Why Do Cats Throw Up After Eating?

by Sam

Has your vet declared your cat 'perfectly healthy', but is it still throwing up regularly? Here some tips that helped our cat to stop throwing up, we hope they help yours too!

Why do perfectly healthy cats throw up regularly, often directly after haven eaten dry food or grass? The reasons for vomiting in cats are manifold, some require medical attention by a vet, whilst others can be treated with simple home remedies. Here I explain what helped our cat, Oscar, to stop throwing up so much, but rest assured there are no pictures of throwing up cats or of cat sick in this article ;-) Instead I try to concentrate on the positive aspects ;-)


If your cat starts suddenly to throw up more frequently and / or shows other symptoms like fever, lethargy, refuses to eat and drink etc. get it to the vet ASAP and don't waste time on the internet. Cats can die very quickly from dehydration and / or lack of food! The tips in this article are meant for owners of cats that have been declared healthy by the vet and are still throwing up, not for sick cats that need professional, veterinarian care!

Meet Oscar

- The Master Thrower Upper!

On the right that is Oscar, our nearly 15 years old cat that has a long history of throwing up, here his story and how we helped him to 'kick the hairball habit'.

We got Oscar when he was already 10 years old and for the first two years he lived with us in a house with garden in the countryside and was allowed to go in and out during the day as much as he liked. And yes, we lived in a 'cat-safe' neighborhood!

Always cute ;-)

At least when he is asleep ;-)
Oscar - In one of his favorite sleeping positions.
Oscar - In one of his favorite sleepi...

Due to the fact that he was most of the day outside, we could blissfully ignore his 'throwing up' problem ;-) We sometimes found 'something' in the garden, and, very rarely stepped on a hairball first thing in the morning, but that was it ...

Things changed when we moved, work related, to the 'big city' and Oscar became what we called jokingly a 'flat cat' (indoor-only or apartment cat). Now it was obvious that he threw up several times a week, so a vet check was in order! But, no big surprise here, our Oscar was completely healthy, he 'just' had a lot of hairballs, *sigh*.

The Main Resason for Cats to Throw Up - Hairballs!

Below a link to an excellent article by a vet about the whole issue, here a summary and how it applied to us.

  • Hairballs form in the cat's stomach when hair is ingested during grooming.

Oscar is an excessive groomer, we often call him our 'OCD-Cat' as he is continuously occupied with keeping his fur in order, in order, IN ORDER! And every hair needs to be in the right direction also ;-) All this means he licks his fur a lot and therefore ingests a lot of hair - which ends up forming hairballs.

  • Having hairballs doesn't mean they get thrown up every time.

Actually far from it! Oscar produced on average a hairball per week, but he threw up more often, due to the fact that the hairball blocked the exit of his stomach and the food couldn't get digested / moved on properly and therefore went the other way - backwards.

  • Other contributing factors

Age! Like mentioned above, Oscar is already 15 years old, a senior cat, so body functions and digestive system might be a bit more sensitive and slower than in a younger cat.

Food! Whilst living in the countryside he would 'supplement' his diet with baby bunnies, mice and birds, when we moved, he had to rely only on what we gave him. In fact I switched him to raw feeding (BARF) shortly after the move and he did very well on it, with far less episodes of producing hairballs, but Oscar being Oscar he decided one day that he didn't like it anymore, so we switched him back to 'normal' cat food. More about his diet towards the end of this article.

More than you ever wanted to know about vomiting cats ;-)
This article explains the whole issue of hairballs (trichobezoars) nicely, especially why hairballs are still the main reason for vomiting in cats, even if you don't find one on the floor each time. It is also quite entertainingly written, despite being a yucky subject - well worth a read!

Why we don't feed hairball remedies (anymore)

The first thing our vet suggested to help our cat to get rid of this annoying problem, was to feed him so called 'hairball remedies' which have to be given long term and continuously in order to work. The main problem I had with this, is that most of them, one rare exception on the right, are based on 'petroleum jelly' or similar. Being a huge fan of healthy living, I simply didn't feel comfortable to feed our cat, for weeks or months on end, a product that is based on mineral oil. Somehow I don't think that would be healthy ...

So yes, I did try out some 'hairball cat treats', but stopped doing so for the reason mentioned above and because I really didn't saw much difference in 'hairball frequency' when feeding them. If you want to try them out, I suggest you choose a brand that is all natural and without mineral oil.

One of the few natural hairball remedies available

... yes, we would consider to feed Oscar this product!
Pet Naturals Hairball (45 count)

Anti Hairball Tips from Oscar

... and us ;-)

Here is what helped, and why:

  • No more dry food and no more free feeding!

