Help! My Cat’s Eating Too Fast!

Stop the scarf and barf.

cat eating too fast

Ever notice how your cat tends to scarf down her food like it’s her last meal on Earth?

Of course you have — because you’re the one dealing with the inevitable vomiting that comes from eating too fast. *ew*

Believe it or not, this isn’t uncommon — in fact, it’s pretty typical cat behavior when they’re fed a certain way.

And what way might that be? Read on to learn why cats eat too fast — and how you can stop it.

Why do cats eat too fast?

“Cats often will eat too fast because eating out of a bowl is not how a cat should be feeding,” Dr. Andrea Y. Tu, medical director of Behavior Vets NYC in New York City, told The Dodo.

According to Dr. Tu, normal feeding for cats should actually involve eating small frequent meals. “Think ‘mouse-sized’ meals,” Dr. Tu said.

Imagine how your cat would spend her time if she weren’t all warm and cozy at home with you — she’d be out there in the world just living her wild cat life looking for food all day.

“If your cat was out in the wild, she would be spending the majority of her waking hours stalking, hunting, catching and killing her meals,” Dr. Tu explained.

So while you might feel like a good cat parent giving your bestie a large portion of her favorite wet food in a custom engraved bowl, that’s probably not best for her in the long run.

“Unfortunately, by providing our pets with a meal in a bowl, we end up reducing all of that mental and physical stimulation into a boring 30-second activity,” Dr. Tu said, “and as a result cats have a tendency to eat too fast (or, do what us vets refer to as ‘chug and purge’ — eating a large meal too fast, then regurgitating it shortly afterwards).” 

How to stop your cat from eating too fast

“An easy way to prevent your cat from eating too fast is to feed them according to how they naturally would feed — via the use of puzzle toys or food dispensing toys,” Dr. Tu suggested.

These types of toys require your cat to engage or manipulate the toy in some way in order for the toy to dispense out a small amount of food.

By using these, Dr. Tu said, you’ll allow your cat to engage in hunting, play and exploratory behaviors; puzzle solving skills; and the physical and intellectual stimulation that they desire when they feed — all that and it ensures they eat in small amounts over a longer period of time. Good-bye, gross chug and purge!

“Not only does this help prevent a cat from eating too fast,” Dr. Tu said, “it more importantly reduces welfare concerns associated with preventing a cat from performing normal feline behaviors, increases physical activity which helps keep your cat fit, and it is fun for them and helps reduce behavior problems that can be associated with boredom.”

It’s important to remember that cats have a need to engage in hunting behavior — a mix of play and exploratory needs — whether they’re well-fed or not. So if these needs aren’t met, according to Dr. Tu, it can result in inappropriate play and predatory-related aggressions, even outside mealtime. 

“As such, we strongly recommend you ditch your pet's bowl in favor of a puzzle toy,” Dr. Tu said.

Examples of excellent puzzle toys for cats: 

This cat feeder ball from Petco for $6.95
This feeder tunnel from Petco for $22.59

Feeling crafty? You can even make your own food dispensing toys out of cardboard tubes from your toilet paper or paper towels, “Just twist the ends shut (or glue the ends shut) and cut small holes in the tube through which the kibble can fall out,” Dr. Tu recommends. TA-DA!

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