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Ask the Vet: Is it Normal For Cats to Throw Up After They Eat?

Are you fed up with a feline that stopped using the litter box? Concerned for a cat who’s sleeping a lot? Or, not sure if what your kitty does is normal? These are all questions you should ask a veterinarian. Dr. Liz Bales is here to answer your kitty questions about health, wellness, and behavior!

ThinkstockPhotos-469567877Dr. Bales, Is it normal for cats to throw up after they eat? It happens a lot in my house and then the other cats run as fast as they can to try to eat it before I can clean it up! Is that even safe?? Should I be worried? – Barb A.

Hi Barb,

You have just given the precise description of “scarf and barf,” a very common feline condition.  While it is very common for cats to throw up right after they eat, it is not normal.

Cats that scarf and barf do not have a worrisome medial condition, but they do have a behavior problem that is a result of feeding them from a bowl full of food.

To truly understand scarf and barf, we need to look at the natural state of the cat. In their natural state, cats have a feeding style that is very different from the way that we feed them in our homes.

In the wild, cats hunt, catch prey, eat, groom, and then sleep somewhere between 9 and 20 times though out the day and night in a 24 hour period. They commonly catch mice, crickets, and birds. A cat’s unfilled stomach is about the size of a ping pong ball and is made to accept multiple meals a day. So the natural daily cycle of a cat, called the Seeking Circuit, is one of exercise (hunting and playing with prey), followed by a small meal and then rest over and over throughout the day and night.

The drive to eat is very strong (in this way, I am very much like a cat!) When our cats find a big bowl of food waiting for them, they will gorge. You find that pile of puke when their stomachs cannot tolerate so much food at once, and they vomit. Voila!  Scarf and barf.

To remedy scarf and barf, we need to provide our cats with a way of eating that mimics their natural state and innate needs.  So, you can start by feeding your cats multiple small meals (approx. 1 ½ tablespoons) multiple times throughout the day and night.  We can improve upon this by allowing our cats to have the hunt and play part of the Seeking Circuit and thereby meet all of our cats needs.

I hope this helps stop scarf and barf at your house!

Warmly,

Dr. Liz Bales, VMD

For more cat health and wellness information, check out my website at www.TheCatvocate.com and LIKE me on Facebook by clicking here.

FullSizeRenderDr. Liz Bales, The Catvocate, is a practicing veterinarian with 15 years of experience. Dr. Bales has a strong interest in feline wellness and behavior. She believes that by understanding the natural state of the cat we can create an indoor environment where cats  thrive and our bond with them grows.

Dr. Bales is interested in your questions and concerns about your cat!  Leave your question in a comment below and Dr. Bales just might answer your question next!

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Nicole

    Aug 23, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    What if you have more than one cat in the house? Therefore if you give a small portion, but you put it in each bowl, then they still have the opportunity to eat it all if the other cat isn’t eating at the same time.

  2. Shelley Johnson

    Aug 24, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Dr. Bales, I have a 16 year old deaf cat. In addition to being a scarf and barfer, she is no longer consistently using her litter box. Even if the litter has just been changed, she will urinate on the carpet in a different room or poop right in front of the litter box. Other times she uses only the litter box! This is a frustrating and smelly problem. Any suggestions?

  3. Kelly

    Oct 10, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Can cats get depressed? We have a new 4 month old kitten, & since his introduction, our 20 month old cat seems depressed. We did a slow introduction, sent swapping etc, they don’t fight, but the kitten just wants to play & our old cat won’t have a bar of it. He just wants to hide & sleep all the time. He used to be a real character, very playful & cheeky & would snuggle with us in the evenings. He won’t even play with his favourite toys anymore, & we have been sure to give him lots of love and attention. Both cats are male, & we are waiting a few more weeks to get the kitten desexed. What can we do to help our older cat find his happy place in the house again?

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Just when this dog-eat-dog world has handed you all the poop you can take, it's time to walk the dog. Or wash the dog. Or feed the dog. You get the idea. So welcome to the world of easy-to-care-for cats. Entertainment comes bundled in a furry, huggable, self-cleaning cat who won't beg for your food. In his eyes, you don't eat well enough anyway. Just keep a laser pen handy, sit back and wait for the fun to begin! Cats...ya gotta love 'em.

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