Why Is My Cat Throwing Up After Eating? Reasons Cats Get Sick After a Meal

A Cat Sitting Next To An Empty Bowl
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vet verified Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

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Hearing your cat throw up is nothing out of the ordinary for most cat owners. We usually just think that they ate a little too much or too quickly. Although this is often the case, sometimes there can be a more serious reason.

If you’re a cat owner, it’s very likely a familiar occurrence that shortly after feeding your cat, you hear the sounds of regurgitation, and realize your cat has vomited. Why is it so common for cats to throw up after eating, and should you be concerned? Here are five common reasons behind cat vomiting, from the not-so-serious to potentially serious problems that necessitate a visit to the vet.

1. Eating Too Quickly

When you set out wet food, or refill your cat’s dish with dry food, they can get a little too excited to nosh, and eat too quickly. Food eaten too quickly doesn’t get digested well, causing your cat to vomit. Movement or exercise after eating can also spur vomiting. If your cat vomits as a result of speedy eating, try feeding her several small meals throughout the day, rather than one large bowl full of food.

2. Hairballs

Although hairballs are caused by hairs ingested during your cat’s grooming, and not by mealtime food, presence of hairballs can also lead to vomiting after your cat eats.

3. Food Intolerance or Food Allergy

If your cat is eating something in their food that they they’re allergic to, or even if your cat simply has an intolerance to it, this can lead to vomiting.

4. New Food

Switching foods could introduce an ingredient that causes an allergic reaction, but it could also simply throw off your cat's eating routine, leading to vomiting after a meal. To avoid this, always switch to a new food gradually.

5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

In addition to vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome can lead to upset stomachs and diarrhea. If you notice these symptoms, a visit to the vet is recommended to come up with a treatment plan. 

More Serious Causes

More serious problems can also cause cats to vomit. For instance, your cat may have a stomach obstruction as a result of ingesting a non-food item, like a rubber band. Or your cat may have accidentally eaten something poisonous. It’s also possible that your cat has a metabolic disorder, like a kidney-related problem or hyperthyroidism.

So as a pet owner, what should you do if your cat vomits frequently? If the vomit seems clearly tied to your cat scarfing down food at mealtime, you should try feeding your cat several small meals, as opposed to one or two large ones, and providing food at the same time each day. If your cat is a serious groomer then a specially formulated "hairball food" or supplement can help.

If vomiting persists on a weekly basis or more frequently, then there might be a more serious cause and a visit to the vet is recommended.

More on Upset Stomachs

Tips to Avoid Your Cat's Stomach Upsets
Signs Your Pet Needs New Food
Choosing the Best Cat Diarrhea Remedy

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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