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Home > Cats > Why Do Cats Eat Their Own Vomit? 5 Vet-Approved Causes

Why Do Cats Eat Their Own Vomit? 5 Vet-Approved Causes

yellow vomit on a light wooden floor and a cat

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As gross as it is, many cats throw up and then eat their own vomit. Unfortunately, experts do not know why cats do this. Although studies have been conducted on the matter, we are no closer to understanding this behavior than we were 100 years ago.

Although we can’t say for certain why cats eat their own vomit, scientists have their own theories. Learn about five potential causes to explain why cats eat their own vomit below.


The 5 Possible Reasons Cats Eat Their Own Vomit

1. It’s Natural

The most obvious reason why cats may eat their own vomit is that it’s a natural behavior. Cats across the globe and of different species all eat their own vomit at one point or another. It is unclear exactly why this behavior would be innate, but it seems to be, nonetheless.

Every time your cat throws up, they may be tempted to eat their own vomit, even if you discourage the behavior. For this reason, it’s best to just pick up the vomit right away since your cat is instinctively drawn to it.

2. Vomit Smells Like Food

Cats may be drawn to vomit because it smells like food. This hypothesis makes a lot of sense. Vomit is made up of the contents of the cat’s food. So, it makes sense that the vomit may smell like a meal to your cat. This is especially true if the vomit still has undigested food in it. Your cat smells their food, and it makes them want to eat.

sick cat vomiting the food
Image By: Tom Wang, Shutterstock

3. Vomit Is Enticing (Ew!)

This may sound disgusting, but vomit is enticing to cats because they prefer warm, soft, and mushy food. In fact, most cats prefer this texture over regular kibble. Because vomit has this form, your cat might actually think that the vomit smells, looks, and tastes enticing.

If that’s the case, this further suggests that vomit smells like food and that the act is behavioral. In other words, the cat has learned to do it because it reminds them of the food they enjoy most.

4. To Clean Up

Cats are known for being meticulously clean. They do not like their bodies or living spaces to get dirty. If your cat throws up in its favorite spot, some veterinarians suggest that cats eat the vomit to clean the area. This may help hide their presence from other larger predators.

If this is the case, this further proves how necessary it is to clean up the vomit right away. Cleaning up the mess will save your cat from having to eat it to keep its area and body clean.

floor cleaning
Image By: Gazed, Shutterstock

5. Your Cat Is Territorial

Cats are highly territorial, which is why they’re often solitary. If your cat views its vomit as a resource, it is likely to eat the vomit to keep it away from other cats. Although this sounds odd to us, it would make sense for your cat to view vomit as its property if the vomit smells like food and looks enticing.

Is It Okay for My Cat to Eat Their Vomit?

As nasty as it is to see your cat eat vomit, it isn’t the end of the world. Cats, dogs, and other animals have been eating their own vomit for centuries without any issue. Instead of fretting over your cat eating its vomit, it’s better to figure out why your cat threw up in the first place.

Still, pick up vomit as soon as your cat throws up. Not only is this more hygienic for your home, but it prevents your cat from eating it in the first place. Even though the vomit isn’t going to hurt your cat if ingested, there is no good reason for them to do so.

When to See a Veterinarian

You do not need to see a veterinarian just because your cat eats its own vomit. However, you may need to see a veterinarian if your cat is throwing up frequently. It’s completely normal for cats to throw up occasionally, but they should not be throwing up on a regular basis.

If your cat is throwing up a lot, contact your veterinarian. Serious conditions may be causing your cat to throw up. Pay attention to any other signs of illness as well, such as diarrhea, lethargy, lack of appetite, excessive thirst, irritability, or weight loss.

As a rule of thumb, take your cat to the vet if they have thrown up for more than two days in a row or if the vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms as described above.


Even though cats eat their own vomit frequently, scientists do not know why they do this. The five reasons above are possible explanations for this unappetizing behavior, but we don’t know for sure if these hypotheses are correct. Hopefully, scientists will better understand this behavior in the future.

Until then, don’t fret about your cat eating its vomit, but take your cat to the veterinarian if they are throwing up frequently or if the vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms. Learning why your cat is throwing up is more important than your cat eating its throw-up.

Featured Image Credit: ANASTASIIAKU, Shutterstock

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