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10 Reasons Why Your Cat Throws Up After Eating

10 Reasons Why Your Cat Throws Up After Eating

Your precious purr buddy is all excited about her dinner and dives right in on that kibble you fed her.  A few minutes later you hear the undeniable sounds of retching coming from near her dish. 

    What causes your cat to throw up like that?  And why does it happen right at meal time?

    Did you know there are two types of vomiting? Acute and Chronic. 

    Acute vomiting is a sudden episode, likely brought on by eating too much and too fast and only lasts for a day or two.

    Chronic vomiting is ongoing and means that cats will throw up 1-2 times per day and will have other symptoms such as pain, weight loss and depression. 

    Reasons Cats Why Throw Up Their Food

    1. Ate Too Much

    Cats can get excited about feeding time and slurp up their food with abandon. This can lead to throwing up right after eating.  There is only so much space in a cat's stomach, you know...

    Some people choose to feed cats smaller portions more often during the day.  Other like to always have food in the bowl so the cat can eat as much as they like whenever they like.  If you have a chonk, you might consider an electronic feeder that dispenses a smaller amount of food at regular times.

    2. Ate or Drank Too Fast

    You know when you see that big blob of vomit near their food bowl?  It still looks like food, but has liquid on it too. This is a sure sign of your cat eating too fast.

    This becomes a problem in multi-cat households when one cat regularly eats the food of the other cats, causing irregular eating habits and food binging. This is another situation where an electronic feeder could solve the problem of a cat needing to eat fast to get food. You might also consider feeding the cats in separate areas so they feel safe enough to eat at their own pace. 

    If you see a small puddle of clear liquid near the bowl, your cats are likely drinking too fast. To alleviate this, keep a bowl of water nearby at all times so your kitties can sip water at their leisure. 

    brown tabby cat throwing up in the dirt

    3. Hairballs

    Hairballs resemble cat vomit, and you can expect your kitten to eject one every two weeks. It is considered a normal procedure for a cat to swallow hair while taking care of itself, and sometimes cats vomit balls of hair. If your cat frequently vomits hair balls, your veterinarian may suggest treatments such as diets to reduce hair formation, or groom your cat to reduce the volume of ingested hair.

    You can also try a food for hairball reduction, like Blue Buffalo hairball formula or a treatment that helps hairballs pass through the intestinal tract, like Richard's Organic hairball formula in chicken flavor.  

    person's hand cleaning up at throw up with a paper towel

    4. Hard to Digest Foods

    Cats are natural predators and are likely to eat the bugs, birds,and rodentsthey come across. Which means they are eating the meat, fat, and bones of that animal as well.  It might surprise you to know that most cat foods have bone and organs in them. These by-products bring a lot of nutrition to a cat's diet, but sometimes a cat has a hard time digesting them. If diarrhea shows up as well as throw up, it might be time to switch out your food. 

    And look for treats - like Cat Man Doo freeze dried chicken treats - that are single protein and no preservatives. And cats go crazy for those things. 

    5. Ingredients in Food

    We all love to give our cats high quality food and treats, but rarely pay attention to all of the ingredients on the label.  If your treats have emulsifiers, dyes, surfactants, additives and preservatives, then your cat may be reacting to those things in their food. 

    One of the best ways to know what your cat is ingesting is to READ THE LABELbefore you buy food for them. 

    Typical dry food label

    This food, which high quality and highly rated, is still full of lots of added preservatives and chemicals.

    dry cat food label example

    Typical wet food label

    This wet food, which is advertised as chicken and turkey, still has lots of preservatives and added nutrients.

    wet cat food label example

    Now it is misleading to think that all of these ingredients are GOOD or BAD for your cat. The best thing you can do is educate yourself about what works for your cat based on trying different foods until you find one that works. 

