Excited Cats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

Why Did My Cat Throw Up White Foam? 8 Likely Reasons

Vet approved

	Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Cats may vomit for a number of reasons. As gross as it sounds, the color and consistency of your cat’s vomit may give you and your veterinarian a clue as to the reasons why. What about if your cat vomits white foam? The reason behind this is mostly related to stomach issues your cat might be having. Continue reading to learn about the eight likely reasons why your cat may have thrown up white foam.

cat paw divider

The 8 Reasons Why Cats Throw Up White Foam

1. An Empty Stomach

Your cat may vomit white foam because their stomach is empty. Sometimes, just an empty stomach may be enough to cause nausea and vomiting. The stomach will continually produce acid, whether or not there is food content in it. Therefore, if it’s been an extended period of time since your cat ate, they may vomit white foam because they are nauseous.

thematic break

2. Attempt to Vomit a Hairball

cat hairball
Image Credit: Montakan Wannasri, Shutterstock

If your cat is prone to hairballs, they may try to vomit up the hairball and be unsuccessful—only puking up white foam. If your cat is continually retching, but nothing is coming up, there may be a hairball stuck in their esophagus. If your cat has long hair, over grooms, and/or has a housemate that your cat likes to groom, they may be prone to getting hairballs.

thematic break

3. Parasites

Cats and kittens can be prone to getting gastrointestinal parasites. Cats who are outdoor only, indoor/outdoor, not on consistent flea prevention, or were recently strays are most likely to be affected.

Most parasites are spread through contact and ingestion of infected feces. When numerous cats share the same outdoor dirt patch, sandbox, or common area, they will come in contact with infected feces more frequently. Still, other cats may become infected by ingesting fleas and developing tapeworms.

Depending on the type of parasite and where the parasite is in its life cycle, it may be within the stomach and/or migrating through your cat’s stomach. This can cause nausea and vomiting.

thematic break

4. Gastrointestinal (GI) Obstruction

a cat that feels sick and seems to vomit
Image Credit: chie hidaka, Shutterstock

If your cat is prone to eating abnormal objects, there is a possibility that the object will become stuck somewhere along the intestinal tract, possibly in the stomach or small intestine, commonly. Your cat can even become obstructed from eating string, dental floss, or a large hairball! The longer the object is stuck, the vomit will often be malodorous and appear green and/or brown. However in the beginning, vomiting profuse amounts of white foam may be an indication to bring your cat to their veterinarian.

thematic break

5. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis means inflammation of the pancreas. This condition occurs for a number of reasons, but unfortunately, we don’t always know why this occurs. Cats will also get pancreatitis because of other underlying diseases, such as kidney disease and diabetes.

Pancreatitis can sometimes go undetected. Other times it may cause nausea, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. If you notice that your cat is vomiting white foam, doesn’t want to eat, is lethargic, and has other health problems, we recommend you contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may want to do tests to determine if your cat has developed pancreatitis.

thematic break

6. Secondary Gastrointestinal (GI) Signs

tired sick cat lying on bed
Image Credit: Natata, Shutterstock

Oftentimes, veterinarians will ascribe causes of vomiting to primary GI vs. secondary GI.

Primary GI causes can be any of those listed above, in addition to others we did not discuss. They include those diseases that affect primarily the GI tract.

With secondary GI signs, the GI tract is affected due to another organ or disease process. For example, cats with renal failure will often develop nausea and vomiting. While the stomach and intestinal tract is not the source of the disease, it is secondarily affected by kidney disease.

Other secondary causes can include liver disease, bladder obstruction, hyperthyroidism, pain, diabetes, and stress. Oftentimes, these diseases unrelated to the GI tract can cause severe nausea and/or anorexia, which then lead to vomiting up white foam.

thematic break

7. IBD or Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Some cats may develop IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease, at some point in their life. This is a condition where the lining of the intestines becomes thickened and inflamed. This may cause abnormal contractions of the intestines, diarrhea, nausea, weight loss, and vomiting. Once this occurs, cats may not want to eat, causing an empty stomach and worsening vomiting.

If your cat seems to have frequent episodes of vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, or is losing weight despite eating, it may be worth speaking to your regular veterinarian.

Some cats with IBD are put on special diets that help with their nausea and vomiting. Still, other cats need to be put on high doses of steroids and immunosuppressive drugs to control their abnormal signs. Your veterinarian may recommend a number of tests to determine if IBD is the cause of your cat’s vomiting, and then best decide a course of treatment.

thematic break

8. Your Cat Isn’t Vomiting but Coughing Up White Foam

cat cough
Image Credit: Ada K, Pixabay

Occasionally, owners may think their cat is vomiting, when in fact it’s actually coughing so hard it causes them to retch and vomit at the end. This is referred to as a terminal retch.

Think about the last time you had pneumonia or bronchitis, and may have started to cough so hard and frequently that you ended up making yourself sick from the force of coughing. This can also occur with cats. They may not actually be vomiting, but coughing up white foam.

We frequently see this with pneumonia and various types of cancer. If you are not sure if your cat is vomiting or coughing, you can videotape the event to show your veterinarian when you bring your cat in for evaluation. If your cat is indeed coughing, they should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.



As you can see, there are a number of reasons why your cat may be vomiting white foam. Sometimes, it’s because of the intestinal tract, and other times, the intestinal tract is secondarily affected. If your cat only vomits white foam a few times but is otherwise eating, drinking, pooping, and acting normal, you can probably monitor them at home. However, if your cat has persistent vomiting (more than 24 hours without stopping), does not want to eat, is lethargic and not themselves, or is coughing, you should take them to your regular veterinarian as soon as possible.

See also: Why is My Cat Foaming at the Mouth? – 5 Possible Reasons

thematic break

Featured Image Credit: Sarah2, Shutterstock