cat throwing up light brown liquid
Cat Health and Wellness

Why is My Cat Throwing Up Brown Liquid?

A cat vomiting without an easy-to-identify cause is always worrying. Hairballs and undigested food are common explanations. But when an unidentifiable brown liquid is purged, it’s more concerning.

Vomit that is brown is usually indicative of a problem in the stomach. This could be a blocked intestine preventing your cat from digesting meals. Another potential explanation is that the brown fluid is blood from your cat’s mouth and gums. Prolonged and acute vomiting could cause serious damage to your cat’s oral health.

Brown vomit is not a common occurrence, and it could mean that your cat is seriously ill. You must get your cat to the vet for a thorough checkup to find out precisely what’s wrong.

Reasons Why Cats Throw Up Light Brown Liquid

If your cat is vomiting brown, smelly liquid, she will need to see a vet. Vomit in itself is not always a cause for panic. Brown shades to the liquid are rarely a good sign. It could point mean:

1) Vomiting Blood

This could be coming from her throat, especially if the regurgitation was violent. Alternatively, your cat may have bleeding gums or mouth ulcers.

2) Purged a Hairball

Hairballs are typically harmless. They can be awkward to purge, but they don’t place cats in danger.

This changes when a pool of brown vomit accompanies a hairball. This suggests that your cat is experiencing an intestinal block. This may well be a result of the hairball.

Sometimes, cat fur can ball up and create a blockage. At other times, it can wind around an intestine and prevent this organ from functioning properly. The result is the same.

Watch your cat carefully after they vomit brown liquid with a hairball. If she appears to be regularly retching or coughing, and not expelling anything, see a vet.

Other warning signs include uncharacteristic lethargy and a loss of appetite.

3) Liver Bile

Bile from the liver could turn a shade of brown. There may be a problem with your cat’s internal organs, like the liver. Bile is usually yellow or green in color.

4) Blocked Intestine

Your cat has a blocked intestine, preventing her from digesting food. This could leave your cat at risk of dehydration and starvation.

It’s easily treated if caught early enough. Your cat will be dealt with at a veterinary surgery in-patient, and bounce back quickly.

5) Throwing Up Fecal Matter

Your cat is vomiting fecal matter. This is serious and must be acted upon immediately. It suggests that something has gone very awry with your cat’s digestion.

6) Internal Bleeding

Your cat is bleeding internally, and the brown vomit is congealed blood. Again, get this investigated by a vet immediately, Your cat may have been in an accident, or swallowed something toxic.

Internal bleeding can become fatal quickly, so do not sleep on it. Your vet will take the problem every bit as seriously as you do.

7) Vomiting Undigested Food

Your cat has vomited digested food that was brown in color, such as kibble.

What Should I Do After My Cat Vomits?

Stay calm and clean it up. The chances are, your cat is feeling a little sheepish about being sick. Making a fuss will not settle their nerves. Scolding them and telling them off, meanwhile, is counterproductive.

Think about your cat’s recent behavior. Both just before the vomiting, and the past day or two. Have they been out of sorts at all? More lethargic, uncharacteristically aggressive, or disinterested in food? Has it already vomited within the previous 24 hours?

If this is your cat’s only vomiting incident, try not to worry so much. All cats throw up every now and again. Avoid feeding them for another 12 hours or so, as this will enable their stomach to settle. Just keep an eye on them after this.

If your pet displays any signs of distress, or vomits again, they may need professional help. There is nothing to gain and plenty to lose by ignoring a vomiting cat. The problem will have arisen for a reason, and will not evaporate by itself.

Can I Diagnose My Cat’s Health by the Color of Their Vomit?

In theory, the color of a cat’s vomit can be used as a guideline to understanding their health. Animal healthcare professionals go through years of training for a reason, so get your cat checked out.

Here are some of the ways that vomit color can signify a health problem:

Clear, Translucent Vomit

This suggests that your cat’s stomach lining is irritated. This could be because they have hair trapped. A cat that has been eating grass may throw up clear vomit. If this is one-off, it’s not dangerous. If it becomes regular, your cat may have a gastric problem.

