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Why Do Cats Eat Their Own Vomit? 5 Possible Reasons

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By Nicole Cosgrove

yellow vomit on a light wooden floor and a cat

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.

Possible 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 many cats tend to do. Here are some potential reasons why:

1. They Don’t Know What It Is

You would think that your cat knows what its 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.

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

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

The thing about cat vomit is that it often comes up looking the same as it did in the bowl. Some cats throw up when they eat too much. 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
Image 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

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

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!

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

Sometimes, our cats are sick and there isn’t a whole lot that we can do about their vomiting. The best option is to make sure they stay hydrated and take them to the vet for further examination. Some cats, however, just like to eat too much too fast. To keep this from happening, feed them several smaller meals throughout the day to reduce the chance of vomiting.

Final 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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