Why Do Cats Gag When They Smell Food – Prevention Tips – FAQcats.com

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A cat gag can be a special type of rudeness. It can also give a lot of information. When you put down a plate of food and a cat chokes on it, there could be several causes. So why do cats choke when they smell food?

A cat that gags at the smell of its food may mean that it is disgusted by the flavor. It can also be a sign of underlying medical issues such as feline asthma or allergies. It’s essential to consider different factors when evaluating whether your cat needs to see a vet or needs a change in diet.

Cats have 65 million olfactory (smell) receptors, so there’s a good chance that food causes gagging. Below, we’ll look at a few reasons why your cat’s sense of smell may be telling him to send his food back to the kitchen!

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Reasons for gagging to food

Cats can gag at the smell of food for many reasons. From simply not liking the perfume itself to an allergic reaction to the ingredients in it. Even things like the texture of food being too thick or too hard can cause this reaction. It’s completely normal for cats to get upset the minute they don’t like something. They are sensitive animals when it comes to food.

Below is a list of common reasons why your cat may be gagged by their food.

not a fan

We’ll start with the simplest and most easily solved reason why your cat might be choking on their food: they might not like the smell. The cat’s vomeronasal sac, also known as Jacobson’s organ, is part of a complex system related to the feline’s ability to process odors. The organ is located in the upper part of the mouth. The cat winces at bad smells and uses its tongue to direct the smell down its throat, which produces a gagging sound.

Giving your cat a new food that doesn’t smell good to it can cause this reaction. If it is a new food by choice, it is simple to choose something else. It may take some experimenting to see what cat foods are favorites, especially if you have a new cat. The more natural proteins included, such as tuna, chicken or turkey, the more likely the cat is to react positively.

If it’s a prescribed food that your cat doesn’t like, you can try mixing it with something delicious like tuna, experimenting with different temperatures, or adding flavor enhancers.

Cat food should contain at least 25% crude protein, although 30 or 35% is more desirable. Avoid ingredients like cornmeal, gluten, and by-products that are bad for your cat and likely won’t be well received.


Your cat food may have all the right ingredients and smells, but texture matters too. Cat foods are available in a variety of textures like paté, sliced, grilled, ground and many more. Cats have preferences for how their food is presented, as it affects the feel of the food in their mouth and their ability to swallow it.

Your cat may like variety or only want one flavor prepared one way, especially if she is older or has teeth and gum issues. Gagging is your first clue they don’t like the flavor Where the texture of the meal.

More complex reasons for gagging

What if you’re on a roll with your cat’s food satisfaction, and all of a sudden they start gagging? They may have suddenly changed their preferences, but that could also be cause for concern.


All cats get hairballs from over-grooming. They are more common in some cats than others. Smelling their food, especially food with a new smell, can activate the reflex in their throat and cause them to start chopping the fur they have accumulated. Hairballs are normal within reason, but spitting them up every time they smell their food isn’t ideal. It’s time to change the menu!

stomach problems

While not always a symptom of stomach issues, indigestion or acid reflux can cause them to gag from overpowering odors. It is essential to get your cat to the vet as soon as possible. It’s important to remember that the diet that works for one cat won’t necessarily work for another. Cats are all individuals and there can be underlying issues in the way they digest food that can cause certain foods not to work for them.

Bacterial infections

A very concerning reality is that cats can contract bacterial infections, especially from improperly prepared foods.

Clostridium perfringens is a common bacterium in raw or undercooked meat and poultry. It grows in a low oxygen environment. An improperly processed can of cat food is therefore an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and can cause retching, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.

This happens less with processed foods, and more with homemade foods. While it’s great to make your own cat food, you need to know what you’re doing and be very careful with the ingredients. The temperatures at which you serve the food, the proper storage of the ingredients, as well as the protein levels and thickness of the food are all factors.

Other causes of gagging

Sometimes a cat will choke on the smell of food because of the way it mixes with another flavor in the house. It is essential to ensure that your cat can eat in a clean environment. It is strongly recommended that they set up their feeding place away from the litter box and in a place where they will not get sick from other elements.

Bad smells in the house

Cats’ sensitive noses aren’t just for food. Smells of citrus fruits, individual flowers, many spices and several houseplants are very unpleasant for cats and can trigger the gag reflex. Some of these scents are used to prevent cats from spraying or scratching furniture. If you’ve recently used a spray or perfume like this for behavioral reasons and it causes gagging, be aware that it may work a bit. too much Good!

Blockages in the throat

If your cat suddenly starts to gag and is chewing on its mouth, drooling or having trouble breathing, make sure there is no food or anything else your cat ingested stuck in its throat. Cats that play with toys near their food or that may retrieve pieces of cardboard from the scratching post in their food are particularly vulnerable.

There are steps here to help you when your cat is choking.

A gag-free environment

Chances are your cat is gagging over his food because he doesn’t want to eat it. But there could be other causes, and gagging is one of the most convincing ways for a cat to tell you something is wrong. Look at their eating habits first before looking for other causes. As always, if you can’t figure out the problem and the gagging persists, it’s time to go to the vet!

When to Take Your Cat to the Vet for Gagging

Now, if you witness abnormal (or repetitive) gagging in your cat, it might be time to take him to the vet. The veterinarian will be able to diagnose your pet and suggest remedies to fix the problem. Keep the following considerations in mind before taking your cat to the vet. Here’s what you should look for:

  • Loud meowing (during and after gagging)
  • Cat spitting out all its food
  • Abnormal coloring of cat waste
  • Repeated trips to the water bowl
  • Debris in the nasal passage
  • Dry cough (this could be feline asthma)
  • Visible obstructions in the bowl of food your cat ingested

Of all the points listed above, the most concerning are abnormal discoloration of the waste, dry cough, or items in the food bowl that your cat shouldn’t have consumed. Dry cough is the hardest to diagnose, as it could be more than a hairball. Cats who cough after drinking water or eating food may have a form of feline asthma.


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