Regurgitation in Cats

Key Takeaways

Regurgitation is the act of involuntarily expelling swallowed food from the esophagus out of the mouth. It can be identified by the tubular shape of the ejected matter as well as the passivity of the process. 

• Regurgitation is different from vomiting, which is an active process involving the abdominal muscles

• Frequent regurgitation is uncommon and cause for concern as it can lead to malnourishment and esophagitis

• Symptoms that accompany regurgitation are vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea, and lethargy 

• Regurgitation has very little variation of severity, though its frequency can differ greatly depending on the cause

• Causes of regurgitation range from from benign to serious

• Diagnosing and treating regurgitation depends on the underlying condition and can include dietary changes, medication, and surgery

A Closer Look: What is Regurgitation in Cats?

In cats, occasional regurgitation just after overeating or eating too quickly is generally not a reason to be concerned, while regularly regurgitating meals is uncommon and may be a sign of a more serious condition. Cats presenting with frequent episodes of regurgitation require prompt veterinary attention as some of the conditions that cause regurgitation can impact quality of life and become life threatening.

Possible Causes

Some potential causes of regurgitation include:

• Overeating or eating too quickly

• Stricture of the esophagus


• Esophageal dysmotility disorder

• Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA)

• Vascular ring anomaly


• Parasites 

• Benign growths 

• Hiatal hernias


Foreign objects

Risk Factors

Regurgitation does not vary in severity but in frequency. The underlying cause of regurgitation can influence how often regurgitation occurs.  Frequent regurgitation can be a sign of a condition serious enough for a veterinary appointment.   

Frequent regurgitation can lead to aspiration pneumonia, an infection caused by inhaling liquids or solids into the lungs. Aspiration pneumonia is a serious condition which is often life threatening. Prompt veterinary attention for cats with frequent episodes of regurgitation is the best strategy to prevent aspiration pneumonia and life threatening complications. 

Ongoing regurgitation and vomiting can indicate a GI foreign body obstruction, which may be life threatening. Any cat with repeated episodes of regurgitation and/or vomiting requires prompt veterinary assessment.

Testing and Diagnosis

Testing for the underlying cause of regurgitation involves both invasive and non-invasive procedures such as:

• Physical exam

• Bloodwork

• X-rays

• Endoscopy

The treatment of the underlying cause can greatly vary, ranging from simple dietary modifications to the continual use of medication to surgery. If regurgitation has been occurring for a substantial amount of time, treatment for esophagitis may also be required.

Similar symptoms

Vomiting and regurgitation are commonly mistaken for each other. They both result in the expulsion of matter from the mouth, but vomiting is an active process that uses abdominal contractions to bring up the contents of the stomach, while regurgitation is passive and much less of a physical activity. Vomiting is visibly distinguished from regurgitation by the act of retching and heaving as well as the presence of bile in the ejected matter.

Associated Symptoms

Other symptoms commonly observed alongside regurgitation are: 




Weight loss

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