Why Does My Cat Throw Up So Much? The Surprising Truth About Attention-Seeking Felines


Cat owners often wonder if their feline friends intentionally throw up to get attention. After all, cats are known for their manipulative behaviors, so it’s reasonable to question if vomiting is just another tactic they use. However, while attention-seeking behaviors are common in cats, the act of vomiting itself is primarily instinctual and involuntary.

There are several reasons why cat owners may believe their pets are intentionally throwing up for attention. For one, cats tend to vomit in obvious locations in front of their owners. Additionally, some cats may vomit more frequently when stressed or seeking affection. However, research shows no evidence that cats can voluntarily and purposefully make themselves vomit just for attention.

Vomiting is a reflex controlled by the brain stem, so it cannot be easily controlled. While the underlying causes of feline vomiting can range from harmless to serious, cats do not have the physiological capability to intentionally purge their stomach contents only for attention or behavioral reasons.

Normal Vomiting in Cats

It’s common for cats to vomit occasionally as part of normal digestive processes. According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, causes of normal vomiting include hairballs, eating too fast, and food intolerances or allergies. Hairballs are a common cause as cats groom themselves and ingest hair that doesn’t pass easily through the digestive tract. Vomiting to expel hairballs is normal. Cats may also vomit if they eat too fast and swallow air, overeat, or eat spoiled food. Mild food intolerances can also cause occasional vomiting if a cat eats something that disagrees with their stomach.

VCA Animal Hospitals notes that normal vomiting often occurs soon after eating. The cat may appear restless beforehand and swallow excessively due to nausea. The vomit is usually food or hairballs without bile or blood. After vomiting, the cat typically feels better and acts normal.

In most cases, normal vomiting in cats isn’t cause for concern. However, if it becomes excessive or is accompanied by other symptoms, it could indicate an underlying health issue.

When Vomiting May Indicate Illness

While occasional vomiting is normal for cats, frequent or persistent vomiting can be a sign of an underlying medical issue that requires veterinary attention. Some cases where vomiting warrants concern include:

– Repeated vomiting over a short period, such as more than 2-3 times in one day. This can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

– Vomiting that lasts more than 24 hours or keeps recurring over multiple days. This may indicate ongoing irritation, inflammation, obstruction or infection.

– Projectile vomiting with force, especially if undigested food is present. This could signal a blockage or motility disorder.

– Vomit with blood present – a sign of internal injury or bleeding somewhere in the GI tract.

– Vomiting accompanied by other symptoms like diarrhea, lethargy, appetite loss or fever.

– Vomiting in kittens or elderly cats who are more prone to dehydration.

Cats also sometimes vomit as a result of chronic diseases like kidney disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. Any underlying condition requires prompt veterinary diagnosis and treatment.

If your cat is vomiting frequently or the vomiting seems severe, contact your vet right away. They can run tests to determine if there is an underlying illness and provide appropriate treatment to stop the vomiting and resolve the issue.




Attention-Seeking Behavior in Cats

Cats commonly engage in attention-seeking behaviors like excessive meowing, knocking things over, and following their owners around the house. These behaviors are usually a sign that your cat wants more playtime, petting, or quality time with you.

Excessive meowing or yowling is one of the most common attention-seeking behaviors in cats. Your cat may meow loudly or incessantly to get you to play with them, pet them, or feed them. Some cats will meow outside your bedroom door in the morning until you wake up and give them attention. Meowing is your cat’s way of communicating their needs and trying to get your attention (1).

Another common attention-seeking behavior is knocking things off tables or shelves. Your cat may swat items off a counter or bookshelf in order to get you to come running and engage with them. They know their antics will get a reaction from you. Cats that are bored, under-stimulated, or wanting playtime are more likely to act out this way (2).

Cats may also follow you from room to room or place themselves right underfoot as you’re walking around in order to get attention. This can be annoying for owners but is a normal cat behavior. Try engaging in active play or providing puzzle toys whenever your cat seems to be “shadowing” you and craving interaction.

While attention-seeking behaviors can be bothersome, it’s important not to punish or yell at your cat. This will only create more anxiety and stress. Be patient and aim to provide more positive outlets for your cat’s energy.

Why Cats May Appear to Vomit for Attention

Some cat owners report that their cats seem to vomit more frequently when they are present or giving the cat attention. There are a few potential reasons this may occur:

First, cats are very routine-oriented animals. If a cat has learned to vomit or cough in order to get attention from their owner, they may continue this behavior because it has been rewarded in the past. The cat associates the attention it receives from the owner with the act of vomiting. (1)

Additionally, cats can pick up on human cues and body language. If an owner sees the cat retch or cough and runs over to check on them, the cat can learn that this behavior summons the owner. Even scolding the cat after it vomits can reinforce the behavior by providing attention. (2)

Stress and anxiety can also play a role. Some cats may vomit due to stress when owners are present, especially if the owner is displaying stressed behaviors or energy themselves. The cat may be mirroring the stress response. Creating a calm, soothing environment can help minimize stress-related vomiting. (3)

While cats do not vomit purposefully for attention, the learned association between vomiting and receiving attention can inadvertently reinforce the behavior. Training cats not to expect attention after vomiting involves ignoring the behavior and rewarding calm, settled behaviors instead.

