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 event, there’s no need to worry. The exception to this rule is if your cat’s vomit is brown.

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

Other reasons for concern are when vomiting becomes constant. More than one episode in 24 hours requires further investigation.

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. On other occasions, your cat is seriously ill. Brown vomit is likely to be due to the latter.

My Cat is Throwing Up Light Brown Liquid

Never ignore a cat vomiting brown fluid as it could signify any of the following 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 usually be 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 can have a number of causes. These include:

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

If your cat’s complaint is not medical, it 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 as the food will remain in your cat’s digestive tract. It will rot and eventually become toxic. It will also prevent your cat from eating. 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 a medical emergency. Not all brown vomit is feces. In fact, it’s rarely the case. You will know when your cat vomits fecal matter as the smell will be unmistakable.

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

Dark Brown Vomit and Hairballs

Hairballs are unpleasant, but rarely dangerous. This changes completely 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 furball growing in size. Eventually, no more food can pass by.

Your cat will have scans to assess the size of the hairball. If small enough, it may be purged naturally. Your cat will be given laxatives to aid this process.

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 a surgical procedure, it will be. This involves anesthetizing the cat and using a nasogastric tube. This is still 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 its stomach.

If this only happens once, vomiting should purge it from the stomach. If your cat regularly vomits bile, it 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 the stomach is empty, it will have nothing to purge. Your cat will throw up bile instead.

This is often due to a poor diet. Check the nutritional value of your cat’s food to ensure that it is balanced. An excess of protein, fat, or fiber can cause Bilious Vomiting Syndrome.

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

Vomiting Bile And Not Eating or Drinking

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

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

If your cat does not eat for 24 hours, surgery may be required. Your cat will be anesthetized, and 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 cat could have a digestive issue. It is losing weight because it cannot digest food, which is why it is vomiting bile. Your cat’s insides sense toxicity, but there is no food available for it to purge.

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

Another potential explanation is cancer of the bile duct. As The Journal of Small Animal Practice explains, this is rare but possible. Before seeking medical assistance, you should consider these questions:

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

Cat Is Throwing Up Undigested Food

Cats frequently throw up undigested food. Common explanations for a cat vomiting undigested food include:

  • 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, so never feed a cat food that’s straight from the fridge. Feline stomachs cannot digest very cold food. Always allow food to reach room temperature before serving. If necessary, use a microwave to warm it up. Do not serve hot food to a cat.

A cat must gradually be introduced to a dietary change, especially 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, your cat may have a blockage that is preventing digestion. This ordinarily reduces appetite, but not always. If the inability to digest food lasts longer than 24 hours, seek veterinary help.

How Can I Prevent My Cat from Vomiting?

If your cat is vomiting due to dietary or lifestyle reasons, you should take steps to prevent this from happening. You may not always be 100% successful, but you can definitely reduce the number of episodes.

Vomiting Associated with Food

It can be easy 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 afterward.

Rapid eating is a common explanation for a cat throwing up after eating. Explanations 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 it once in the morning and once in the evening.

If your cat eats quickly through habit, get it a slow feeding bowl. These are food dishes fitted with ridges and grooves, making it impossible for a cat to eat too fast.

If your cat eats quickly through fear, you should feed it in a private room. Another cat may be dominating and consuming more food than the other cat. Alternatively, your cat may be worried that you’ll take its dish away.

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

dark brown vomit with hairball

Consumption of Toxins

Toxins will always lead to vomiting in a cat. Your cat’s body instinctively understands that it has consumed something harmful. An urgent attempt to cleanse its system will then commence.

The only way to prevent a cat from consuming toxins is by preventing access. Cats are curious animals that will explore the world via their mouths. Keep anything harmful locked away for their protection.

Take into account your cat’s hunting habits. Play with your cat as you can sate its 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 indirectly.

Irritation to the Throat

If your cat has an irritated throat, it 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, and links a cat’s mouth to her windpipe. Getting something stuck in the pharynx can cause foamy, phlegmatic vomit.

Do not attempt to remove the grass yourself. Only a vet should do so with the aid of tweezers and an anesthetic.

Encourage your cat to eat and drink. The more your cat consumes, the likelier the grass is to be dislodged. Trapped grass can leave a cat with a sore throat, leaving it reluctant to eat and drink.

Give your cat some flavored ice cubes. Freezing gravy or tuna juice is recommended as the taste will entice your cat. The ice will soothe its sore throat. Eventually, your cat will swallow the ice, which should ease the digestion of the grass so that it ceases vomiting.

Vomiting of Hairballs

Hairballs are a fact of life for cats. You can minimize their effect by assisting your cat with its grooming. Get 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 once or twice per day.

It may take some practice to optimize this routine. Cats can become overstimulated, and being brushed can cause overstimulation. If your cat starts to fidget, let it go and try again later.

The aim of brushing a cat’s hair is to remove the dead fibers. When a cat grooms, it is cleaning itself. It licks its fur to redistribute oils. In doing so, hair sticks to your cat’s tongue and is swallowed. These hairs congregate in a cat’s stomach and must eventually be purged.

The more fur you remove from your cat, the less likely this process becomes. Mix a teaspoon of olive oil into your cat’s food as this will help it to pass the hairball faster and more easily. Olive oil is a natural feline laxative, but limit this to 2-3 times per week.