Cats throw up food for many different reasons. Some are serious and require veterinary attention, but others, like eating too much too quickly, can usually be handled with home remedies. If your cat has just vomited once or twice but seems to feel fine otherwise, it’s safe to try some home treatment.
But do not try treating your cat at home if any of the following applies. Call your veterinarian for advice instead.
- The cat is very young, very old, or has underlying health problems
- The cat is vomiting frequently
- Vomiting has been present for more than a day or two
- The vomit contains blood
- The cat also has diarrhea
- The cat is weak, in pain, or seems mentally out of it
- The cat can’t hold down water
In This Article
Easy-to-Treat Reasons for a Cat Throwing Up Food
Some relatively simple problems can make cats throw up food. Here are some of the most common and home remedies that may help.
Eating Too Quickly
Cats who throw up food may be eating too fast. This can happen when a cat is very hungry because they are going too long between meals. Cats are designed to eat multiple small meals throughout the day, but this schedule can be hard to maintain if you’re busy, out of the house, or while you are sleeping. An automatic pet feeder will let your cat eat multiple small meals overnight or when you’re not home. Puzzle feeders like the Lickimat or a slow feeder bowl can also help cats eat more slowly.
A Mild Upset Stomach
Cats can develop a mild upset stomach for simple reasons like eating something new or unusual. Sometimes all that is needed is to give the cat’s digestive tract a break by not offering food for a short period of time.
Healthy adult cats can safely skip a meal or two, which will give their stomach a chance to empty and rest, but be sure to leave out fresh, clean water to prevent dehydration. Make an appointment with your veterinarian if your cat’s vomiting continues or if your cat is not willing to eat after 24 hours or so. Cats who don’t take in sufficient calories, even for relatively short periods, can develop a serious disease called hepatic lipidosis.
Hairballs are a common reason for cats to throw up and their vomit may contain food. Laxatone is a safe and effective, veterinarian-recommended flavored hairball control gel. Never give your cat mineral oil, butter, lard, grease, or vegetable oils as a home remedy for hairballs. At best, they won’t work. At worst, they can make your cat sick. Diets like Hill’s Science Diet Adult Hairball Control Canned Cat Food and brushing your cat more frequently can help prevent hairballs.
Talk to your veterinarian if your cat vomits hairballs more than a couple of times a month. Frequent hairballs can be caused by diseases affecting the digestive tract or skin.
An Adverse Food Reaction
Cats can react poorly to certain ingredients in food. What’s safe for one cat may cause another to vomit. Switching to a different diet may help when a cat is throwing up food. Wet cat foods tend to be a better option than dry because they are usually higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates, which is a better match for a cat’s nutritional needs. Wet cat foods also contain more water and fewer (or no) artificial preservatives in comparison to dry. The following options are all highly rated:
- Purina Pro Plan Gravy, High Protein Wet Cat Food
- Blue Buffalo Tastefuls Natural Flaked Wet Cat Food
- Hill’s Science Diet Wet Cat Food, Sensitive Stomach & Skin
If you have to feed dry cat food, look for a high-quality, high-protein option like ORIJEN® Dry Original Cat Food Premium.
Cats can vomit due to motion sickness! If your cat only throws up food while in the car, try not feeding them for a few hours before the trip. If that doesn’t work, talk to your veterinarian. They can prescribe medications that will help ease nausea associated with motion sickness in cats.
What to Do When Home Remedies Don’t Work
Of course, these aren’t the only reasons why a cat might throw up food. If your cat has severe or chronic vomiting, your veterinarian will need to determine its underlying cause. They will start by taking a thorough health history and performing a physical examination, which is often followed up with some diagnostic tests. This can include some combination of fecal examinations, blood work, urinalysis, x-rays, ultrasound studies, specialized laboratory tests, and even exploratory surgery or endoscopy and tissue biopsies
Your veterinarian can recommend appropriate treatment once they have identified the likely reason why your cat is throwing up food.
Additional Resources On Cat Vomiting
If you’re looking for more information about your cat vomiting, this is a good video overview from Dr. Sarah Wooten on cat vomiting:
You can also check out these sources:
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Gastrointestinal disorders in cats: Common causes and treatments. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gi-disorders-in-cats/symptoms-causes/syc-20354649
- WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA. (2017). Vomiting in Cats. Retrieved from https://pets.webmd.com/vomiting-cats#1
- VCA Hospitals. (n.d.). Vomiting in Cats. Retrieved from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/vomiting-in-cats
And finally we’ve created a series of posts here on Pet News Daily related to gastro intestinal issues for cats and cat health in general, including:
- Home remedies that will settle your cat’s stomach
- Home remedies for cat vomiting
- What to do if there’s blood in your cat’s stool
- What to do if your cat is vomiting bile
- What to do if your cat is vomiting blood
- What to do if your cat is throwing up white foam
- Over the counter medicine for cat diarrhea
- Cat foaming at the mouth: reasons & what to do
- Home remedies for cat diarrhea