Why Do Cats Throw Up And Eat It Back?

  • Time to read: 9 min.

If you are a first-time cat owner, welcome to the world of cleaning up vomit one o’clock in the morning. One positive side to this is if you have a sensitive stomach, you will be cured of the condition in no time, especially when your feline friend decides to start feasting away on the mess they made. So now you’ll wonder if it is ok when cats eat vomit? 

While there is no real explanation why cats eat their vomit, it should not be allowed. There are several reasons why cats vomit, and if the cat throws up to expel a poisonous substance and is allowed to feed on the vomitus, the cat will re-ingest the toxic element and become sick again. 

Felines are notorious for their barfing capabilities; sometimes, it’s as simple as a hairball or overeating. However, there can be severe ailments to blame for your cat’s inability to keep food down. Typically, eating the vomit should not cause secondary problems, but there are other situations where you should not let your cat eat the vomit. 

Why Do Cats Throw Up?

There is a long list of possible reasons why your cat might be throwing up. In some cases, the root of the problem will be evident, but in others, a vet visit will shed some light on the situation, especially if it relates to an undiagnosed illness. Below is a chart of various conditions where one of the symptoms is vomiting; this will give you some idea of what might be wrong with your kitty. 

Please note that you’ll have to take your pet to the vet for proper diagnoses and treatment options. 

ConditionDescriptionAssociated symptomsTake to vet
HairballsCats clean themselves by licking their coats; the loose hair accumulates in the stomach and is expelled through vomiting.Hacking
Gagging
Retching
Vomiting 
No, unless the hair caused an internal blockage.
Kidney failureOtherwise known as chronic renal disease, it is a devastating blow for everyone involved. Once diagnosed, the best you and the vet can do is to manage the symptoms.LethargyWeight loss
Vomiting 
Excessive urinating and drinking a lot of water
Loss of appetite
Yes
Intestinal viral infectionsCats can suffer from viral infections such as Rotavirus. Spreading occurs with contact with contaminated diarrhea and vomiting of infected cats. Diarrhea
Weight loss
Loss of appetite
Fever
Vomiting
Sneezing
Nasal discharge
Watering eyes
Yes
Gallbladder inflammationThe gallbladder stores bile and the bile duct deliver it to the stomach as needed to digest food. In some instances, such as a blockage, your cat’s gallbladder or bile duct may become inflamed. Loss of appetite
Lethargy
Vomiting
Jaundice and fever
Yes
Liver failureYour cat might be suffering from hepatic failure, also known as liver failure, where the liver function decreases dramatically. Vomiting
Diarrhea
Blood in stool
Yes
ToxinsThese are things that can poison your cats, such as human medications or food. There is a list of plants that your cat should avoid. Cats can get sick from insecticides, chemicals, and rodent poison. Breathing problems 
Confusion
Excess saliva
Vomiting 
Seizures
Tremors
Weakness
Loss of appetite
Yes
Postoperative nauseaNausea is a common side-effect of anesthesia. Don’t force your cat to eat or drink unless so instructed by the vet. Once the medication wears off and they feel a little better, their appetite will come back. If your cat keeps vomiting after eating, call the vet. Nausea Disagree
Coughing 
VomitingLethargy
No, unless it persists.
PancreatitisThe pancreas is another organ that assists with food digestion. Pancreatitis is an ailment where the pancreas becomes inflamed. Nausea Vomiting 
FeverLethargy
Diarrhea
Lack of appetite
Yes
Intestinal parasitesGastrointestinal parasitism is a prevalent problem with cats. Intestinal parasites are worms or organisms that are making your cat ill. Luckily, there are ways to kill these parasites, and your vet will be able to assist. Dull coat
Coughing
Vomiting
Diarrhea
Blood in stool
Loss of appetite
Yes
DietAt times, the cheaper store-bought cat food might be the reason your cat is throwing up. Talk with your vet and see if there are cheaper alternatives of better dry food you can offer your cat. Loss of appetite
Diarrhea
Vomiting 
No, unless the new food also causes your cat to throw up.
Intestinal foreign bodiesIn this situation, your cat has somehow ingested something other than food. Kittens, for example, love to play with hair ties or other small objects, and sometimes they swallow these objects. Usually, it will pass without a problem, but this can result in obstruction with serious complications. Vomiting 
Diarrhea 
Loss of appetite
Lethargy 
Behavioral changesPawing at the mouth  
Yes
Neurological disordersCats can suffer from a wide variety of neurological disorders that can affect their quality of life. If you notice nausea, vomiting, or lack of appetite accompanied by the listed symptoms, there might be a problem with your cat’s nervous system  Seizures
Blindness
Difficulty walking 
Paralysis 
Twitching
Tremors
Confusion
Yes
Intestinal tumorsCancer is a friend of no one. Your feline friend might have intestinal cancer, and you should take your pet to the vet for a diagnosis and treatment options.  Weight loss
Vomiting
Loss of appetite
Vomiting blood
Blood in stool
Yes
Severe constipationSevere constipation is when your cat does not poop; this can cause serious compilations and require medical attention.  Hard small stools
Straining 
Hunched posture
Vomiting 
Lack of appetite
Yes
AllergiesCats can be allergic to various things and sometimes even to their food. Allergies are an annoying condition as you’ll have to go through a process of elimination to find the culprit. The allergy can be something they touch, eat, or breathe in. Sneezing CoughingWheezingRunny eyesVomiting DiarrheaScratching Excessive grooming No, but it depends on how severe the allergy is.
Inflammatory Bowel DiseaseIBD is a condition where your cat’s bowels become inflamed. The cause is extraordinarily complex and involves a myriad of factors. Weight loss
Vomiting 
Diarrhea
Blood in stool
Lethargy
Lack of appetite
Yes
Over-eatingCats can have eating disorders just like humans. Some cats are great with free-feeding, while others would lick the bowl clean each time. (There are also other times where over-eating is a sign of an underlying problem.)Finishing his bowl and asking for more. Or throwing it up and eating it again. No, but decrease your pet’s food intake slowly.

