You enjoy feeding your cat, and your pet relies on you for food. Naturally, this means you’ll become very concerned if your cat is eating its food too quickly. You don’t want your cat to become sick.
Cats who eat too fast may experience discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and weight loss. Discouraging this behavior is crucial. Occasionally, eating too fast and vomiting can be a sign of chronic illness. Let’s look at why it happens and what can be done to control this behavior.
Why Does My Cat Eat So Quickly?
If your cat hurries through its meal, you might assume they’re greedy. While some breeds are renowned for being gluttonous, eating too fast is more often caused by one of the following:
- Competition for Resources – In a multi-cat household, cats will usually finish their dinner quickly to stop others from trying to pinch it. If you have two cats, but one cat eats faster than the other, the naturally slower eater might try and gobble their food quickly, so that the other one doesn’t steal it.
- Irregular Feeding Times – If you don’t establish a feeding routine, your cat might start to become stressed. When food does present itself, they’ll fill up quickly because they’re not 100% sure when their next meal is coming.
- A New Food – If you’ve recently introduced a new type of food, your cat might not be too sure how to eat it. For example, cats raised solely on wet food may struggle to chew dry food properly as an adult.
- Worms – If your cat has worms, they will be unable to satisfy their hunger. This could cause them to eat food far too fast.
- Diabetes, Kidney Disease or a Thyroid Condition – These illnesses can impact how hungry, and thirsty your cat feels.
- Boredom – If your cat doesn’t get much exercise or attention, food will become a significant source of comfort. This could lead to overeating or eating too fast.
It is possible that more than one factor is playing a role in your cat’s behavior. For example, if your cat is fed at irregular times and they have to ‘compete’ against other cats for food, this could cause stress and insecurity. Your cat may also be eating more food because it’s the winter.
This may cause maladaptive behaviors such as eating too fast. It is concerning because your cat may not be digesting enough nutrients to stay healthy.
What to Do If Your Cat Eats Too Fast and Vomits
A cat that eats too fast often ends up regurgitating its food. This can lead to dehydration and malnutrition if not resolved.
If you see your cat regurgitating after a meal, follow these steps:
- Check that your cat has regurgitated indigested food rather than vomited. If your cat is gagging and heaving (i.e., vomiting) outside mealtimes, or there is blood in the vomit, you should see a vet immediately.
- If your cat ate something indigestible before his meal (grass, fur) this could cause him to regurgitate food. Check for any signs of indigested non-food items so you can dissuade this behavior in the future.
- Clean up the regurgitated food immediately to stop your cat, or any other cat, eating it.
- Provide clean, fresh water and wait an hour or so before offering a small meal.
Besides offering smaller meals, there are many things you can try to encourage your cat to eat at a more leisurely pace. The following interventions focus on reducing stress, eliminating boredom, and providing manageable portions in suitable feeding dishes.
1) Establish a Feeding Schedule
Sticking to a feeding routine is one of the best ways to encourage healthy feeding behavior. As mentioned, if your cat doesn’t know when to expect their next meal, they may overindulge when food is available.
It can be hard to know how often to feed your cat, especially if you’re a new cat owner. According to Battersea, adults require two moderately sized meals per day, whereas young (i.e., under three years) and elderly cats (i.e., above ten years) require 3-4 very small meals a day.
Nevertheless, if you have an adult cat that is struggling to hold down their meals, offering them 3-4 tiny meals a day could be a better option. Battersea emphasizes that all cats are different, so some will find 3-4 smaller meals a day more manageable.
Importantly, these meals should be evenly spaced so that your pet doesn’t have to go long periods of time without eating. If you’re out of the house for one of the scheduled meal times, you could place a very small portion of kibbles in a bowl, so your cat doesn’t miss out. Dry food can be left out without the risk of it going bad.
2) Gradual Feeding Method
Start by offering your cat one spoonful of food and only top this up when they have finished the previous spoonful. The issue with this technique is that it can be quite time-consuming.
If you can persist with this feeding technique for several weeks, your cat may learn to eat slower. If they can learn this behavior, you may be able to offer them larger portion sizes in the future.
3) Use a Feeder that Slows Down Eating
If the gradual feeding method sounds a bit time consuming, you could try one of the feeding bowls that are designed to slow your kitty down. These bowls have uneven bottoms or gaps, so your cat has to ‘search’ for food inside the crevices.
This not only slows your cat down but also helps provide stimulation during feeding time. Cats are natural-born hunters so most will enjoy ‘working hard’ for their food.