    6. Toxic Plants

    Some of our favorite houseplants are actually poisonous to cats. PetMD has a list of the most common toxic plants for cats. The list below is reprinted from the PetMD article:

    • Amaryllis (Amaryllis spp.)
    • Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale)
    • Azaleas and Rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.)
    • Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
    • Chrysanthemum, Daisy, Mum (Chrysanthemum spp.)
    • Cyclamen (Cyclamen spp.)
    • Daffodils, Narcissus (Narcissus spp.)
    • Dieffenbachia (Dieffenbachia spp.)
    • English Ivy (Hedera helix)
    • Hyacinth (Hyacintus orientalis)
    • Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe spp.)
    • Lily (Lilium sp.)
    • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
    • Marijuana (Cannabis sativa)
    • Oleander (Nerium oleander)
    • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.)
    • Pothos, Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
    • Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
    • Spanish Thyme (Coleus ampoinicus)
    • Tulip (Tulipa spp.)
    • Yew (Taxus spp.)

    If you have one or more of these plants, consider putting them in areas the cats don't frequent or cannot access. 

    What about grass?

    Eating grass is traditionally thought of as a symptom of an upset stomach in a cat, but science now debunks this theory. Turns out that vomiting is an occasional by-product of eating grass.  Studies showed that actually cats eat grass to help them get rid of intestinal parasites by exercising the muscles in the digestive tract. This is an evolutionary behavior that cats still employ today.  

    In other words... don't worry about it.  In fact, you should consider getting them their own grass to munch on.  Toss a bunch of cat grass seeds into a pot filled with soil and watch your kitties munch away on all the grass in the pot when it gets nice and bushy. Those rascals may try to even eat the grass before it grows very big. 

    black cat eating grass in the yard

    7. It's the Food

    If you decide to switch your cat's food, be sure to do so slowly.  Introducing a new food too quickly can cause your cat's digestive system to overreact. A good ratio for transitioning is 1/4 new food days 1 to 3, growing to to 3/4 new food by days 7 to 10. 

    Sometimes pet food companies will change formulas without sharing this information with their customers.  

    Cat food, just like human food, has a "best by" date.  Keep that label handy in case your feline friend begins throwing up.  The information you are preserving is the product code and batch.  If you put your food into a sealable container, be sure to cut out that part of the label and tape it to the container. 

    If your cat needs a little extra assistance when dealing with a food transition issue, you can feed them plain pureed pumpkin, which is a great source of soluble fiber.  Or try out a probiotic to give their stomach flora a boost.  

    8. Needs to be Groomed

    How often should you groom your cat?  Well, it depends on the length of their fur.  Vets recommend grooming long haired cats every day.  If this is not possible, get a grooming tool like a Furminatoror SleekEZ to really get those loose hairs out and leave your feline looking sleek and beautiful. 

    You should plan to groom your short haired cat about once a week. If you have a hard time getting them to sit still for grooming, feel free to give them little nibbles of treats to get them to sit still for a bit.  As you get into a regular grooming pattern, they will settle down too because they know what to expect. 

    9. Minor Disruptions

    Cats can be very stoic so knowing that they feel bad or stressed can be very challenging. An upset stomach can be a symptom of a minor issue like a bladder infection, upper respiratory infection or ear infection. It can also be a sign of stress, especially if their regular routine is disrupted. While not overly serious on their own, ignoring these minor issues can lead to larger problems.  

    10. An Underlying Condition

    Last, but certainly not least is that if your cat continues to throw up and has other symptoms, it could mean there is a more serious underlying condition that needs your attention.  Here are a few serious ones below:

    •  Acute Kidney or Liver Failure is caused by toxins in the kidney or liver, poor flow of fluids creating blockages, drugs or medications that damage the liver, and excessive heat.
    • Inflammatory Bowel Disease - also known as IBD, is when a cat’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract becomes chronically irritated and inflamed.
    • Gastroenteritis is a bacterial Infection of the GI tract and can be caused by everything from parasites to viruses to their new food.
    • Pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas caused by a blockage or damage to the pancreas.

    Call The Vet If...

    If you see your cat vomiting and any of these symptoms below are also present, call your vet right away:

    1. repeated vomiting 
    2. cannot keep water down
    3. lethargy or listlessness
    4. cold, dry, pale, or yellow gums
    5. diarrhea
    6. blood in the vomit
    7. blood in the stool

    Freebie! Other Resources:

    We're huge fans of research.  We encourage you to read as much as you can about why cats throw up and what you can do about it.  Here are some extra resources to get you started!