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How to Stop Your Cat from Throwing Up after Eating

Posted on: March 16th, 2012 by


Hello. I’m Dr. Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Hotel and Veterinary Hospital in Boise, Idaho. I’m going to answer some questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

First, we have Steena. She says, “My cat eats too fast and then throws up. How can I get him to slow down? Even buying a special slow-feed bowl didn’t work because he just eats around the protrusions.”

Some cats really do like their food. When I see this type of behavior, where the kitty is eating so fast and so much that they almost immediately vomit, oftentimes it seems to be those cats that as kittens or young cats were strays and outside. They don’t seem to get past this mentality of not knowing when their next meal is. They were out on the streets starving, probably didn’t eat for a number of days a time. Now, even though they’re in a nice home and the food is plentiful, they still have that mindset that they’re going to starve if they don’t eat as much as they can right now. There are other cats, however, who just really love to eat. It doesn’t help that we’ve made our pet food very nutritious and very tasty.

Steena has the right idea as far as, we do obviously want to slow down the eating so the cats can’t fill themselves and get so full that they vomit right away. What I like to have owners try is to feed the kitty from a cookie sheet or other flat tray. That spreads the dry little kibble pieces out so they have to pick up one or two at a time. They can’t shove their face in a bowl and try to take a big gulp.

Another thing that works really well is to try feeding the cat from an ice cube tray that you fasten down. Again, physically they just can’t eat so quickly because they’ve got to put their tongue down into each individual cube and get only a couple pieces at a time.

Typically, something like that is going to solve the problem for you. The other thing you want to think about is multiple small meals throughout the day, and when I say small, I’m talking about maybe an eighth of a cup or so of food. If you’re schedule doesn’t allow for that, you can purchase automatic self-feeders where you can program them to open up at certain times of the day. Then you can measure the amount that you put in each compartment at that time.

Finally, the last thing you can try is perhaps using what we call a food ball or a treat ball. You can get these from most of the pet stores. It’s just a little plastic ball with some small holes in it that will only allow a few pieces of food to fall out. You open it up, put the dry food inside, and close it back up. Again, he can only eat a few kibbles at a time. Usually the kitty has to either roll the ball or tip it so that he has to work to get his food released so not only are we hopefully solving the problem of him eating too much too quickly, you’re also going to give him the mental and physical stimulation that’s really important for our cats, especially if they’re indoor cats only.

If you have any other cat health questions, you can post them on the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

www.petsbest.com

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24 Comments

  1. Eric says:

    Thank you for the tips! Great idea with the ice cube tray. I think my 4 kitten has the same mindset of not knowing when his next meal will be because his mother starved his two siblings to death…literally so he was malnourished the first month before we got him. Any ideas however to slow Tucker down with canned food? Or did you mean to put wet food in the ice cube tray?

  2. Kathi says:

    I have a 10 yr old cat who has just recently started this gorge & puke routine. Our vet has suggested the slow feed bowls or to put a golf ball in her bowl. I know her well enough to know the golf ball would get flipped out of the bowl & treat balls would get “stolen” by the dog. The ice cube tray seems like a novel idea. Would it work for wet food as well as dry?

    • Chryssa @ Pets Best says:

      Ice cube trays might be a little deep for wet food – she may never be able to get it all out. But, cats are smart when it comes to their food! If you try it, let us know how it works.

      • cheryl says:

        Hiya. I had problems with my cat throwing up after food. He was the runt and I also have his brother who is the alpha cat. I tried the ice cube tray with meat and it has worked. I also give the alpha a tray which slows him down aswel giving the runt time to eat. Im glad I didnt have to separate them. Thanks for the advice.

  3. Crystal says:

    My 7 year old cat just started doing this as well, and it usually has to do with making sure he gets all the food before the 3 other cats do. I separate him from the others and put him and his smaller amount of food in the bathroom. I will keep him in there for about 15-20 minutes. Plenty of time for the other cats to get their fair share of both wet and dry food. This has stopped the vomiting completely, and when he comes back out, he’ll eat only a small amount of dry food that’s left over, instead of rushing to eat the wet food, just so he can get to the dry food before the rest do.

