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Home > Cats > Why Does My Cat Throw Up After Eating? 9 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

Why Does My Cat Throw Up After Eating? 9 Vet-Reviewed Reasons

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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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Seeing as you’re here, reading this article, one might presume you’ve noticed your cat is vomiting after a meal. Well, we’ve got some good news and we’ve got some bad news. Let’s start with the bad news—it’s a Schrodinger’s cat (coincidentally) situation. It could be serious, or it could be minor. If you’re concerned, call your vet, and see what they have to say, as always.

It’s not uncommon for a cat to vomit, though when it becomes a pattern, it’s your responsibility as a loving cat parent to look into it. If your cat is throwing up after eating, it could be for several reasons.

Unfortunately, some of them are quite serious, requiring testing to diagnose. Fortunately, this issue is also often caused by minor, remediable circumstances, like an issue with their food.

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The 9 Reasons Your Cat May Be Throwing Up After Eating

1. Food Not Suiting Their Needs

Your cat is an obligate carnivore. That means exactly what it sounds like—that they are obligated to eat meat. We know, we know—they often stray from this. Cats will try all sorts of funny things—potato chips, strawberries, yogurt—but they’re not really meant to. Curiosity, right?

The point is, they need a diet that is high in meat proteins. So, what’s the problem? It just so happens that meat proteins are very expensive in the world of food manufacturing and less than ideal fillers are often added. So, it’s always a good idea to start with the food—check the ingredients and food label.

Some cats have unique dietary concerns as well, in which case a veterinarian can get you hooked up with a nutritionist (yes, for cats) or recommend a prescription diet. Usually, a cat needs high protein, moderate fat, and low carbs.

persian cat eating dry food
Image Credit: Patrick Foto, Shutterstock

2. Time for a Flea Treatment

If your precious little buddy is vomiting regularly, and you’re noticing lots of fur, it can actually be a sign of a bigger problem than just a hairball. Something that you could consider is the possibility of your cat overgrooming. Think back—have you noticed them constantly licking and grooming? Are there any areas of patchy hair loss or irritated skin?

If this is the case and you are overdue treatment for fleas then use a recommended treatment from your vet. If the problem persists or the skin is sore, it’s time for a vet visit.  There are many reasons for itchy skin or overgrooming such as stress and allergies. If you suspect they are overgrooming and vomiting often as a result, it’s time to take them in to be looked at.


3. New Food

Cats will often get sick when they are introduced to a new food. As obligate carnivores, their digestive systems are highly tuned, and adjusting to a new diet can result in the little guys feeling sick and throwing up. The nice thing about this explanation is that it is obvious. If you’ve just switched their food and they start getting sick, you can make a fairly safe presumption that it’s the food. If this is the case, monitor them closely.

You should always introduce new food gradually, mixing it in with their old food over the course of a few days, up to a week. While this often works to ensure that they don’t get ill, it’s not guaranteed.

an old cat is depressed and sad, does not want to eat its food
Image Credit: Kitirinya, Shutterstock

4. Had Too Much

This is a problem that typically only happens in multi-cat scenarios. If your cat is the only 1 in the house and they are overeating—stop feeding them that much! In most cases, however, a dominant cat—often male—is trying to horde all the food.

This is a situation where it can be quite helpful to employ an electronic feeder or separate the problem cat during feeding and observe to see if the vomiting continues. One telltale sign that it is a case of the cat eating too much is how quickly it happens, but also, you should be able to see if they are eating more than their share.


5. Chowed Down Too Fast

Another common reason that cats vomit after eating is that they ate too fast. Yup. They just get really excited and overdo it. Some of us can relate. Much like previously when a cat had too much to eat, this is most often caused by a dominant cat wolfing down as much food as they can, as fast as they can.

You’ll be able to tell if they ate too fast by watching them eat, and by the way the food appears. If they wolf it down and it comes right back up, undigested, with a clear liquid—there’s a good chance they just ate it too quickly. Try feeding them smaller portions more frequently throughout the day, away from other cats, or in a puzzle feeder.

gray tabby scottish fold cat licking its lips after eating food from bowl
Image Credit: P Stock, Shutterstock

6. Feeling Stressed Out

Cats, while having been domesticated for thousands of years, remain the descendants of highly evolved predators. They are highly evolved predators but also can be prey to larger carnivores and because of this, they have instincts that cause them to be very stoic. In other words, they don’t act hurt when they’re hurt, or act stressed when they’re stressed.

With that said, cats tend to be creatures of habit, so minor disruptions to their lives that are nothing to us, can cause them to feel some stress. They may not show it obviously, but their body feels it, and this can cause them to throw up. Try to be aware of your buddy’s routine, and respect it!


7. Ate Something Toxic

This is one of the more potentially serious causes.

Depending on what kind of toxic substance the cat ate, toxicity can be mild and simply make them feel sick, or be deadly. There are many plants that are very popular but are deathly toxic to cats—like lilies for example.

Even if just a few specks of a lily flower’s pollen get on a cat’s coat and get licked later during grooming, it can potentially be fatal. If you suspect your cat has eaten something toxic, it’s time to calmly hurry off to the vet. If this is you, our hearts go out to you, and we wish your little one the very best recovery!

Veterinary doctor checking blood pressure of a cat
Image Credit: David Herraez Calzada, Shutterstock

8.  Serious Underlying Health Issues

This is something to look out for especially in older cats. Again, their stoicism can make this difficult to spot until it is late in the disease. Underlying health conditions can cause cats to vomit after eating, or even stop eating altogether. If your cat stops eating, they need to get to the vet. Often there will be accompanying signs for underlying problems such as weight loss or increased thirst. Look out for any other changes and let your vet know.

Some common health conditions include kidney disease, liver disease, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, diabetes, and pancreatitis. If any of these are the case, your cat is likely in discomfort and needs to be treated right away.


9. It’s Just a Hairball!

As we mentioned before, if your cat is overgrooming, it could be an indicator of a skin condition or stress. However, if they have just thrown up a hairball on occasion—once in a blue moon—it’s probably nothing to worry about.

When your little friend is getting sick, the possibilities can be gut-wrenching and stressful. Here’s hoping it’s nothing more serious than your standard, run-of-the-mill hairball. Yuck, but nothing to worry about!

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Conclusion

We always want to hope for the best, but the reality is that the best thing to do is to play it safe and take them to the vet. If your cat has been getting sick for more than 2 days or is acting otherwise out of the ordinary, that’s a sure sign that they aren’t feeling well and should be seen. We always want to hope that it’s a hairball, but it’s important to make sure that we’re prepared for all outcomes. We hope your little one feels better soon. Take care.

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Featured Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

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