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Does Dry Food Make Cats Sick?

First, I want to explain that I have no degree in cat care. All I have to my credit are years of wisdom and knowledge from various veterinarians I have met since becoming a cat parent. I am a seasoned nurse who discovered how close humans are to the feline populace regarding habits, medicines, illnesses, disease processes, and the need for a daily balanced diet.

I started feline rescue and cat parenting in 1992 and, in the beginning, I did not know about taking care of a cat. Over the years, at least 40 cats have passed into my care. Just as I think I have learned all I need to know about cats, I find new and surprising information regarding this fantastic species and soon discovered how close cats and humans are in life.

I currently have six fur babies from four to 17 years of age. My last rescue was in March 2018, during that season’s last snow blizzard. This eight-month-old male kitty came to my door, hungry and cold, and remains with me today. Lil’ Luke is going to be four years old in August 2022.

I am willing to pass on to other cat parents what I learned over the years. I continue to learn new and exciting things related to the cat species.

Does Dry Food Make Cats Sick?

Cats are like human beings. There is not one cat the same as another. Each cat is created differently, meaning each has specific likes and dislikes, DNA, and unique qualities. Two things that are the same for every cat are that this species is highly independent and hides an illness well before displaying symptoms.

I have found that while some cats like dry cat food, others choose moist food over dry food and vice versa. Even with the six cats, I now have in 2022, each has its own food preferences, and all have, on occasion, thrown up dry cat food soon after eating it. I would never consider dry food actually to make my cats sick.

I, along with other cat parents I know and from what I have read, sometimes blame dry cat food as what makes a cat throw up directly after eating. However, there can certainly be other issues as to why a cat throws up dry food. Professionals who study cat behaviors have learned that some cats regurgitate dry food if they really love a new food.

Throwing up can also be attributed to a multi-cat household and the need for competition between cats. When there are multiple cats in a household, some may feel they must eat fast. Thus, the cat swallows the kibbles before chewing them. Eating too fast causes a cat to consume too much air. The kibbles do not digest when this happens, and up comes the food. If you see whole kibbles in your cat’s vomit, the cause is likely regurgitation.

For you to remedy this problem, feed your cat smaller meals. I don’t know if this makes a difference with my cats, but I have a cat feeder in my kitchen, a small bowl of dry food in my office, bedroom, and on the front porch. For example, I put Nutrish dry chicken kibbles in the kitchen and Blue dry fish kibbles in small containers in the office or on the porch.

In this way, there is no competition because the cats have plenty of dry food options to eat wherever they please, so there is no threat. Once in a while, a cat may vomit whole kibbles, and I believe they simply eat too quickly.

Haven’t you ever met a human who had a habit of constantly eating too fast, then complaining of a stomach ache, nausea, or indigestion? 

When cats eat too fast, they suffer the same dilemma. I believe this can be as much of a human habit as it can in cats when they eat too fast.

Some vets recommend you use a flat plate to put kibbles on because the cat must hunt the kibbles out, which takes time and forces them to chew. Thus, your cat cannot fill up its mouth with dry food all at once.

If you change your dry cat food brand, vets recommend you do this slowly to get your cat used to a different brand of food. For example, such as using a 3:1 ratio, if you want to transition from Iams to Blue, you use three tablespoons of Iams and one tablespoon of Blue. You decrease portions to two tablespoons Iams and two tablespoons Blue a few days later. You keep cutting down the amount of Iams until the cat is eating a complete diet of Blue.

I have never seen a need to do this because I buy brands with about the same ingredients when I change dry food brands. I have to change brands because my cats become bored eating the same thing every day, and they eat better when I change the food every few months. I do this with dry and wet food and have no problems.

When a cat vomits dry kibble once in a while, it is really nothing to worry about unless the cat is showing signs of discomfort after eating and vomiting regularly. Vomiting has different causes, some of which can be secondary underlying health conditions. Then the vet must intervene.

  • A hairball in the stomach.
  • Internal obstructions
  • Constipation
  • Indigestion
  • Dietary changes
  • Poisoning
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Parasites
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome causes daily nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Pancreatitis
  • Food Allergies
  • Stomach inflammation

Some causes of vomiting, if known, can be remedied at home. Other reasons will need vet intervention.

Vomiting vs. Regurgitation, Know the Difference


Sometimes what you think is vomiting could actually be regurgitation. When a cat regurgitates, it throws up undigested food. You may notice whole kibbles in its vomit. The food eaten only reaches the esophagus or mouth and does not enter the stomach. Regurgitation happens about half an hour after eating and, usually, you notice,

  • No crying or vocalizing
  • No noted retching


Vomiting happens when your cat throws up digested stomach contents such as food, water, or bile (a greenish liquid). Symptoms of vomiting include,

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Retching
  • Contraction of the muscles in the abdomen or heaving
  • Crying
  • Drooling

Why is my cat vomiting after eating dry food?

When a cat throws up dry food after eating, it is not unusual unless your cat vomits regularly; then, you need to take your cat to the vet. The problem most vets find is that the cat eats too quickly and too much at one meal. There are a few common reasons, but it is important to know the differences between vomiting and regurgitation.

  • Overeating too quickly
  • Hairballs
  • Changing dry food brands without allowing your cat to get used to eating different dry food
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Swallowing a foreign object
  • Metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney disease

Home Interventions to Decrease Vomiting

Eating too Fast-Eating too Much

If you watch your cat eat and it is clearly eating too fast and then vomits, you know this relates to meal times. The following tips may help your cat.

  • Provide smaller portions more frequently.
  • Try placing a sizeable ball in with the dry food. The cat must eat around the ball, which slowly helps it slow down its fast-eating habit.
  • Some vets recommend using a muffin tin, such as a six-place tin. Put a bit of food in each muffin spot. Cats are curious and stop eating to move to the next food area, thus consuming kibbles more slowly.
  • Try a feeder puzzle to enhance hunting and slow eating, like a Kong Wobbler. This toy holds proportioned food, and your cat must knock or spin the toy to get kibbles to drop out so your cat can eat. This slows your cat’s eating while providing some essential exercise at mealtime.


If your cat is a fastidious groomer, they are likely to swallow a lot of hair. When hairballs develop in the stomach, the cat eventually throws them up. Try an over-the-counter remedy such as Cat Lax or buy dry food meant for decreasing hairballs. The dry cat food package will be listed on the front of the package, Hairball Control. Your cat should have rare episodes of hairball problems.

When Throwing Up Becomes Too Frequent

If throwing up is more frequent, like we experienced with our cat, Isabella, you need to make a vet appointment. The vet discovered Isabella had IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. She had daily vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. She lost half her body weight before the vet could get her IBS under control. After a year of trying various treatments, including diet changes, she is now doing better. The turning point was when we discovered she was allergic to the grains in foods. I now buy grain-free dry and wet food for her and the other five kitties. She is doing better and takes probiotics daily.