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Cat Throwing Up? How To Prevent Scarf and Barf

brown cat with green eyes scarf and barf

What do you do when your cat constantly throws up after eating?

If you’re an animal lover, then there’s no doubt that you would do anything for your pets; play with them, feed them, love them, and of course, clean up after them. If you happen to be the parent of a cat that likes to scarf down his food, well, you might find yourself going above and beyond the usual cleaning duties; you might be mopping up a lot of vomit. Yep, you read that right; cats that eat fast have a tendency to throw their food up soon after, and this quirky behavior has the perfect name, scarf and barf

Let’s face it, constantly cleaning up barf isn’t how you want to spend your day; there are a lot of other more enjoyable things you could do with your feline friend. Plus, since it’s very likely that your cat would prefer not to puke all of the time, it makes you wonder, why does she do it? 

grey cat scarf and barf

What Is ‘Scarf and Barf’?

Basically, this aptly coined phrase means exactly what it says, cats scarf down their food as if it’s the last meal that they’ll ever have and then turn around and barf it right back up. It’s a habit that is as unpleasant as its name suggests. On top of that, it’s probably more irksome for you than your kitty because you’re the lucky one that gets to clean up the mess. The ironic part is, once your cat throws up, she wants to eat again because she’s still hungry; this is because she didn’t even take the time to digest her food before tossing it back up on the rug. So, why does she continue to scarf down her food?


grey cat looking up scarf and barf

Why Do Cats Eat So Much and So Fast?

There can be a number of different reasons why your cat overeats; sometimes it may simply be because she likes the food and it’s there. When you place a bowl full of food in front of your cat, it’s like getting a coupon for a free all-you-can-eat buffet. Having access to an unlimited supply of food (and big portions) is not how cats were meant to eat. Your feline friend has a stomach that is roughly the size of a ping-pong ball; which wouldn’t be so bad if your cat ate the way nature intended him to, which is several small portions spread out throughout the day. 

In nature, a cat hunts frequently, and when it catches its prey, it has a little fun with it before chowing down. When all is said and done, it eats about one to two tablespoons of food in one sitting; then the kitty takes a rest, gets some exercise, and starts the cycle all over again. The thing is, the edible portions of a cat’s prey are usually pretty small since they’re tiny critters like mice, bugs, and lizards. 

When you have a furry feline in your home and serve her a heaping bowl of kitty chow, her strong desire to eat is still present, meaning she’ll likely scarf down everything in the bowl. The fact that her stomach is small, and therefore can’t keep up, doesn’t phase her. She’ll keep on eating and she’ll do it fast as if she fears someone is about to snatch it away at any second. Since you can’t just tell your cat to slow down, what do you do to stop the gorging?

cat looking at table with food on it scarf and barf

How Much Barf is Too Much?

First off, it’s important to know that while it may be common for a cat to throw up, that doesn’t mean it’s normal. If your cat tends to barf every time she eats, then it’s definitely time to be proactive and figure out what’s going on and how to fix it. Sure, she may be vomiting just because she's eating too fast, but that doesn’t change the fact that she shouldn’t throw up all of the time; so what do you do?

cat eating in kitchen using neater feeder

What Do You Do If Your Cat Always Vomits?

If you’ve developed a habit of scanning the floor every time your cat eats a meal, then it’s safe to assume that your cat is regularly leaving unpleasant surprises around the house. If your kitty is throwing up multiple times a day, it’s essential to have her checked out as soon as possible. Don’t assume that it's just because she’s eating too fast. Make an appointment with your vet to rule out any other potential issues or illnesses that could be causing your cat’s barf fests.

If your vet determines that your cat is otherwise healthy and that the vomiting is in fact due to her eating habits, then it’s time to address the problem at its source. You need to make some changes that can help your cat ditch her tendency to scarf down the contents of her food bowl, and instead encourage her to eat more closely to the way that she would eat in nature.

brown cat looking up from neater feeder

How Do You Stop a Cat from Eating Too Fast?

If your cat is inhaling her food as if she’s some sort of feline vacuum, then it’s time to put some practices into play to help her pace herself. Here are a few different things that you can try to prevent your cat’s impulse to scarf down her food (and minimize the barf in the process):

  • Serve Small, Frequent Portions

    Although it seems easier for you to pour one bowl of food, set it and forget it; in reality, the resulting mess that ensues tells a different story. When it comes to the amount of food that your cat should eat in one sitting, small portions are best. Calculate the daily serving of food for your cat and divide it into smaller meals that are only about one or two tablespoons each. This method can keep your furry pal from overeating, which in turn will give her more time to digest the food that she does eat. Smaller portions mean that your cat’s petite stomach can better handle the amount of food coming in, therefore, reducing the need for your cat to vomit. 
  • Recreate the Hunt 

    Cats are hunters by nature; so why not recreate the experience for them? Stick with the smaller portion sizes, but then add an extra layer of fun into the mix. Hide your cat’s food dish and literally make her hunt for her food; perhaps leaving out a trail of kibble clues for her to follow. 
  • Get Product Support 

    No, this doesn’t mean you need to call a helpline; there are a number of products on the market that can aid you in your quest to limit the barf. A great solution to help discourage your cat from scarfing down her food is to use a slow feeder that has built-in obstacles, like the Neater Slow Feeder. Products like this are designed to inhibit a cat’s tendency to eat like there’s no tomorrow, by separating out the food into smaller portions and making your cat work for it. 

Are you ready to make things simpler and more pleasant for you and your pet? Then check out some of our great products, like this Double Diner Slow Feed Bowl that is designed to minimize your cat’s penchant to scarf down her food so she can feel satisfied after her meals. At Neater Pets, we understand that your pets are part of the family; let us make it easier for you to give them everything they deserve. 

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