why is my cat throwing up undigested food?
Cat Health and Wellness

Why Is My Cat Vomiting Undigested Food Hours After Eating?

Cats vomit regularly, but it’s concerning when they bring up undigested food. Vomiting and regurgitation are completely different things. Vomiting stems from the stomach, while regurgitation comes from the throat.

Cats vomit after eating due to excessive consumption or eating their meals too quickly. They should be fed smaller amounts of food and rest after a meal. Feed your cat wet food, not dry food, as it won’t swell up in the stomach. Don’t feed cats cold food as it’ll be too difficult to digest. Increase your cat’s fiber intake to clear any small intestinal blockages, and check for allergies to food or plastic bowls.

Always feed your cat appropriate portion sizes, do not change its food, and serve its meals at room temperature. Offer plenty of drinking water, but make sure that this is available in a different location.

Cat Regurgitation vs. Cat Vomiting

Vomiting and regurgitation are terms that are used interchangeably. However, there are core differences between them:


Feline regurgitation is a sudden and unexpected event. Your cat will open its mouth, and undigested food will emerge. There will be no symptoms, which means that you won’t receive any warning.

Regurgitation happens in the throat. Your cat is expelling food because it cannot swallow. This means that the food has not made it to the stomach. Regurgitated food often takes the shape of a long tube.


Vomiting occurs when the contents of a cat’s stomach are expelled. The digestive tract is rejecting the food that was consumed. The stomach will contract, leading to discomfort. This is why cats often pace and heave before vomiting.

Vomiting is an everyday occurrence for cats. Regurgitation is not. If your cat is regurgitating food, seek advice from a vet. Vomiting, while unpleasant, is far less concerning.

elderly cat vomiting undigested food

What Causes Cats to Bring Up Food?

If your cat is regurgitating food, an obstructed esophagus will be to blame. Explanations for this include:

  • Esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus)
  • Megaesophagus (enlargement of the esophagus)
  • Addison’s disease
  • Consumption of toxins
  • Neuromuscular disorder
  • Hypothyroidism

Why Is My Cat Throwing Up After Eating?

There are many reasons why a cat may vomit after eating. These include:

  • Eating to excess
  • Eating too quickly
  • Change of diet
  • Moving after eating
  • Cold food
  • Allergies
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Eating Too Much

Cats eating to excess is a common explanation for vomiting. Cats can often eat beyond the point of fullness (polyphagia.) Causes include:

  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Side-effects of medication
  • Pregnancy
  • Pancreatic issues

It’s also possible that your cat is just greedy. Many cats take pleasure from food. This can lead to unhealthy eating habits.

Moderate your cat’s food intake. The average adult cat will require 240 calories per day. This can be reduced in senior cats. A less active cat will burn fewer calories.

If your cat eats too much, you must reduce its calorie intake. In addition to vomiting, your cat is at risk of diabetes. As per a study in The Veterinary Journal, Burmese cats are particularly prone to this condition.

Eating Too Fast

Some cats eat faster than their bodies can cope with. This can be a problem with dry food as kibble expands in a cat’s stomach. Your cat will eat rapidly and expel the food when it places pressure on the digestive tract.

The main reason for cats eating too quickly is food anxiety. The cat is concerned that if it doesn’t eat fast, it won’t get to eat. This may arise if the cat has an inconsistent food routine or shares food with other pets.

If you have multiple cats, give each its own bowl and feed them in separate areas. Maintain a strict schedule. Ensure your cat understands that it will always be fed at a certain time each day.

If this does not help, break up your cat’s feeding routine. Feed your cat half as much, twice as often. Get a slow-feeding bowl. These bowls contain ridges, so your cat will be unable to eat quickly, even if it wants to.

Eating Unfamiliar Food

If you have changed your cat’s diet, vomiting is likely to follow. Cats have very sensitive stomachs. Any sudden change will upset a cat’s digestion.

Switching between wet and dry food has a huge impact. Even changing a brand of wet food can cause problems. Changes need to be made gradually.

Start by mixing the new food with the familiar. This ratio should be 90% old, 10% new to begin with. Over the course of the next 2 weeks, steadily increase the amount of new food.

Moving After Eating

Cats need to rest after eating. Too much movement after a meal will upset the cat’s stomach.