White Foam

This is another sign that your cat’s stomach is irritated. The reason that they are not actively vomiting is that their stomach is empty. If your cat starts regurgitating white foam, it will usually be because they have eaten grass. This can irritate the stomach lining.

Yellow or Green Vomit

Bile originates within some essential organs in your cat’s body, so take this seriously. If your cat vomits bile more than once in a week, they may be having problems with their liver or kidneys.

Red or Pink Vomit

This is blood. This could be coming from the mouth, gums or throat. Vomiting can put a cat’s body through a lot. However, it could also be originating from their vital organs.

Internal bleeding is a serious matter, and must be investigated. This can also take the shape or brown or black vomit, as the blood starts to congeal.

When is Vomiting in Cats a Cause for Concern?

You should always be alert about vomiting in cats. It’s not typical behavior, such as urinating or excreting. If your cat is vomiting, it’s because they need to purge something from their bodies.

Sometimes, this is comparatively innocent. Cats sometimes swallow too much fur while grooming themselves, leading to hairballs. If this only happens sporadically, it is not too concerning.

It won’t be pleasant for your cat, but they will be happier having purged the hairball. The same also applies if a cat vomits undigested food as a one-off.

PetMD explains the dangers of acute vomiting. This involves a cat throwing up until their stomach is empty, leaving only bile to regurgitate. If your cat is constantly vomiting, many health concerns could be involved. More than two incidents in a day could be considered acute vomiting.

cat vomiting brown smelly liquid

What Health Problems Can be Linked to Cat’s Vomiting?

Vomiting is such a common symptom that it is linked to a variety of health concerns. It may be just a one-off, or it could be a warning sign.

Some of the sicknesses and illnesses linked to cat vomiting include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Obstructed intestines
  • Pancreatitis
  • Heatstroke and hypothermia
  • Heatstroke and Hyperthermia
  • Parasitic infection
  • Liver disease
  • Stress, depression, and anxiety
  • Poisoning

If your cat has thrown up once, try not to worry too much. The chances are they just ate too much or too fast. If your cat keeps being sick, however, they will need medical attention.

My Cat is Vomiting Bile

Bile is a green-yellow liquid generated in your cat’s liver and held in their gallbladder. The purpose of bile is to emulsify food once it reaches the small intestine. This means that if a cat vomits bile, the liquid has made its way into the stomach.

As always, if this only happens once be on red alert. If it happens more often, your cat may be living with a condition called Bilious Vomiting Syndrome. This is a medical complaint that impacts upon felines with an empty stomach.

If your cat often vomits in the morning, Bilious Vomiting Syndrome is a likely diagnosis. Your cat is experiencing problems with their acid reflux. They vomit bile because they have been fasting all night, and have no solid food to expel.

dark brown vomit with hairball

In most cases, it is treated with dietary recommendations. These could include:

  • Serving your cat a different food. This could involve changing the focus of the food’s vitamins. Alternatively, it may require a full switch from wet food to kibble.
  • Reducing the fat and fiber content in your cat’s diet. This will make it easier for your cat to empty their stomach.
  • Changing your cat’s food routine. Instead of one large meal per day, your vet may recommend lots of small feeding times. An electric, automated feeder would help with this.

If your cat continues to vomit after these methods are implemented, your vet will prescribe medication. This will be designed to control your cat’s acid reflux.

Medication will usually solve the issue once and for all, although there may be side effects. Beyond this, exploratory surgery may be necessary to ensure that your cat has no intestinal blockages.

My Cat is Vomiting Bile and Not Eating or Drinking

Losing their appetite can be a side effect of some Bilious Vomiting Syndrome medications. However, your cat should not still be throwing up if they are receiving treatment. Check in with your vet quickly if this starts to happen. Your pet may need a different prescription or treatment plan.

If this is a new or sudden situation, there could be a different explanation. It’s quite possible that your cat is frightened of eating and drinking. They may have eaten something toxic, or that sparked an allergic reaction. If they vomited, and continued to do so after their stomach was emptied, they will be cautious. They may be wondering if all food will have the same impact. It’s also likely that they have hurt their throat while vomiting.