  4. laura says:

    my cat eats really fast and has been vomiting after eating, and after bit refuses to eat the food. but then if i change the food shes fine for a long while. then it will randomly start up again. would this be from eating too fast or could it be something else?

  5. Jess says:

    My cat is almost 9 years old, she was a rescue cat and I’ve had her for 6 years. For a long while (probably 3 years) she almost immediately throws up her food. She doesn’t eat fast at all! She actually has missing teeth due to an infection she had before I adopted her and takes extremely long to chew her food.

    She eats half a pack of wet food in the morning and another at night and also has dry food and water out during the day.

    What could be wrong with her? I’ve been to the vets and they say that theres nothing wrong..

    • Chryssa @ Pets Best says:

      Hi Jess, thanks for your question. Leaving food out all day may be causing your cat to overeat. Ask your veterinarian if it’s okay to stop leaving dry food out, and see if that helps. Let us know!

  6. shope07@gmail.com says:

    Our cat is a ten year old former stray cat and he has been eating and throwing up food for years. We have tried everything from raising and lowering the feeding dish to giving him high protein food but nothing worked until now. We followed your advice and put his food in a flat pan with an edge and he has not thrown up in three days. This is an all time record for him.
    No more throw up in our shoes or on the kids homework. Bless you for your helpful advice.

    Paul

  7. Peggie says:

    Absolutely make sure (with a thorough vet examination) that there isn’t anything wrong with your furbaby. One of my Exotic Shorthair cats had been vomiting almost daily, leaving piles of half digested food around the house. I took her to the vet and she was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and is now on prednisolone daily (a form of steroid). IBD can develop into something MUCH worse if not treated (like cancers). So please, from personal experience, don’t just assume it’s scarf & barf without having your cat checked out.

  8. Betty says:

    My cat is 16, she was a stray also. We mix a little dry with a little wet food and press it down on a plate so she can’t eat as fast. She still throws up about 50% of the time, but that is an improvement.

  9. Amy says:

    My female cat has been throwing up her food for the last 8 months. We adopted another female cat from the shelter and she bullied the shelter cat for months, then we moved to a new place and now the shelter cat bullies her and she started eating and puking and even pooping away from the litter box. We set out another litter box and that took care of that problem but I don’t know how to stop nervous nancy from throwing up her food all the time. Could it be anxiety?

  10. Angie says:

    I have tried all the suggestions and nothing seems to work. I have tried ice cube trays, feeding them in different rooms and switched their dry food to Blue Buffalo. Tried the Royal Canin food too, that helped for about 2 days then they were puking again. I’ve been to countless vets for blood tests and my poor cats being poked and prodded and spent $1000′s to find a reason. I have 4 cats and took in a semi-tamed feral cat who didnt start puking till a few months after she’d been indoors. I’m thinking that whatever it is is contagious YET no vet can find the cause! ANY SUGGESTIONS?

  11. liz953 says:

    Mutli-cat food competition is really common in which cats eat too much too quickly. I accidently discovered something that has worked well for 2 multi-cat households. Try putting their dry food in a single, sparse layer in a shallow 9X13 dish (or a flat-bottom tray). This really seems to slow them down since they tend to only pick up once piece of food at a time. And there is no deep dish to dig into. No more gobblers.

  12. Megan says:

    My kitty is 14 and if she eats too fast she throws up, and if she eats more than a tiny bit of wet food she gets l diarrhea that never makes it to the litter box and always on the nice rug.

    I got her to stop for a while with fancy senior food, but when I got a kitten she preferred his food and binge ate. A little after she got sick and couldn’t eat much.

    Now she is better, but she is so hungry that she eats too fast and throws it up. I have found the best ways to get her food is the name sure the floor is clean, and drop a bit of food on the floor so it scatters and she can only east one at a time. I

    If she’s extremely hungry I hand feed her a kibble at a time and make her wait between a few to let her digest.

    If she is hungry but not so much do that she won’t chew her food, I lock her in the bathroom so the kitten doesn’t bother her, give her a bowl of water and give her about half a teaspoon at a time, and don’t give her another for 7-10 minutes. It is a lot of work but I find it better for her to not easy enough, than to throw it all up. I found a weekly pill planning case that has 28 little containers and I put a teaspoon in each and try to get her to eat all of it in a day. Doesn’t always work, and I’m not always home enough to get her to eat enough, but better than before.

