Kitten Vomiting-Common Causes of Vomiting in Kittens

Kitten vomiting

Medically known as emesis, vomiting in kittens is a common occurrence.  They can vomit for almost all the same reasons adult cats. Having said that, they may be more prone to certain conditions. Vomiting (and diarrhea) in kittens should be taken seriously, due to their size, they are more vulnerable to dehydration which can quickly become fatal in the young cat.

What are the common causes of vomiting in kittens?

Vomiting may be acute (sudden onset) or intermittent (coming and going). It may contain blood (hematemesis), which is indicative of bleeding somewhere inside the body, have the appearance of coffee grounds, contain long, white worms (roundworms), mucus, foreign objects, or be mostly pre-digested food (this is actually not vomiting, but regurgitated food).

The most common causes of vomiting in kittens are worms, dietary indiscretion, and infection.

  • Worms – Parasitic worms, particularly roundworms. They are passed on from the mother to her kittens via the milk. Left untreated, large numbers of worms can build up in the stomach, which can result in vomiting. You may notice roundworms in the vomit.

  • Dietary indiscretion – Kittens are curious and it is not uncommon for them to eat things they shouldn’t, including foods, strings, plants, and medications. Indiscriminate eating can either result in poisoning or intestinal blockage, both of which can cause vomiting.

  • Snakebite.

  • Poisoning – Either unintentional (owner giving medications such as aspirin), dietary indiscretion (antifreeze, snail bait, lily or other poisonous plants, plus many more possible poisons) or ingested after licking a poison off the coat (lead poisoning, plus much more) or deliberate (laced food for example).

  • Eating too fast – Some kittens (particularly older ones) can guzzle too much food too quickly which can lead to discomfort and regurgitate the food back.

  • A sudden in change in diet – Cats can be quite sensitive to changes in diet, particularly kittens or older cats. When I adopt a new kitten, I always ask what he has been eating, and try to stick to that, slowly switching him over to the food I prefer to feed over a few days. This can help prevent tummy upset.

  • Giving your kitten milk – Most older kittens are lactose intolerant and do not need milk. Cow’s milk can cause an upset tummy in all cats, resulting in bloating, diarrhea and vomiting.

  • Infections – Viral (panleukopenia which is seen most often in kittens, rotavirus), bacterial (salmonella) and protozoal (giardia, coccidiosis) infections can all result in vomiting in kittens. These infections may be transmitted from other infected cats, the environment, or from contaminated food and water.

  • Fading kitten syndrome – This condition occurs in kittens from birth to two weeks of age. There are a number of causes including infection, congenital defects, environmental temperature (too hot/too cold), maternal neglect, blood type incompatibility. Other symptoms may include crying excessively, sleeping away from mother and siblings, weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea.

  • Gastroenteritis – Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract due to infection, medications, certain foods.

  • Intussusception (telescoping of the intestine) – A life threatening condition where a portion of the intestine folds in on itself. Seen more frequently in kittens although cats of any age can be affected. Causes include heavy worm infestations, gastroenteritis, linear foreign body such as a piece of string and tumours.
  • Heat stroke occurs when a cat (or kitten) is exposed to high temperatures. Kittens and senior cats are at greater risk, but it can occur in cats of any age. Cats should never be left unattended in a car, even in winter, internal temperatures can quickly rise. Signs of heat stroke include red gums, panting, muscle tremors, bleeding from the nose, vomiting (often with blood) and diarrhea. Immediate veterinary attention is needed for a cat suffering heat stroke.

  • Food allergy – This is a more uncommon cause of vomiting in kittens, it is more often found in cats aged two or older.

What are the symptoms of vomiting?

Obviously, the main symptom is the presence of vomit. Other symptoms will vary depending on the underlying cause, but may include:

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)

  • Diarrhea

  • Pot-bellied appearance (roundworms)

  • Crying

  • Fever

  • Drooling

  • Abdominal pain
  • Wobbly gait/drunken appearance (poisoning)

  • Pale or yellow mucous membranes (jaundice)

How is the cause of vomiting diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you including the age of the kitten, his diet, where he came from, his worming schedule, how often he is vomiting, is it random or after eating, is it projectile, has your kitten had any medications, are there any other symptoms? If possible, bring a sample of the vomit to your veterinarian.

He will need to perform some tests to determine the cause of the vomiting and evaluate the overall health of your cat. Some of which include:

  • Complete blood count

  • Biochemical profile

  • Urinalysis

  • Fecal examination to look for protozoa and worms

  • Fecal flotation

  • Fecal culture

  • Endoscopy – A plastic tube with a camera is inserted into the mouth to examine the gastrointestinal tract. This is performed under general anesthetic

  • Abdominal ultrasound or X-rays to check for blockages or intussuseption

Treatment of vomiting in kittens:

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause and may include:

  • Antibiotics for bacterial infection.

  • Supportive care such as IV fluids to treat dehydration and feeding tube if your kitten isn’t eating.

  • Inducing vomiting and/or activated charcoal for poisoning.

  • Worming medications to treat parasitic worms.

  • In some cases, if an obstruction has occurred, surgery may be required to remove the object.

  • Surgery to either slide intussusepted intestines apart or removal of the affected area.
  • Your veterinarian may recommend giving your kitten a bland diet such as boiled chicken and rice for a few days to let his tummy recover.

  • Anti-emetic medications to help control vomiting.


  • Give your kitten all medications prescribed by your veterinarian.

  • Feed a bland diet until your cat is fully recovered.

Preventing vomiting in kittens:

  • Don’t give kittens milk, once they have weaned from their mother, they only require fresh tap water.

  • Avoid feeding kittens food which can upset their tummy.

  • Stick to the same diet for a little while and slowly change over to one you’d prefer.

  • Avoid giving your kitten table scraps.

  • Never give your kitten any medications unless told to do so by a veterinarian.

  • Never give a kitten human medications such as aspirin.

  • A kitten is the same as a toddler, they can and will put anything in their mouth. So make sure your home is kitten proofed with any small objects that could potentially be swallowed kept out of the way.

  • Keep all medications and poisons locked away.