It suggests that your cat has vomited more than once, which becomes acute vomiting. In the meantime though, find a soft treat that your cat finds irresistible. Cream cheese or ice cream may do the trick. Eventually, your cat should cave into temptation and lick something from your finger. This will help them get their confidence back surrounding food. A vet will also provide painkiller if necessary, and run diagnostic tests as a precaution.

Overall, however, a cat refusing to eat or drink is dangerous. In addition to favored treats, fast your cat for 12 hours and offer them some chicken broth. This should help them get their strength back, and replace any lost electrolytes. If the problem persists beyond 24 hours, promote your vet’s appointment to emergency status.

My Cat is Losing Weight and Vomiting Bile

Sudden and inexplicable weight loss in cats is always a serious matter. When this is coupled with the vomiting of bile, it suggests a severe digestive issue. Older cats are particularly prone to suddenly and unexpectedly losing weight.

If your cat throws up on an empty stomach, they may be struggling with their food. Remember, bile is often what follows when there is no more undigested food to vomit. If your cat is losing weight, it also suggests that they are not getting enough calories. This can quickly become problematic, unless your cat was seriously overweight, to begin with. Cats need food as fuel for their bodies.

when to worry about vomiting in cats

When you notice your cat starting to lose weight, as well as vomiting bile, make an urgent appointment with your vet. In the meantime, give them a good once-over and note anything you can. How much weight do you think your cat has lost? When do you think it started? Has anything else about your cat and their circumstances changed? Your vet will be able to use all of this information to make an educated diagnosis. They will also run numerous tests.

We’re going to blunt. Sudden weight loss, inability to eat and chronic vomiting is rarely good news. Numerous health conditions include these symptoms, few of which have a happy ending.

My Cat is Throwing Up Undigested Food

A cat that throws up undigested food is less of a concern, assuming it is only occasionally. As always, multiple incidents in 24 hours should result in a trip to the vet.

If your cat has only thrown up once, however, there could be several reasons:

  • Your cat ate too fast. This is common behavior for cats, especially those that share food. They worry that if they don’t eat quickly, they’ll miss out.
  • Your cat overate. Again, this is a regular occurrence. Many cats worry about where their next meal will come from, especially rescue cats.
  • Your cat’s food was too cold. Cat stomachs struggle to digest cold food. Taking your cat’s meal straight from the fridge may prevent it from settling in their gut. Leave the food out for an hour so it can return to room temperature before serving.
  • You gave your cat new food. Cats need time to adapt to a new diet. They will rarely be able to process going straight from wet food to kibble, and vice versa. Introduce new foods gently and steadily. Start with an old food to new food ratio of 90:10. You can then steadily increase the exposure to the new food over the next two weeks.
  • Your cat did not get along with an ingredient. Maybe the food was too rich in protein. Perhaps the recipe changed. There could even have been an allergic reaction. Whatever the reason, if a cat’s stomach does not like something it will expel it.
  • Your cat grew too excitable after eating. Like all animals, cats need to digest their food. If they immediately start to play, jump and climb after eating, their meal may reappear. It may be more akin to a regurgitation that takes your cat by surprise.

Undigested food is easily recognizable. It will look the same coming out as it did going down. Of all the vomiting behaviors, undigested food arguably the least worrying. Just about every cat will throw up undigested food at various points in their life.

For many cat owners, vomit is a fact of life. Owners often just take a deep breath and clean it up from time to time. Dark vomit from a cat is often more worrying, though, and must be taken seriously. If your cat is vomiting blood, they should see a vet.

In some cases, it will be nothing. You can call yourself a neurotic cat owner, laugh at yourself and move on. In other cases, it will be a comparatively mild ailment. Ideally, it will be treated there and then with a minimal amount of fuss. Sometimes, though, brown vomit is a sign of a serious health concern. The sooner you seek treatment, the more likely your cat is to make a full recovery.