    I hope I can get her back to the point that she can have a bowl of food and not binge eat.

  13. layla says:

    My cat is about 2 years old now. She docent seem to chew her food, but instead swallow it whole. She then vomits it up multiple times. Would these tips apply to cats who don’t chew their food instead of eating too fast?

    • Angel says:

      I discovered my older cat was doing that. I started separated him from my other cat during mealtime, and softening his kibble with a little water thinking maybe it was his teeth since he’s almost 15 now. The throwing up has since stopped, but I’m not sure which did it so I’m just keeping things this way since it worked.

  14. Dr. Paul Mahn says:

    Try a lemon juicer for your cat.

  15. Laura says:

    A lot of the problem is that the foods put out today are so small the cats don’t have to take the time to chew. My cats began gorging and throwing up. The solution was either go with an x shaped food but the only ones I could find had dyes in them. So I’ve had to resort to feeding them dog food until I can find a brand that is the right shape. The small food is ideal for elderly cats that can’t chew well and don’t like wet food.

  16. Sam says:

    Attempting the ice tray idea… I am so sick of cleaning up puke after my kitty eats. I know it’s cause he gorges himself. He’s got the poundage to prove it, but I also have a busy lifestyle so it’s hard to limit his food because I’m not always home… Hopefully this works because I bet he’s just as tired of puking as I am am of cleaning it up.

  17. Laureth says:

    I’ve had somewhere around 50 cats over my lifetime, and almost all were rescues. The other senior cat I had that threw up was a senior cat with pyloric distension (same cure..slow them down, lol) I wish I had thought of the ice cube tray idea then. Pretty much all the above ideas have worked, but the one thing I did notice is that the senior cat really didn’t do as well with dry as with wet and dry mixed. He could hold down Smartfood when he could get to it just fine though. From this end of it, if I had to work, I pretty much used timed automatic bowl openers. Believe it or not, your cat is just following his/her survival instinct. In their past, food was scarce and they were often hungry AND scared. Survival forces a cat to gorge because who knows when it will be there again, sure, but food ALSO means security & pleasure. Some cats I had to cuddle first, others needed to be picked up and cuddled part way through the meal because they confused food and good feelings. And yes, leaving food out was never a good thing for these kinds of cats. In general vet first and if its not medical, then just try and see from your cat’s point of view. Scarf and run was once a clever adaptation for your smart cat, that is why it survived to be a rescue.

  18. layla says:

    Thanks a lot I’ll try that out! (:

  19. Abby says:

    My cat was a rescue and was very malnourished when I got him. He gets so frantic if there isn’t food and will meow constantly until you put food in his bowl, then he will gorge himself and within 20 minutes, throw up on the floor. He has been to the vet and they suggested cookie pan – he somehow found a way to just drop his jaw and plow across the cookie pan and eat too fast. We are not home all day to monitor his eating so we got a slow feeder bowl. It has holes in the side so he has to use his paw to bring out a few pieces and then eat them. SOMEHOW he has managed to just shove his snout into the hole and overeat and consequently, throw up…

    I got a treat ball for him to try to use but it didn’t seem to stick. Wet food made him gorge himself more (probably tastes better). I will try the ice cube tray, but how are people fastening it to the floor/board/something? Also, I was debating maybe breaking up the food pieces (put some food in a ziploc bag and kind of smash it up) to create a rougher powder-y texture and then put it in a shallow plate, that way his lack of chewing the food would be solved and perhaps it couldn’t eat that so fast seeing as it isn’t in easily scoopable pieces. I’m not sure if that makes sense or is a good idea, everything that we have tried works for about a week or two and then he finds a way to get back in the vomit game!

    Also, I thought that if I left dry food out all day he would be able to break that mentality of when his next meal would be and he could see that there was food in his dish at all times. This has helped a little bit (he throws up less now) but still throws up…. :(

    I read online that Siamese cats throw up their food more than other breeds and they actually make a specific food for siamese cats to help with digestion and such – and one site said that if you have a cat that pukes often, you can try that food but i’m not sure if that would help with overeating…

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