Many of the conditions share the same symptoms. Usually, only bloodwork and other tests can reveal why your kitty isn’t feeling too well. In the cases where a vet visit is not urgent, there are some things you can do to make your cat’s life more comfortable (see “Ways To Prevent Cats From Vomiting” below). However, if you notice that the symptoms are not getting better, there might be another reason your pet is vomiting, and you’ll need to take them to the vet for a diagnosis

Why Would Your Cat Throw Up Undigested Food?

Vomiting undigested food can just as well be any of the above-listed conditions. However, it can also be that your cat eats too quickly, has food allergies, or should not allow your cat to free-feed anymore. So how do you stop this from happening? 

  • If your cat is eating too fast, you can invest in a slow feeder; this will slow down the ingestion and solve the problem quite instantaneously. 

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  • Food allergies can easily be solved by visiting your vet and having a discussion on changing food brands. Common food allergens for cats are dairy, fish, and beef. 
  • Over-feeding or over-eating might take a little longer to solve; getting your cat to eat less requires you to decrease their food intake slowly. 

Should You Let Cats Eat Their Own Vomit?

In most cases, cats eating their own vomit might not cause concern as it has more to do with regurgitation – especially when you notice undigested food – than illness. Some cats prefer to eat warm food, and regurgitating their food is just their way of getting a warm meal. If you have a weak stomach and want to discourage the behavior, add some warm water to their food and cool down to room temperature before offering it to your cat. Or it might not solve the problem at all; cats are peculiar creatures. 

In other cases, such as the presence of toxins, you should not let your cat eat the vomit. The toxic substance is meant to be expelled; allowing your cat to eat it again is counter-intuitive. When you have a cat that likes to regurgitate food, you might not think twice when they eat the vomit, but because there is a slight chance that the vomit might contain poison, so the entire stomach-turning situation is best avoided. 

Other pets should also not be allowed to eat vomit. Apart from the possibility of toxic substances, when you have a sick cat, the vomit may contain bacteria that can infect your other animals. Though they might likely get ill regardless, you’ll save yourself a lot on vet bills if you can avoid the infection from spreading. 

Ways To Prevent Cats From Vomiting 

Hairballs

You can maintain the hairball-gagging condition by regularly grooming your cat and giving them special food that can assist with the matter. 

  • A de-shedding brush is a fantastic tool to get rid of loose pet hair. If you groom your pet frequently, it will significantly minimize the amount of hair your cat ingests and solve the retching in no time. With long-haired cats, regular brushing, and a trip to the groomers twice a year should improve the condition even more. 
  • Specialized foods can help your kitty with hairballs. There is quite a selection to choose from, making it easier when you have a picky eater at home. 

Diet and food allergies

If your cat’s stomach is not too happy with their current diet, they might protest by not eating it or throw it up again when they do. You will probably need to change the kitty’s food. Usually, changing out food requires a transition period because abruptly changing pet food may cause gastrointestinal upset. 

However, in this case, your cat might still throw up during the transition because the old food that is the root of the problem is still being ingested with the new food. It might be a good idea to give the fresh food without the transition and weather the storm to see if it settles. If not, your cat might be allergic to something found in both brands, and you’ll have to go through a process of elimination to find out what that might be. 

Overeating 

The first thing you have to do is slowly decrease the amount of food you leave for your cat; avoid complications such as fatty liver disease by doing this slowly and not changing their intake drastically. You can talk to your vet about how to do this safely. 

The second step would be only to feed your cat twice a day. Most pet food manufacturers have a feeding schedule attached to the back of the pack and provide recommendations on how much food your pet should eat within a twenty-four-hour cycle. To feed them twice a day, divide the total amount by two and give them half in the morning and the other half in the evening. 

If your cat cannot seem to get their fill and constantly overeats, there might be an underlying condition such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism causing the behavior. Be sure to have it checked out before you label your cat as a little pig. 

Medical diagnoses

Depending on the diagnosis, your vet may prescribe medication that would lessen the symptoms of your cat’s condition; this includes medication that would bring persistent nausea under control – it might also be in the form of a change in diet that the vet could recommend. 

Conclusion

A pukey cat is everyone’s worst nightmare – mainly because there can be so many reasons your cat is vomiting. If this happens only once or twice and there are no other symptoms, just keep an eye on your feline friend. If the vomiting persists and is accompanied by other symptoms, take your kitty to the vet to ensure they are not suffering from any of the above-mentioned conditions. To play it safe, clean up any vomit; if your cat ingested toxins, vomiting is a way of getting rid of the poison. 

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