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Why Is My Cat Throwing Up Undigested Food?

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Cat vomiting

Finding piles of thrown-up, undigested cat food can be unsettling for any cat owner. It is not unusual to wonder why your cat is suddenly throwing up undigested food. This is a common question among many cat owners.

Vomiting can have many different underlying causes and should be addressed directly with your veterinarian. While vomiting is often a telltale sign of sickness and warrants a trip to the vet, there are times when a completely healthy cat will regularly, or semi-regularly throw up undigested food. Let’s take a further look into this below.

What to Expect from The Veterinarian

a female veterinarian with cat
Image Credit: Tom Wang, Shutterstock

As mentioned above, whenever a cat is vomiting, it should be evaluated by a veterinarian first and foremost. The vet will complete a thorough physical exam, run necessary testing, and go over your cat’s health history, eating habits, and environmental factors to help determine the cause.

Many different illnesses, both minor and more serious, can cause cats to vomit, which is why a veterinarian is needed to diagnose the underlying issue. Some questions you can expect to be asked by your veterinarian include:

  • How long has your cat been vomiting?
  • Have you changed your cat’s food recently?
  • Has your cat begun taking any over-the-counter or prescribed medication?
  • What kind of diet do you feed your cat?
  • Is your cat an indoor or outdoor cat?
  • Do you have other cats in the house, and if so, are they also throwing up?
  • How often is your cat vomiting, and what does the vomit look like?

What Does It Mean When My Cat Throws Up Undigested Food?

If your veterinarian has ruled out any illness and has determined your cat is healthy overall, your cat may just be scarfing his or her food too fast for its good. Some cats will eat too much, too fast, and hardly even chew. They are simply eating faster than their body can handle, causing them to vomit within a few minutes of their meal.

Food allergies and foreign body obstruction in the digestive tract that prevents the food from moving into the small intestine are other more common reasons that undigested food may be thrown up. Therefore, a visit to the vet is so important if your cat begins throwing up undigested food.

Should I Be Concerned About My Cat Throwing Up?

red and white tabby cat caterwauling
Image Credit: Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay

Seeing your precious kitty vomit will likely cause you some concern but there is no need to panic. While there could be a more serious underlying issue, it could be as simple as your cat eating too fast.

That being said, foreign body obstruction, food allergies, or any other underlying causes will need to be ruled out by your veterinarian. Foreign body obstruction can be fatal if left untreated and food allergies need to be assessed and handled accordingly. Therefore, a visit to the vet is so important if your cat begins throwing up undigested food.

If your vet has completed a thorough physical examination and tested for any underlying issues and has determined your cat is healthy, there should be no cause for concern. Some cats simply gobble down their food much too quickly, causing them to regurgitate.

How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Throwing Up Food?

If the vet has ruled out any underlying health issues and determined your cat is eating too fast, it’s time to look into the potential causes for their eating speed and how to slow them down. Thankfully, there are some tips and tricks you can try to prevent them from scarfing and barfing their food. After all, no one wants piles of undigested cat vomit around their house. Not only is the cleanup no fun, but no one also wants to accidentally step in it. Ew!

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Most Common Reasons Cats Eat Too Fast

Cat eating cat food with some water added
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock
  • Territorial Instincts

If you have a multiple cat household or even if you have one cat but have dogs or other animals, their eating speed may be related to territorial behavior. Their instincts can still play a role in a domesticated situation, your cat may feel like they need to hurry up and eat as quickly as possible to avoid having it stolen by other animals in the home.

There are many situations where the alpha cat of the family (or even the hungry dog) will hoard all food so any others may need to hurry up and eat before they do not have a chance. A great way to prevent this is to feed them separately to make them feel more secure, whether it be in another room or even a kennel.

  • Behavioral Problems

Behavioral issues could be the root of this cause. Not unlike humans, cats can also eat out of boredom, stress, and even loneliness. When you speak to your veterinarian about the vomiting issue, make sure to mention any unusual behaviors you have noticed or any recent life changes that could potentially be caused by stress. Cats can be very sensitive to their environment and if behavioral issues are determined to be the root cause, your veterinarian can work with you to help resolve the issues.

  • Underlying Medical Condition

Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and hyperthyroidism, can cause an increase in appetite that can even make them seem insatiable. If quickly scarfing down food is unusual for your cat and you have suddenly started noticing this, it’s time to head to the vet for proper diagnosis

  • Past Trauma or Neglect

If your cat was rescued from an abusive or neglectful situation, it is not uncommon for these kitties that have suffered prior trauma to overeat and eat very quickly. They may not have had regular access to food in the past, causing them to be a bit overzealous when it’s feeding time.

  • Lack of Proper Nutrition

Cats need to be fed a high-quality diet that is appropriate to their size, age, and activity levels. If they are fed a low-quality diet or are not getting the correct quantity of food, they are likely being deprived of important nutrients like vitamins and minerals. It is important to ensure you are feeding your cat the proper amount of food each day that is of the best quality possible and is not full of additives and any harmful ingredients.

  • Parasites

Many parasites, such as tapeworms, will attach themselves to the intestines and steal all the nutrients from the food your cat is consuming. This results in your cat not getting the proper nutrients they need for themselves, which can cause an increase in appetite. IT is important to rule out parasites with your veterinarian and get any needed deworming completed, as this can result in malnutrition and anemia.

  • They Like the Way it Tastes

The simplest and more comforting reasons your cat is eating so quickly could simply be because they enjoy the taste of the food and feel the need to scarf it down as quickly as possible. If this is the case, there are some tips and tricks to help slow them down.

Tips for Slowing Down Eating

cat eating semi moist cat food
Image Credit: osobystist, Shutterstock

Feed Smaller Meals More Frequently

Feeding your cat smaller, more frequent meals can help prevent overindulgence. While it is convenient to just put the needed amount of food in a dish twice a day, it may be beneficial for a cat to eat smaller amounts. Since they do require a certain amount of food each day, you will have to split the needed quantity up into several feeding throughout the day. The downside to this is that if you do not have the time, or there is no one home during the day, this may be more difficult.

Spread the Food Out

Another option is to put the food dish aside and opt for a large plate or even a large pan with raised sides. Spreading their food across a larger surface will prevent them from taking large mouthfuls at once. Raised sides will cause them to work harder to reach their food and will prevent unwanted messes on the floor. This can even be done with canned food!

Feeding Obstacles

Putting obstacles in the bowl will require your cat to have to maneuver around the object to get to the food, which naturally slows them down. You can use something simple such as a large rock or a ball, you just need to ensure the object is large enough that it cannot be swallowed by your cat or any other animal in the house.

There are also some slow feed dishes on the market these days that have feeding obstacles built into them for this reason. You can check out your local pet store or hop online and see the different options. They typically have a maze-like design or have bumps and ridges that need to be worked around.

Food-Dispensing Toys

If the slow feed dishes are of no interest or are not doing the trick, you can look into food dispensing toys. There is certainly no shortage of these toys available and while they are generally meant as a fun activity and mental stimulation with reward, they can also work wonders to slow down food consumption. These toys will likely work best for the younger and more playful cats, as lazier individuals may not feel the need to work for their food.

Conclusion

Your cat could be throwing up undigested food for a variety of reasons. It is important to have your cat seen by their veterinarian if they suddenly begin throwing up or exhibiting any unusual symptoms, as early treatment and diagnosis are best.

While vomiting can indicate underlying health conditions such as disease, allergies, or even foreign object obstruction, the cause could also be as simple as your cat eating too quickly for its body to handle.


Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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