4) Feed Separately If One Cat Eats Faster Than the Other
As mentioned, competition for resources is one of the major causes of eating too fast. If one cat is worried about the other stealing their food, they won’t be able to eat in a relaxed manner.
If you have two or more cats and you’ve noticed feeding problems, it is best to feed the cats in separate rooms. Try not to disturb your cat by walking in and out of the room while they are feeding as this can be stressful for them.
5) Introduce New Foods Gradually
Most owners will try to introduce new foods from time-to-time, especially if their pet eats a limited diet. However, it’s not unusual for cats to eat too quickly, or regurgitate when they try new foods.
This could occur because they’re not used to the texture of the food, so they’re not quite sure how to eat it. Or, it could be that they like the new food.
When cats are offered meat, fish or other leftovers for the first time, they might overeat through pleasure and later regurgitate some of the food.
When introducing new foods, offer your cat a tiny amount, to begin with, so they can get used to the texture and flavor.
6) Combine Wet Food with Dry Biscuits
If your cat only eats wet food and is inclined to eat too fast, try mixing a small amount of dry food in with their meal. This should encourage them to chew their food and may help to support their overall health.
Indeed, most vets advise feeding cats a mixture of wet and dry food, though it is possible to find wet or dry products that offer ‘complete’ nutrition.
7) Soak Biscuits Before Giving to your Cat
If your only eats dry food, this may also cause regurgitation. When dry kibbles enter your cat’s stomach, they tend to absorb fluid, causing them to swell up. If there is too much swelling, your cat won’t be able to digest them. This means that regurgitation can occur. If your cat only ever eats dry food, this is more likely to happen.
To avoid this, try soaking some biscuits in water for a couple of hours (only soak the amount you need for one meal as this mixture cannot be stored easily).
This will encourage the biscuits to swell up before they’ve entered your cat’s stomach. You’ll then be able to judge the portion size correctly. Also, soaking the biscuits is a good way of keeping your cat hydrated if they refuse to eat wet food.
8) Do Not Provide Milk
Do not provide regular cows’ milk to cats because they are unable to digest the lactose. If you give your cat specialist milk with the lactose removed, don’t offer this too close to mealtimes as it may interfere with digestion.
9) Provide Stimulation Outside Feeding Time
According to the ASPCA, giving your cat plenty of attention throughout the day (not just at meal times) will help them develop a positive relationship with food. This is especially important if your cat lives indoors and relies on you for most of their exercise and stimulation.
If you only spend time with your cat at meal times, they may start to see feeding as their only source of pleasure, which could certainly lead to overeating.
Should My Cat See a Vet?
As you can see, a cat’s eating behavior can be influenced as much by their environment as by their internal health. Nonetheless, from time-to-time this behavior can signal an underlying health condition.
It is advisable to see a vet straight away if you notice the following:
- Your cat is vomiting outside of meal times (i.e., gagging and heaving).
- The vomit/regurgitation/stools contain blood.
- You have tried the interventions in this article for two weeks, but your cat is still regurgitating food on a regular basis.
- Your cat is regurgitating every meal and has experienced weight loss.
- Your cat is showing signs of weakness and fatigue.
- You suspect parasites are to blame.
- You suspect an underlying chronic illness is to blame.
Does My Cat Have Worms?
Worms (parasites) can cause your cat to become hungry and eat fast. Worms are also likely to induce vomiting and diarrhea. If your cat has worms, you will be able to detect these in their vomit or feces.
Added to which, they will probably also have the following symptoms:
- Dry, patchy fur
- Weight loss (although a small pot belly might develop)
Worms can be treated over the counter, but it is often best to take advice from your vet because different types of parasites respond better to different types of treatments. It is also vital to give your cat regular flea treatments because fleas can carry worm eggs.
Does my Cat Have Diabetes?
If your cat has an insatiable appetite and is frequently vomiting, this could be a sign of diabetes. Other signs to look out for include:
- Being thirsty all the time
- Unable to use the litter box effectively
- Unstable movements
- Weakness and fatigue
- Weight loss
Some of the above symptoms could also indicate kidney disease or a thyroid condition, so it is essential to see a vet if you identify any of these symptoms.
Although eating too quickly can signal an underlying illness, it’s worth remembering that environmental stress, boredom, or an irregular feeding routine are more often to blame. Tweaking these environmental factors will encourage sensible eating, promote good digestive health, and help your cat maintain a healthy weight.
Also, it’s important not to panic if you see your cat eating too quickly. Whether you’re contending with an environmental problem or a chronic illness, there are treatment options available.