cat throwing up light brown liquid
Cat Health and Wellness

Why is My Cat Throwing Up Brown Liquid?

Cats throw up for a variety of reasons. If it’s a one-off, there’s no need to worry. The exception to this rule is if your cat is vomiting brown vomit.

Brown vomit in cats can be due to internal bleeding, an intestinal blockage, or fecal matter in the digestive tract, or cancer. A cat that brings up brown fluid should see a vet.

Other reasons for concern are when vomiting becomes constant. More than one episode in 24 hours requires medical investigation by a veterinarian.

What Causes Cats to Vomit?

Dietary reasons for a cat to vomit include:

  • Eating too quickly
  • Moving too quickly after eating
  • Excessive protein in the diet

Lifestyle explanations for a cat to vomit are:

  • Hairballs consumed while grooming
  • Irritation to the throat

Health concerns consist of:

  • Pregnancy
  • Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
  • Consumption of toxins
  • Blockages to the bowel or digestive tract
  • Feline influenza
  • Constipation
  • Liver or kidney problems
  • Amyloidosis
  • Fungal infection
  • Stress-related ulcers
  • Stomach cancer

Some of these medical concerns are very concerning. If your cat’s vomit is bloody, pay attention. Brown vomit in cats is especially worrying.

Cat Vomit Color Meanings

The color of your cat’s vomit can be revealing. Refer to the table below:

ColorPossible Meaning
TransparentPregnancy, cyclic vomiting syndrome, gastric blockage or consumption of toxins.
White and FoamyIrritated digestive tract or acid reflux.
Yellow or GreenBlockage in the bowel, consumption of toxins, feline influenza, bile reflux, liver problems or pregnancy.
RedMouth injury, gum disease, ulcers, stomach cancer or amyloidosis.
BlackFungal infection, ulcers, mouth injury, constipation or stomach cancer.
BrownIntestinal blockage, constipation, ulcers, internal bleeding or stomach cancer.

Sometimes vomit is a temporary concern and an easy fix. On other occasions, your cat is seriously ill. Brown vomit is likely the latter.

My Cat is Throwing Up Light Brown Liquid

Never ignore a cat vomiting brown fluid. It could signify any of the following serious health concerns.

  • Internal bleeding
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Fecal matter in the digestive tract
  • Cancer

There is a slim chance that your cat ate her dry food too fast. Kibble will typically brown in color.

Why Does Brown Vomit Suggest Blood?

By the time a cat vomits blood, it will have soiled and darkened. This often gives the appearance of dark brown coloring. Red vomit is likelier to be fresh blood. This suggests a mouth injury or gum disease.

Internal bleeding for a cat could have a number of causes. These include:

  • Injury or trauma
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Stomach cancer

If your cat’s complaint is not medical, she may have consumed toxins. The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery details the risk of contaminants in hunting cats. Your pet may hunt and eat prey that previously consumed rodent poison. This will cause internal hemorrhages in your cat.

What is an Intestinal Blockage?

When your cat eats, food passes through her digestive tract. If her small or large intestine is blocked, the food cannot be digested.

This is dangerous. The food will remain in your cat’s digestive tract. It will continue to rot and eventually become toxic. It will also prevent your cat from eating. Without food, your cat will lack nutrition.

Aside from brown vomit, warning signs of a blocked intestine are:

  • Swollen abdomen
  • Visible pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Refusal to engage
  • Lethargy and depression

How Can Feces Get into My Cat’s Digestion?

Fecal matter emerging as vomit is an emergency. It is important to note that not all brown vomit is feces. In fact, it’s rare that this isn’t the case. You will know when your cat vomits fecal matter. The smell will be unmistakable.

This issue is usually caused by chronic constipation. If waste is not excreted, it will cause a blockage. This will work its way back through your cat’s body.

Dark Brown Vomit and Hairballs

Hairballs are typically unpleasant but not dangerous. This changes when a cat vomits brown liquid with a hairball. This suggests that the hairball is causing an intestinal blockage.

