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Home > Cats > Cat Throwing Up Blood: Causes & Treatment (Vet Answer)

Cat Throwing Up Blood: Causes & Treatment (Vet Answer)

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Dr. Maria Zayas Photo

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Dr. Maria Zayas

Veterinarian, DVM

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

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When a cat owner is asked if their cat has been vomiting, it isn’t uncommon to receive a knee-jerk response of no, followed by the line “not more than the usual”. Cat parents aren’t wrong; vomiting in cats is more common than in other species, so how do you know when it’s a problem?

One of the easiest qualifiers to give an owner is that while there may be vomiting, cats throwing up blood is never a good thing. That being said, throwing up blood isn’t always a serious issue, either. To help you better understand why this may be happening and what to do about it, we have collected everything you need to know on the topic.


What Are the Signs of Throwing Up Blood in Cats?

You can tell there is blood in a cat’s vomit if it is red or red-tinged. Small clots of blood that look like bright red spots might be visible instead, or sometimes the vomit can have a deep brown color. Besides the actual blood seen in the vomit, here are some other potential signs to watch for:

  • Pale gums
  • Diarrhea with or without blood
  • Melena (black, tarry stool, usually smells horrible)
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing
  • Previous, frequent episodes of throwing up
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Changes in breathing rate
  • Seizures
  • Increased drinking and/or urinating
orange cat pooping outdoor
Image Credit: Suharji Esha, Shutterstock

What Are the Causes of Throwing Up Blood in Cats?

There are many possible causes of throwing up in cats, any of which may, therefore, also cause blood to be present, though some are more likely to have blood than others. As a general rule, cats that vomit more than once within a day may start to have blood present due to inflammation of the stomach or esophageal lining. There are some more serious causes, such as:

  • Infections: These can be bacterial, fungal, or viral. In particular, panleukopenia is a life-threatening disease that may cause a cat to throw up blood.
  • Ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Stomach or esophageal ulcers, or IBD, an autoimmune inflammatory disease of the GI tract, can cause bleeding, which may be seen when a cat throws up.
  • Intestinal parasites: Cats that vomit roundworms may do so with blood present from the trauma of the worm’s movement and inflammation.
  • Dental disease: Broken teeth, tooth root abscesses, oral tumors, soft tissue trauma, even resorptive lesions, gingivitis, or stomatitis can cause bleeding in the mouth, which may be found when the blood is seen in vomit.
  • Swallowed blood: Similarly, nose bleeds, facial fractures, or other sources of blood around the nose and mouth that is swallowed can be brought back up if a cat throws up soon after.
  • Kidney disease: Whether acute or chronic, kidney disease can cause loss of appetite, dehydration, and chronic vomiting, which together increase the risk of bleeding in the stomach and esophagus that may be seen in vomit.
  • Liver disease: The liver is responsible for producing certain important clotting proteins. If a cat isn’t clotting well, they may bleed into their GI tract, including having blood in their vomit.
  • Clotting failures: Whether due to liver disease, genetics, heat stroke, or toxins, poor clotting can lead to blood present when vomiting.
  • Medications: Some medications, like NSAIDs, may cause GI bleeding, especially in the stomach. They sometimes also cause vomiting, so vomiting blood is an important side effect to watch for.
  • Toxins: Toxins may cause cats to throw up blood for several reasons, usually because they cause some of the above problems, such as being anti-coagulants, drug overdoses, liver or kidney toxins, etc.
  • Surgery: Procedures throughout the early GI tract may leave cats with blood in their vomit for a short period after the procedure.
  • GI obstructions: Especially linear foreign bodies, which are long items like strings that most commonly get hooked around the base of a cat’s tongue but then are swallowed and run through some distance of the cat’s GI tract, can cause bleeding that can be seen when they throw up.
  • Cancer: Cancers are generally highly vascular, meaning they have many blood vessels. If any of these are present in the GI tract and bleeding, that cat may throw up blood. Some cancers also increase the risk of stomach ulcers.
veterinarian checks mouth of maine coon cat
Image By: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

How Is Throwing Up Blood Diagnosed in Cats?

Cats seen for throwing up blood need a thorough physical exam that screens for signs of anemia, abdominal pain, trauma, dental disease, and more. In addition to looking for sources or causes of the bleeding with the physical, bloodwork is almost always recommended. Some cats may also need X-rays or ultrasounds to help narrow down the cause.

How Do I Care for a Cat Throwing Up Blood?

Care varies very much based on the underlying problem. The best first step is to take your cat for evaluation and diagnosis with a veterinarian. Common treatments can include anti-emetics that treat vomiting, stomach protectants and antacids that treat and prevent stomach ulcers, and fluids to support hydration. More severe cases that have significant bleeding may need a blood transfusion.

At home, tracking exactly how often your cat vomits, how often there is blood present, taking pictures of the vomit, and noting any other signs seen can be very helpful for the veterinary team.

female vet forcing cat to take a pill
Image By: David Herraez Calzada, Shutterstock


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is a cat vomiting blood an emergency?

The safest answer to this question is yes. Not all causes of vomiting blood are emergencies, but unless you know the cause for sure, it is best to treat it like an emergency.

Why is my cat throwing up blood with a hairball?

When a cat throws up repeatedly, retches repeatedly, or brings up foreign material, as can happen with hairballs, this can cause irritation of the stomach or esophagus, which can cause blood to be present when they throw up.

Do cats that throw up blood feel sick?

This often depends on why they’re throwing up or why blood is in their vomit. Not all cats that throw up blood will look like they feel sick, but that doesn’t mean something serious isn’t happening. Since cats often hide signs of illness, it may be hard to tell if they feel sick.

sick cat vomiting the food
Image By: Tom Wang, Shutterstock



Throwing up blood in cats should always be checked by a veterinarian. Many times, treatment can be supportive and done at home, but some causes are serious, life-threatening, and require hospitalization. Early treatment of whatever the cause is often significantly improves the outcome and comfort for the cat, so be sure to bring your cat to the vet as soon as you can when you notice blood in their vomit.

Featured Image Credit: Tunatura, Shutterstrock

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