If you’ve owned a cat for any amount of time, you know they can be quite finicky. Cats are naturally sassy, and they are quick to let us humans know when they don’t particularly care for something. So, when you noticed your sweet (yet audacious) feline friend gagging after smelling food, you probably thought it was disdain for a new flavor of her favorite food.
Cats may gag for reasons that aren’t truly medical. They may not like the smell of a certain flavor or brand of cat food. The texture of the food may also cause your cat to gag – if the food is too soupy in texture, Kitty may gag as a reaction. If the food is too hard, your cat may gag. In fact, if a cat doesn’t like some food, it’s almost a natural reaction to dry heave.
You may have noticed that your cat sniffs his food each time you put down the bowl, and cats naturally have to be able to smell what they’re about to eat. This is a safety mechanism that’s a part of their self-preservation (think about it – cats may eat a “fresh” meal they’ve taken down in the wild, but they rarely, if ever, eat something that is rotting).
Read on to find out more about this strange gagging behavior.
Why Is My Cat Gagging At His Food?
Cats have at least 65 million olfactory receptors, which means they smell everything on a massive level (at least compared to us humans). It is true that your cat could possibly be turned off by the smell of the food you’re offering.
Perhaps you tried a different brand, and you just assumed she was letting you know she didn’t care for the change. Well, it is true that some cats do get “grossed out” by the flavor of a particular food, but that is typically NOT the only reason why the cat gagging at food.
In fact, your cat could be experiencing a medical issue, albeit a rather benign one. Your cat could also be experiencing a food allergy or asthma.
She Simply May Not Like it
Yes, we’ve established that Kitty may simply dislike the food, whether it’s the texture of the food or the smell. Cats possess a Jacobson’s organ (also called the vomeronasal sac), and this little fellow plays a huge role in the way your cat’s sense of smell works.
The Jacobson’s organ is in the upper part of the mouth; when the cat smells something distasteful, he’ll often make a face and use his tongue to send that smell to the back of the throat. This action will cause a gagging sound.
This is a simple fix – just change to a different type of cat food. However, this often gets expensive when Kitty is finicky with several flavors of food and several brands too.
When choosing a food for your cat, stay away from foods that contain cornmeal, gluten and animal by-products as these can be harmful to your cat. If your doctor has prescribed a food for your cat, you may have to mix in canned tuna with the food to encourage Kitty to eat.
If you’ve done any shopping for cat food, you’ll notice that the canned variety comes in a variety of textures: sliced, pate, minced, grilled, etc.
There are some cats that only like to eat a pate textured food, while others prefer a minced texture. Again, this calls for trial and error and can get expensive if you have to buy several varieties before Kitty accepts one.
Keep in mind that cats are choosy about the texture of their food; it can affect how the food is swallowed. If your cat is gagging, the texture could be a culprit.
Now we’re getting to the medical reasons a cat may gag over her food. Cats are going to get hairballs because of how they groom themselves. Some cats are more prone to hairballs than others.
Foods with a new or different odor can trigger their gag reflex, and a hairball may result. If you notice your cat is coughing up a hairball every time you set down the bowl, it could be time to rethink her food.
The great thing about treating a cat with hairballs is that there is specially formulated food that is meant to help keep the incidences of hairballs down.
There are incidences in which Kitty is gagging at her food because she’s suffering from acid reflux or indigestion. Unfortunately, this is one issue that must be diagnosed by your vet.
So, if Kitty is regularly gagging at her food and you’ve tried new foods of different textures with no success, then it might be a good idea to head over to the vet so she can rule out these stomach issues.
Cats that gag at their food a good bit could be suffering from an undiagnosed bacterial infection. This can happen if the food hasn’t been properly prepared.
If you give your cat raw food diet like chicken, your cat could have been exposed to clostrifium perfringens.
This can also happen if the food is undercooked. Unfortunately, some wet cat food that hasn’t been processed (cooked) properly can develop these bacteria, and it can be detrimental to your cat’s health.
This bacteria can cause not only the symptom of gagging, but your cat may lose her appetite altogether. It can also cause nausea and vomiting.
Bad smells in the house
Many spices, certain flowers and houseplants as well as the scent of citrus can cause your cat to gag. If you’ve used a scented product that is meant to keep your cat from clawing the furniture or spraying, then you can blame the spray for your cat’s gagging.
An obstruction in the throat
If your cat starts to gag while pawing at her mouth or appearing to have issues with breathing, then you should check to see if there is an obstruction in her throat. Cat toys can splinter and become lodged in the throat, or even the cardboard on a scratching post can be inadvertently swallowed and get stuck in her throat.
If you have switched Kitty’s food with no success, you should see a vet rule out medical issues that might be causing her to gag. Keep an eye on plants and toys that could cause an obstruction.
Never spray products that could be inhaled by your cat. Soon, the gagging will subside and Kitty can get back to her regularly sassy self.