The likeliest explanation for this is hair wrapping itself around the intestine. It could also come from the ball growing in size. Eventually, no more food can pass.

A vet will look to resolve this issue. Your cat will undertake scans to assess the size of the hairball. If small enough, it may be purged naturally. Your cat will be provided with laxatives to aid this.

It’s likelier that the hairball will need to be removed. If hair must be unwound, your cat will undergo open surgery. This will also be the case if the hairball is too large to remove orally. 

If the hair can be removed without open surgery, it will be. This involves anesthetizing the cat and using a nasogastric tube. This is invasive but requires less recovery time.

cat vomiting brown smelly liquid

My Cat is Vomiting Bile

Bile is a green-yellow liquid generated in your cat’s liver and stored in the gallbladder. This is why vomit of this color is connected to bile.

Bile emulsifies the food that your cat eats. The food works its way down the digestive tract into the small intestine. From here, the bile does its work. If your cat vomits bile, this liquid has leaked into her stomach.

If this only happens once, vomiting should purge it from your pet’s stomach. If your cat regularly vomits bile, she has a health concern. Examples include:

  • Bilious Vomiting Syndrome
  • Blockage to the small intestine
  • Ulcers

Bilious Vomiting Syndrome is a form of chronic acid reflux. If your cat has an empty stomach, she will have nothing to purge. This means that she will throw up bile instead.

This is frequently a result of a poor diet. Check the nutritional value of your cat’s food. Ensure it is balanced. An excess of protein, fat, or fiber can cause Bilious Vomiting Syndrome.

Consider feeding your cat more frequently in smaller portions too. Split her food allowance in half and feed at two intervals.

Vomiting Bile And Not Eating or Drinking

A cat with no appetite that vomits bile will have a blockage to the small intestine. This blockage is painful and prevents food from being digested. The hunger will provoke acid reflux. Unfortunately, your cat has no solid food to purge.

Attempt to convince your cat to eat. Start with a broth or flavored ice. The more your cat eats, the more likely her digestion is to improve. If she regains her appetite, she will likely recover.

If your cat will not eat for 24 hours, surgery will be required. The Journal of the American Veterinary Association elaborates on the process. Your cat will be anesthetized and cut open. The blockage will be removed. 

Vomiting Bile and Losing Weight

A cat suddenly losing weight is always a concern. Coupled with the vomiting of bile, it’s a medical emergency.

Your pet could have a digestive issue. She is losing weight because she cannot digest food. This is why she is vomiting bile. Her insides sense toxicity, but there is no food to purge.

Your cat is also at risk of liver problems. If your cat’s liver is not functioning, she will draw energy exclusively from fat. This leads to a jaundiced appearance and significant weight loss.

Another potential explanation is cancer in the bile duct. As The Journal of Small Animal Practice explains, this is rare but possible.

Before seeking help, ask yourself a range of questions:

  • How much weight has been lost?
  • When did you notice the symptoms?
  • Has your cat undergone other behavioral changes?

Answering these questions can aid diagnosis. Time will be of the essence, so act quickly. Your cat may need emergency surgery.

Cat Is Throwing Up Undigested Food

Cats frequently throw up undigested food. As long as it does not happen more than once a day, try not to worry.

Common explanations a cat vomiting undigested food are:

  • Excess food intake
  • Eating too quickly
  • The food was too cold
  • The food was unfamiliar
  • Allergy or distaste for an ingredient
  • Excessive movement after eating

The temperature of cat food is important. Never feed a cat food that’s straight from the fridge. Feline stomachs cannot digest this. Always allow food to reach room temperature before serving. If necessary, use a microwave. Just do not serve food hot.

A cat must be introduced to a diet change gradually. This is particularly important when switching from wet food to kibble or vice versa. Mix new food in with old. Steadily switch the ratio over time.

