposed to such as a toy or string, or from a tumor blocking the food from being processed normally.
If your cat still has a good appetite and this only happens on occasion, then there is no reason to panic. Just make sure you discuss the occasional vomiting with your vet at their next wellness visit. If your cat is vomiting undigested food in addition to water, can’t keep anything down, or has no appetite or energy, then your cat should be seen by their vet.
Partially digested food
Partially digested food will have the color of the food your cat ate and be slightly liquefied. This can also occur after your cat has eaten extremely fast. Sometimes cats will vomit food that hasn’t been fully digested because they also ate something that didn’t agree with their stomach, or potentially got a new type of food.
We can also see cats’ vomit if they have a condition of their thyroid, parasites or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. If your cat regularly vomits partially digested food, can’t seem to put on weight or is not having normal bowel movements then please contact your veterinarian. As above, if this only occurs on occasion and your cat is otherwise acting him/herself, then there likely isn’t much to worry about.
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Blood / Bloody red
Seeing blood in a pets’ vomit can be quite alarming! It may often seem like your pet is bleeding out and witnessing the event can be shocking.
If seeing blood occurs after multiple episodes of vomiting, it could be irritation to the esophagus and/or stomach from the act of vomiting. Blood in the vomit can also be an indication of certain GI parasites, especially with outdoor cats, newly adopted cats or cats not on any prevention.
Toxins can also be the cause of bloody vomit. If anyone in the house is on medications for blood pressure, blood clots or blood thinners and your cat all of a sudden is vomiting blood, make sure that you didn’t accidentally drop a pill. If any of the medication is missing, or you know your cat ingested it, contact the ASPCA Poison Control immediately and they will let you know if your cat needs to go to the veterinarian. If there is any chance your cat may have ingested rat bait (either in your house or outside), the recommendation is to bring the packaging with you and contact your vet.
If none of the above is a possibility and your cat is still vomiting blood, then testing to make sure there isn’t a tumor or ulcer may be recommended. Unfortunately without testing, there is no easy way to determine this at home.
No matter the cause, if the bloody vomit occurs more than once, your cat doesn’t want to eat or drink and is not acting themselves, than a trip to the doctor should be in their near future.
Black / “coffee grounds” appearance
When you see your cat vomit black liquid, or material that looks like coffee grounds, this is an indication of digested blood. Seeing black fluid can be an indication that your cat has a blood clotting abnormality or a stomach ulcer. A number of the same causes of bloody vomit can also cause the black vomit such as parasites, toxin ingestion, tumor or obstruction. No matter the cause, evaluation with a veterinarian is recommended as soon as available, especially if your cat is not feeling well.
There are many reasons why your cat may vomit. Hopefully, by paying attention to the color of the vomit and how your cat is acting, you will have a better idea of when to have your cat seen by their veterinarian.
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Featured Image Credit: chie hidaka, Shutterstock