Why Do Cats Throw Up on Carpets? (Answered)

This page contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link I may get a commission at no cost to you.

If you have a cat, you’ve probably experienced how they choose to throw up on carpeted surfaces even with plenty of easy-to-clean hard floors around. Why do cats throw up on carpets? Are they just trying to make it harder for you to clean up?

You may be surprised to learn there are reasons behind this behavior. Read on to find out why cats throw up hairballs on carpets and how to reduce the number of hairballs.

Why do cats throw up on carpets?

They aren’t trying to be difficult. Throwing up hairballs is unpleasant for cats and it’s believed they instinctively seek a comfortable surface that resembles a sickbed. They also need a location with traction to sink their claws in while they heave up hairballs. The traction from the carpet or rug helps them maintain their footing and have a sense of control over what’s happening.

Additionally, cats in the wild will seek places they can cover or bury their vomit. Some experts believe that carpets more closely resemble a location they would naturally seek out in the wild.

How do I get my cat to stop throwing up on the carpet?

Since cats naturally seek out rugs and carpets, you can’t really make them throw up on hard-wood floors. However, you can prevent your cat’s vomit from landing on the carpeted surface by quickly slipping a newspaper or paper towel in front of your cat. When you hear your cat retching and gagging, that is a telltale sign a hairball is about to be vomited.

It’s best not to move your cat when they are heaving a hairball. But, if you must move your cat, make sure you do so carefully by picking them up in between the spasms.

Why do cats throw up hairballs?

It’s healthy for your cat to vomit up hairballs. As the name implies, hairballs are an accumulation of hair your cat has ingested. Dead hair easily catches on your cat’s rough tongue when they groom themselves. However, this also means they can swallow the hair and accumulate it in their stomach when it doesn’t pass through their digestive system.

Too much hair ingested can make your cat ill or cause intestinal blockages. So to keep their system working healthily, they will attempt to throw up these hair masses.

How do I stop my cat from getting hairballs?

Since cats are constant groomers, there’s not much you can do to prevent hairballs completely. However, you can reduce the number of hairballs your cat accumulates. Try assisting your cat with grooming, so the dead and loose hair is on a brush or comb instead of their tongue for swallowing.

You can also feed your cat hairball reduction food if you have a long hair breed. These high-fiber foods will improve their coat quality, minimize shedding, and support the health of their system. Fish oil is another diet remedy that can help move ingested hair along the digestive tract, so it doesn’t accumulate in their stomach.

How often should my cat vomit hairballs?

Generally, once a week is normal for cats to throw up hairballs. It could be more frequent if you have a long hair breed with lots of loose and dead hair. However, if your cat is throwing up more than twice a week and there isn’t a hairball visible, it could be a sign of a different illness. Make sure to bring them to the vet to be checked.

Reasons your cat may be vomiting besides hairballs include:

  • Food allergies
  • Eating household items they shouldn’t
  • Eating too fast and regurgitating after meals
  • An issue with the digestive tract
  • Bacterial or viral infections

How do I clean up cat vomit from my carpet?

Enzyme-based cleaning products are great for breaking down proteins and cleaning up vomit from your carpet. You can also make a homemade cleaning spray with warm water, salt, vinegar, detergent, and rubbing alcohol.

Here are simple steps for cleaning up the vomit:

  • Remove most of the vomit with a spoon, knife, or dry paper towel without pressing it into the carpet
  • Spray cold water onto the carpet and blot with a dry paper towel
  • Spray the cleaner and wipe away the mess with a sponge
  • Sprinkle the area with baking soda and let it dry out
  • Vacuum up the dried baking soda


Key takeaways

  • Cats seek comfortable spaces with traction while they are heaving up hairballs
  • You can reduce the number of hairballs by helping your cat groom or changing their diet
  • Enzyme-based products and baking soda help clean cat vomit from carpets effectively

No, your cat isn’t trying to irritate you when they throw up hairballs on your carpet. Carpets offer a comfortable location with traction so they can dig their claws in to keep footing. Throwing up hairballs is also natural and keeps your cat’s digestive system healthy.

There are ways you can reduce the number of hairballs they vomit as well as methods to clean your carpet efficiently. But if your cat is vomiting without hairballs or too frequently, make sure to take them to the vet!