Dry food is generally unhealthy for cats, but the 'why and because' is material enough for another article. The main problem with dry food, when it comes to vomiting cats, is that it expands in the stomach when it comes in contact with water and the digestive juices. This expanding alone can be enough to set off throwing up, especially in cats with a sensitive stomach - or in greedy eaters. As Oscar is both, not feeding him dry food anymore and managing his portion sizes already reduced throwing up episodes by half!

  • Several, read 4-6, small meals a day!

The next big change we made, was dividing his 'food allowance' for the day into 4 to 6 small portions and serving them equally distributed over the day. Serving the last meal very late also helped, somewhat, with not being woken up too early by a 'starving' cat ;-) By serving many small meals during the day the cat's tummy doesn't get 'overloaded so easily and chances are better that the food stays where is meant to stay!

  • Warm and mushed-up cat food!

Yes, you read that right, as we, at the moment are back to wet / canned cat food we actually warm it up slightly and mush it up with a fork. The food temperature should like that for a baby, so test before serving it. We use the microwave to warm his food up for around 15sec and then smash it up with a fork to make sure there are no 'hot bits' and the food bits are small and mushy. Surely helps with our greedy eater's sensitive tummy!

  • Lost of fresh water!

Cats are notorious for not drinking enough, so making the water more appealing helps actually with that and also with a healthy digestion. Oscar doesn't care much for running water (water fountains) but he loves drinking out of his huge metal bowl. Perhaps because he can admire himself whilst drinking? He is a little bit vain sometimes ;-) Below on the right the type of water bowl we use and on the left a nice water fountain that I think even Oscar would like - It is shiny!

Helping with grooming!

Oscar doesn't like to be groomed, he is not really the kind of cuddly cat you imagine when seeing him on photos! Grooming him with a cat brush that has a normal, short handle, always results in severe human blood loss!

But one day I had a brainwave and attached, with duct tape, an old wooden spoon to it - and hey, presto!, now I have a brush that keeps my hands at a safe distance from Oscar's claws when grooming him. On the right a photo of what is in the brush after a 20 sec grooming session and below a photo of my DIY Cat Brush Handle ;-)

I wish we could use the furminator on the right for him. I used them with great success on other cats and dogs and they do really work well, but I am sure Oscar would take my arm off if I approached him with one like this.

But if your cat doesn't mind to be groomed, these are great for removing all the dead hair that otherwise would be ingested and become a hairball. Hairball prevention at the roots, so to speak ;-)

After 20 sec grooming!

These hairs will not become hairballs!
These hairs will not become hairballs!
(c) me

I wish he would allow us to use this on him!

FURminator deShedding Tool for Cats, 1.75-Inch Edge
Only $0.00

Instead we have to use this!

Please don't laugh!
DIY Safety Cat Brush
DIY Safety Cat Brush
(c) me, patent pending - just kidding!

Quick 'Throwing Up Cat' Cheat Sheet!

  • Check with vet if cat is healthy! If yes proceed with tips below:
  • Stop free feeding!
  • Stop feeding dry food!
  • Switch to feeding raw (BARF)! or, if not possible,
  • Switch to canned food only, choosing a healthy brand without fillers!
  • Serve 4-6 small meals a day, warned up and mushed! (applies only for canned food)
  • Help your cat daily with grooming!

Other Cat Related Articles

... by yours truly ;-)
Cat boarding is one of many possibilities how to keep your kitty happy during your absence, but is it the only one? Read More ...
My parents always used to say that I was born with the word “Why?” on my lips. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do cats purr?” And now it is “Why is milk suddenly bad for cats?”
The ten commandments as given by cats to their owners. Obey or be scratched!

Anything I have forgotten?

... or something you disagree with?

After several months of following the regime above, Oscar is done to producing a couple of hairballs a month and nearly never throws up without producing one. Like always, if you have a question, or disagree with something I wrote or just want to say 'hello', please leave a comment!

Updated: 07/02/2012, Sam
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Sam on 02/20/2013

Thanks Catona! Yes, all cats are different and in Oscar's case he isn't allowed much dried cat food anyway for reasons that go beyond this article. But yes, if there are no contradictions and your cat digests it better, dry, grain-free (and sugar free!) cat food is a good alternative. Oscar is nearly 16 now and also he stopped grooming himself pretty much so he gets "tortured" with the DIY brush on a daily base. The funny thing is that he makes a racket like he is skinned alive whilst brushing him and then runs straight to the kitchen and waits for his special "after grooming treats" ;-) Like you say - Cats ;-)

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