If you take these steps, your cat will stop vomiting undigested food. If this is not the case, it’s worrying. Your cat may have a blockage that is preventing digestion. This ordinarily reduces appetite, but not always. If the inability to digest lasts longer than 24 hours, seek help.

dark brown vomit with hairball

How Can I Prevent My Cat from Vomiting?

If your cat’s vomiting is medical in nature, you will be unable to stop it. You need professional assistance. A vet will provide medication and advice.

If your cat is vomiting for dietary or lifestyle reasons, you can take steps to prevent this from happening. You may not always be successful, but you can reduce the episodes.

Vomiting Associated with Food

It can be simple to stop cats from vomiting after eating. Just warm the food to room temperature and ensure it is a familiar recipe. Encourage your cat to eat slowly and rest afterwards.

Rapid eating is a common explanation for a cat throwing up after eating. Possible explanations for this include:

  • Hunger
  • Unwillingness to share
  • Bullying from another pet
  • Fear of food being removed
  • Habit

Hunger is easy to resolve. Break your cat’s food intake down into two, smaller servings. Feed her once in the morning and once in the evening.

If your cat eats quickly just through habit, invest in a slow feeding bowl. These are food dishes fitted with ridges and grooves. This makes it impossible for a cat to eat too quickly.

If your cat eats quickly through fear, feed her in a private room. Another cat may dominate and consume more food. Alternatively, your cat may be worried that you’ll take her dish away. Leaving your cat to eat her leisure will boost her confidence.

Once your pet has eaten, offer some gentle petting. This will create a relaxing routine for your cat. She’ll eat, be petted, and then likely groom. This should prevent any sudden movements that spark vomiting.

Consumption of Toxins

Toxins will always lead to vomiting in a cat. Your pet’s body instinctively understands that it had consumed something inappropriate. An urgent attempt to cleanse will then begin.

The only way to prevent a cat from consuming toxins is preventing access. Cats are curious. Your pet will explore the world with her mouth. Keep anything harmful behind a locked door, for her protection.

You may also need to consider your cat’s hunting habits. Play with your cat. You can sate her hunting needs this way. This will make your cat less likely to hunt wild prey. This, in turn, reduces the risk of consuming rodent poison.

Irritation to the Throat

If your cat has an irritated throat, she has likely swallowed grass. Many cats enjoy grazing on grass and plants. Sometimes, the grass can become trapped in a cat’s throat.

This happens in the pharynx. The pharynx is found in the back of the throat. It’s what links a cat’s mouth to her windpipe. Getting something stuck in the pharynx can be painful. It will also cause foamy, phlegmatic vomit.

It is inadvisable to attempt removing the grass yourself. A professional should do so, with the aid tweezers and anesthetic.

This is done by encouraging your cat to eat and drink. The more she consumes, the likelier the grass is to be dislodged. Trapped grass can leave a cat with a sore throat. This may leave her reluctant to eat or drink.

Try giving your cat some flavored ice cubes. Freezing gravy or tuna juice is recommended. The taste will entice your cat. The ice will soothe her sore throat. Eventually, she will swallow the ice. This should ease the digestion of the grass and cease vomiting.

Vomiting of Hairballs

Hairballs are a fact of life for cats. You can minimize their effect by aiding your pet in her grooming.

Invest in a high-quality hairbrush. The bristles should be soft, so your cat does not object to its use. Get your cat into a routine of being brushed at least once a day. Ideally twice.

It may take some practice to master this routine. Cats can become overstimulated. Be brushed may cause this. If your cat starts to struggle or fidget, let her go.

The aim of brushing a cat’s hair is removing dead fibers. When a cat grooms, she is cleaning herself. She licks her fur to redistribute oils throughout. In doing so, hair sticks to her tongue and is swallowed. These hairs congregate in a cat’s stomach and must be purged.

The more fur you remove from your cat, the less likely this becomes. Mix a teaspoon of olive oil into your cat’s food, too. This will help her pass the hair faster and easier. Limit this to twice or three times a week. Olive oil is a natural feline laxative.