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Why Do Cats Eat Their Own Vomit? 5 Vet-Reviewed Possible Reasons

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By Nicole Cosgrove

yellow vomit on a light wooden floor and a cat

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Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

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We’ve all had that moment of panic when we’re lying in bed in the morning and start to hear our cats retching somewhere in the house. What’s even worse is when you jump up to find the mess and discover that they’ve already taken it upon themselves to start eating it! Humans have a hard time understanding this behavior. For one, it’s gross, and two, it doesn’t seem like it would offer any sort of comfort or value.

While there are several reasons that cats eat their own vomit, there isn’t one particular reason that experts can all agree on. Eating their own vomit certainly isn’t one of your cat’s finer qualities, but we have to assume that it serves some sort of purpose for them, even if that purpose isn’t exactly clear to us.


The 5 Reasons for Cats Eating Their Own Vomit

You might wish that your cat didn’t participate in this gross behavior, but eating their own vomit is something that you may ever see your cat do. Here are some potential reasons why:

1. They Don’t Know What It Is

You would think that your cat knows what their own vomit is, yet cats don’t analyze in the same ways humans do. If your cat samples their own vomit, it might be because they don’t know what it is and are curious about what just came out of their body. Curious cats will probably only take a couple of bites. Pushing them away from it might only pique their interest.

grey tabby cat sticking tongue out while lying on the floor
Photo Credit: Jake Pause, Shutterstock

2. If It Looks Like Food and Smells Like Food…

The thing about cat vomit is that it often comes up looking very similarly as it did in the bowl. Some cats bring their food up when they eat too much or too quickly. Then, when something is sitting in front of them that looks just like their food, why wouldn’t they want to eat it? A cat’s vomit potentially smells the same as its food too. If it looks like food and smells like food, it must be food, right? Your cat might not know the difference.

3. They’re Keeping Things Clean

Cats are very clean animals and don’t like to live in a mess. An especially clean cat might be trying to clean up their own mess and keep the environment clean after vomiting. This is even more common if they throw up in a place where they sit or sleep a lot.

a tabby maine coon cat at home
Photo Credit: Daniel Zopf, Unsplash

4. Territorial Issues

Some cats are very territorial, and they’d do anything to make sure that no other animals in the house get access to anything that belongs to them. Cats don’t always care about the thing they are protecting; they sometimes protect things just because it’s a natural instinct for them.

5. They’re Hungry

How could your cat possibly be hungry if they clearly aren’t feeling well? Vomiting sometimes happens when our cats eat too fast. Not every puking incident means that your cat is sick. Sometimes they are so hungry that even vomit seems like an appetizing meal choice! If your cat seems excessively hungry to the point that they will eat their own vomit, make sure to contact your vet and discuss this behavior. Some medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes, can cause an exaggerated appetite, so you should not overlook this situation. 

hungry cat sitting next to bowl of food at home kitchen
Photo Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock


Is It Bad for Cats to Eat Their Own Puke?

Even though the behavior is gross, it isn’t usually harmful to them to eat their own vomit. Try to pick up the puke as soon as you can, though. There are times when cats will puke after they have gotten into something bad for them. Either way, try to keep them from eating it and contact your veterinarian to explain your concerns.

How to Keep Cats From Throwing Up

You should always consult with your vet if your cat is sick. Throwing up is never normal, and it may be an indication of an infection, an adverse food reaction, cancer, or kidney problems, among others. If your cat is sick, you should take them to the vet for further examination. 

hepper-cat-paw-dividerFinal Thoughts

The thought of eating your own vomit probably makes you want to vomit yourself. Cats aren’t like humans, though, and they don’t fully understand that this isn’t something they should be doing. They might not even be able to process that it is puke that they’re eating. Do your best to get the mess cleaned up and figure out what caused the vomiting in the first place.

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Featured Image Credit: ANASTASIIAKU, Shutterstock

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