Why Does My Cat Gag At Food?

Disclaimer: The information presented below is for general informational & educational purposes only. Always consult with animal professionals in case of specific concerns.

In this blog post, we will dive into the reasons behind why cats may gag at their food and what you can do to help your precious pet.

From adorably fluffy to fiercely independent, cats have always held a special place in our hearts and homes. As cat owners, we strive to provide the best care for our feline companions, including their diet. However, it can be concerning when your beloved kitty gags or retches at their food. Is it simply a quirk of their finicky nature or is there an underlying issue? In this blog post, we will delve into the reasons why cats may gag at food and offer valuable insights on how to address this behavior. So if you’ve ever wondered “why does my cat gag at food?“, keep reading to find out more!

Why Does My Cat Gag At Food?

Cats may gag at food for various reasons, and determining the cause often requires careful observation and, in some cases, veterinary evaluation. Here are several potential reasons why a cat may gag at food:

Dental Issues: Cats may gag at their food if they have dental problems like tooth decay, gum disease, or oral injury. The discomfort can make chewing difficult, leading to gagging.

Digestive Disorders: Conditions such as gastritis, esophagitis, or gastroenteritis can make swallowing painful or difficult, causing your cat to gag.

Food Aversion: Cats can develop an aversion to certain types of food due to its texture, smell, or even past negative experiences associated with the food, resulting in gagging.

Swallowing Disorders: Certain medical conditions can impair your cat’s ability to swallow, causing them to gag when they try to eat.

Rapid Eating: If your cat eats too quickly, they might not chew their food properly and could start to gag.

Hairballs: Cats groom themselves by licking their fur. This can lead to cats eating hair and creating the formation of hairballs in their stomach, which may cause gagging, especially during or after eating.

Should I Be Concerned If My Cat Gags Frequently?

Yes, frequent gagging in cats should raise concern. While an occasional gag may simply result from eating too fast or a pesky hairball, chronic gagging can signal a more serious underlying health issue. This includes dental troubles, digestive disorders, swallowing ailments, or even food aversions. If you notice your cat gagging frequently or if the gagging is accompanied by other symptoms like loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, or lethargy, it’s crucial to seek veterinary attention promptly. Timely diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve your feline friend’s health and comfort, ensuring they continue to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Read more: What Is The Cause Of A Cat Gagging At A Comb?

How Can I Tell If My Cat Is Gagging Or Trying To Cough Up A Hairball?

Differentiating between a cat’s gagging and an attempt to cough up a hairball can be challenging, but there are some signs to look out for. Typically, a cat trying to cough up a hairball will exhibit forceful, repetitive hacking, retching, or coughing sounds, often accompanied by a characteristic crouched position with their neck extended. They may eventually expel a cylindrical mass composed of hair – the hairball. 

On the other hand, gagging typically involves a cat yawn and making a distinctive ‘gagging’ sound, almost as if they’re choking. They may also paw at their mouth, drool, or show signs of distress. 

Can Certain Types Of Food Trigger Gagging In Cats?

Yes, certain types of cat food can indeed trigger gagging in cats. This can be due to a variety of reasons. For instance, some cats may be sensitive to particular food textures or sizes, leading to discomfort or difficulty when chewing or swallowing, and consequently causing them to gag. Certain flavors or smells can also trigger a gagging response if the cat finds them off-putting. Furthermore, if a cat has had a previous negative experience with a certain type of food – such as stomach upset or choking – they may associate that food with the unpleasant experience and gag when they encounter it again. Remember, each cat is unique and may have individual food preferences and sensitivities. If your cat starts to gag frequently after eating a new type of food, it would be wise to consult your vet and consider a diet adjustment.

Are There Any Home Remedies For Food Gagging In Cats?

While addressing the underlying cause of food gagging in cats often requires veterinary attention, there are some home care practices that may help alleviate mild cases or prevent issues. Here are some general suggestions:

  • Change Food Texture: If your cat gags on certain textures, try a different one. For example, switch from dry to wet food, or vice versa.
  • Small Portions: Measure the food and feed your cat smaller, more frequent meals. This can help if your cat gags because they are eating too quickly.
  • Hydrate Your Cat: Providing plenty of water for cat to drink can help with swallowing and digesting food.
  • Use a Slow Feeder: These are specially designed bowls that force your cat to slow down while eating, which could help prevent gagging from eating too fast.
  • Raise the Food Bowl: Raising the food bowl to head level can help your cat swallow better and reduce gagging.
  • Try Different Flavors: If your cat gags on a particular flavor, try a different one.
  • Gentle Grooming: Regular, gentle brushing can help reduce hairballs, which could be causing your cat to gag.
  • Hairball Remedies: Over-the-counter hairball remedies can help your cat pass hairballs more easily.

Is There Anything I Can Do To Prevent My Cat From Gagging At Their Food?

Dental Care: Regular dental check-ups can help identify and treat dental issues that might be causing your cat to gag at their food.

Dietary Supervision: Monitor your cat’s eating habits and adjust their diet accordingly. If they’re sensitive to certain food types, eliminating those from the diet can help.

Regular Vet Check-ups: Regular veterinary check-ups can help diagnose any underlying health issues that could be causing your cat to gag.

Hairball Control Food: Switching to hairball control cat food can help if hairballs are the problem. These foods are designed to improve skin and coat health, reducing shedding and hairball formation.

Proper Hydration: Rehydrate your cat can help with digestion and potentially alleviate any gagging issues related to eating.

Encourage Slow Eating: Encourage your cat to eat slowly. This can be achieved by using puzzle toys or slow feeder bowls that make your cat work a little harder for their food, thus slowing down their eating pace.

Maintain a Calm Environment: Stress can sometimes cause cats to eat too quickly, leading to gagging. Maintaining a calm, quiet environment during feeding times can help your cat relax and take their time while eating.


In conclusion, cats have a unique digestive system that often leads to them gagging at food. This can be caused by a variety of reasons such as hairballs, allergies, or even behavioral issues. As responsible pet owners, it is important for us to pay attention to our cat’s eating habits and seek professional help if necessary. Remember, gagging at food is not a normal behavior for cats and ignoring it could lead to serious health problems. By understanding the reasons behind this behavior and taking the necessary precautions, we can ensure our feline friends stay healthy and happy.