Training Cats Not to Vomit for Attention

While cats do not intentionally vomit for attention, their vomiting may be reinforced if they receive attention afterwards. Here are some tips for training cats not to vomit for attention:

Positive reinforcement can be an effective training method. When your cat has not vomited for a period of time, reward them with treats, praise, or play. This will encourage them to repeat the behavior of not vomiting.

Establish a regular feeding schedule. Cats that graze throughout the day are more likely to vomit from overeating or eating too fast. Feed smaller meals at consistent times to regulate digestion.

Completely ignore any attention-seeking vomiting. Do not soothe, yell at, or even look at your cat if they vomit right after being fed or when wanting attention. Only give attention when the cat has not vomited.

Consult your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues. Cats may vomit from illness, so it’s important to ensure your cat is healthy before behavioral training.

With time and consistency, as well as addressing any health issues, your cat can learn that vomiting will not result in the attention they crave.

When to See the Vet

While occasional vomiting is normal for cats, it’s important to watch for any signs of illness that warrant a trip to the vet. According to the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, you should take your cat to the vet if they are vomiting more than 1-2 times per week or if the vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms like weight loss, lethargy, or changes in appetite.

Some specific warning signs that indicate a need for veterinary care include:

  • Repeated vomiting over several hours or days
  • Vomiting undigested food more than 12 hours after eating
  • Vomiting bile or yellow fluid
  • Vomiting and refusing food
  • Vomiting with weight loss or lethargy
  • Vomiting with abdominal pain or crying
  • Vomiting blood or dark material that looks like coffee grounds

If your cat is showing any of these signs along with vomiting, it’s important to schedule a vet appointment right away. Waiting too long with a sick cat can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and other complications. It’s better to have the vet examine your cat and provide treatment even if it turns out to be a temporary issue.

Caring for a Vomiting Cat

When your cat is vomiting frequently, proper care is essential to help soothe their stomach and prevent dehydration. Here are some tips for caring for a vomiting cat at home:

Dietary Changes: Switch your cat to a bland, easily digestible diet like boiled chicken and rice. Feed smaller, more frequent meals. Avoid fatty or spicy foods. Stick to the bland diet for a few days until vomiting subsides. Consult your vet about prescription gastrointestinal food.

Hydration: Make sure your cat is drinking enough fluids. Try adding more water to their food or feeding canned/wet food. You can use an unflavored electrolyte drink like Pedialyte to replenish electrolytes. Use a syringe to give fluids if your cat is not drinking.

Clean Up Vomit: Disinfect any soiled areas thoroughly. Use an enzymatic cleaner to break down smell and stains. Dispose of vomit properly before your cat can re-ingest it.

Monitor Litter Box: Note if there are changes in frequency, volume, or appearance of stools. This info can help the vet.

Comfort Your Cat: Give them space if needed, but provide affection if they seek comfort. Keep their routine calm and consistent.

Contact your vet if vomiting persists more than 24 hours or if your cat seems lethargic. With proper care at home and your vet’s guidance, your cat can recover and feel better.

Preventing Vomiting

There are several things cat owners can do to help prevent their cat from vomiting frequently:

Feeding Techniques: Feed smaller, more frequent meals rather than one large meal. This helps prevent your cat from gorging and vomiting afterward. Slow down fast eaters by placing large rocks or ice cubes in the food bowl. Raised feeders also encourage slower eating. Consider a puzzle feeder that makes your cat work for their food over a period of time (Source).

Hairball Remedies: Brushing your cat daily helps remove loose hair they might ingest while grooming. Feeding hairball prevention food, treats, or supplements can help hair pass through the digestive tract. Products like Laxatone can lubricate the digestive tract (Source).

Pheromone Diffusers: Stress and anxiety can trigger vomiting. Calming pheromone diffusers like Feliway help relieve stress for some cats. Diffusers should be plugged in near your cat’s feeding, sleeping, and litter box areas (Source).


Cats are not capable of intentionally vomiting just to get their owner’s attention. However, there are some normal cat behaviors that may give the appearance of vomiting for attention.

While the occasional vomit is normal, frequent vomiting or vomiting combined with other symptoms like lethargy or diarrhea can indicate a medical issue requiring veterinary care. Cats also sometimes vomit from eating too fast, hairballs, or as part of stress-related psychogenic vomiting.

To discourage attention-seeking behaviors, make sure your cat is getting adequate playtime and affection. Provide appropriate scratching posts and toys so they can engage in natural cat behaviors. Consider clicker training to reinforce positive actions. Most importantly, schedule annual vet visits to rule out any underlying illness.

While vomiting will likely occasionally happen with any cat, following these tips can help minimize episodes and ensure your cat’s health and happiness.

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