Published on
Last updated on
3 min read

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
Are you concerned?

Connect with a vet to get more information about your pet’s health.

Book an online vet

A closer look: 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.

Connect with a vet to get more information

With DVM, ICH certifications and great reviews by pet parents like you for this symptom

Possible causes

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


Katie Grzyb, DVM - Writing for PetMD
Becky Lundgren, DVM - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Kenneth Simpson DVM BVM&S PhD DipACVIM DipECVIM; Kim Willoughby BVMS PhD MRCVS - Writing for Vetlexicon

Our editorial committee

Our medical review team is responsible for validating and maintaining the quality of our medical information.