The best way to manage this is with a strict schedule. Play with your cat before feeding time. This will leave your cat exhausted and contented. Once your cat has eaten, it will likely groom itself and fall asleep.

If your cat wants to play or explore after eating, vomiting is much more likely. The cat will run and jump, upsetting its stomach. Any food yet to be digested will be expelled as vomit.

Food is Too Cold

Never feed a cat food straight from the refrigerator. This is unappealing and difficult for cats to digest.

A cat may reject the opportunity to eat cold food. When a cat eats, it seeks to replicate the experience of hunting. Live prey has a body temperature to match that of a feline. This will not be the case with chilled food.

Cats’ stomachs cannot digest cold food, which means the meal will be expelled. Allow the food to reach room temperature before serving. You could microwave the food for a few seconds, but don’t allow it to overheat.

Allergic to Food Ingredients

Cats can develop food allergies at any stage of life. Food that was previously fine can suddenly make a cat feel unwell, seemingly without warning.

Vomiting suggests that an ingredient in the meal is to blame. As the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine explains, you’ll need to check the ingredients of the food and source alternatives with different contents.

It is also possible that your cat has developed an allergy to its bowl. Plastic allergies are common in cats. Serve your pet’s meal on cardboard or a china plate. If this stops your cat from vomiting, the vessel was the problem.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Your cat may have developed a gastrointestinal issue. This can happen at any time in your cat’s life. Examples include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Intestinal parasites (i.e. tapeworm or roundworm)
  • Intestinal blockages due to hairballs or swallowed foreign objects
  • Cancerous tumors in the stomach

Increase the fiber in your cat’s diet. This will help flush out any minor blockages. You could also rub Vaseline on your cat’s paws. Your cat will lick its paws, and the Vaseline will lubricate the digestive tract.

A vet can take blood and urine samples. These will reveal any medical concerns or major intestinal blockages.

Dry Food vs. Wet Food

Dry food is more likely to cause vomiting than wet food, especially if your cat has a sensitive stomach.

  • Dry food takes longer to break down in the stomach
  • Dry food can be high in grain
  • Dry food cannot circumvent minor stomach blockages
  • Dry food expands in the stomach

As cats age, wet food makes a better core food than dry food. However, small amounts of kibble are OK.

As dry food takes a long time to break down and will sit heavy in a cat’s stomach. This means the cat may vomit if it moves or drinks water. Wet food can also slip past blockages, such as hairballs. Dry food cannot circumvent these obstacles.

As dry food expands in the stomach, it can double in size. A cat that eats quickly will struggle with this problem. The cat will not realize that it has eaten its fill, so the stomach will expel any excess food.

why did my cat throw up food?

What to Do After a Cat Vomits

Your cat will likely consider itself fine after vomiting. If you act concerned, your cat will become worried about vomiting.

After a vomiting episode, a cat should fast for 12 hours. This will settle its stomach. Once the fast is complete, offer your cat bland food.

Chicken and rice is an ideal meal. Within 24 hours, return your cat’s diet to normal. Encourage it to drink water in between, not during, meals.

My Cat Will Not Eat After Vomiting

Most cats will behave normally after vomiting. Exceptions can occur if the vomiting was painful or frightening. Your cat may associate food with these negative experiences. Ways to encourage a cat to eat include:

  • Serving food with a strong scent, such as seafood
  • Offer meat-based baby food
  • Pour meaty broth or tuna juice over food

Encouraging a cat to eat can be a slow process. Your cat needs to build trust in its food again. Your cat needs to eat within 24 hours.

Should I See a Vet About My Cat’s Vomiting?

See a vet if your cat continues to vomit a second day. This condition is known as acute vomiting. Brown vomit in cats is also concerning as it suggests that the cat may be bleeding internally.

Assist your vet by observing and noting any behaviors. This will help a vet make an accurate diagnosis. Concerning behaviors include:

  • Lethargy and depression
  • Loss of appetite and associated weight loss
  • Refusal to drink water
  • Traces of blood in the vomit
  • Struggling to eliminate or urinate
  • Swelling around the abdomen
  • Foul breath
  • Loss of interest in grooming

The best way to treat vomiting in cats at home is fasting. If your cat has not eaten, it will have nothing to vomit. Allow a cat to fast for up to 12 hours. After this, you can reintroduce food in the form of a bland meal.