Cat lovers appreciate the mysterious ways of their four-legged friends. Does your cat follow you into the bathroom? Yes, check! Sleep in the sink? Weird, but cute! Visit the neighbor's house? Slightly insulted, but ok. However, one behavior — burping is often unexpected, and many pet parents aren't sure if cats are even supposed to burp.
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Is it normal for cats to burp?
Yes, it is normal for cats to burp. Yet many cats may not ever burp or will not burp frequently. In some cases, belching is one of several symptoms of a lineup of medical issues typically occurring in the gastrointestinal system. As with many mammals, burping is a way to alleviate gas that is a result of swallowing excess air. Yet it is more common for felines to expel gas through flatulence. Cats do not burp often, because their respiratory system is designed to breathe through their nose. This limits the amount of air a cat can intake through normal respiration. Burping will generally occur when cats consume too much air through eating or daily activity. Cats with respiratory and nasal problems may make sounds that are often mistaken for belching but are instead related to air moving through irritated airway passages.
Common reasons why cats burp
Cats belch for a variety of reasons. While it's typically nothing to worry about, cat burping can be a symptom of a medical problem. Here, we'll cover some of the common causes of burping in cats.
Swallowing too much air
Much like humans, cats also swallow air while eating, drinking, sleeping, and breathing. Generally, this excess air is released through the digestive system as flatulence. Other times, swallowed air is released upwards through the esophagus as a burp.
Cats regularly suffer an upset stomach, which can cause a build-up of gas within their digestive systems. Belching is one way for your cat's body to regulate this gas. Flatulence is obviously another.
Common causes of an upset stomach include:
- Food allergies
- Stomach ulcers
To help prevent digestion issues with your cat, you can try to:
- Feed your cat bland food (plain chicken and white rice)
- Avoid introducing new cat food
- Steer clear of feeding your cat table scraps (human food)
When your cat's stomach ache is relieved, they will likely stop burping as frequently.
Vomiting and hairballs
Similar to upset tummies, vomiting is another common occurrence in felines — one that produces sounds that are mistaken for burping. Among the most common causes of vomiting in cats is eating too quickly, which can also result in a buildup of swallowed air that may also bring about belching. Also, cats expelling hairballs are often accompanied by a series of gagging reflexes that also sound like a succession of burps. While most owners can distinguish between vomiting, expelling hairballs, and belching — the origins of the three are associated.
When your cat suffers from acid reflux, stomach fluids move upward through the esophagus where they irritate the esophageal lining, or mucosa, resulting in regurgitation. Burping is among several symptoms of cats afflicted with chronic acid reflux. Like other gastrointestinal disorders, it's treated with a combination of medicine prescribed by a veterinarian and a diet designed to reduce acidity in your cat's digestive tract.
When your cat's burping coincides with persistent swallowing and lip-licking, they may be presenting symptoms of esophagitis. This condition occurs when the esophagus becomes irritated and inflamed due to untreated heartburn or medication. Esophagitis leads to gastrointestinal irritation, which causes cats to burp more frequently.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Another common medical cause of feline belching is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is a category of disorders that impact the normal functioning of your cat's digestive system. Symptoms of IBD in cats present as:
- Weight loss
- Bloody stools
Should you worry when your cat burps?
If your cat burps occasionally, (or even regularly) it is most likely nothing to concern yourself with. Burping can be a symptom of a medical problem, but it is rarely the single symptom of an illness or a disorder. Again, burping is caused by swallowing air, and cats who burp regularly may engage in pursuits that prompt ingesting excessive amounts. Still, if you suspect that your cat's burping is a symptom of a medical problem such as IBD, acid reflux, or esophagitis, consult your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
What to do when your cat burps
If your cat is uncharacteristically burping and exhibiting other signs of a medical issue such as gastrointestinal discomfort, vomiting, or diarrhea, then contact your vet. It's recommended that you make a video recording of any odd behavior or potential symptom to assist your veterinarian in diagnosing a problem. If your cat's burping is the result of food allergies, esophagitis, or IBD, they may benefit from specialty cat food that is more easily digested. Our guides to healthy wet food and nutritious dry cat foods can help you choose a simple, plain diet for your friend.
While uncommon, cats do burp to release excess air from breathing and eating. Occasionally, burping can signal an underlying medical issue. So, when belching becomes more frequent and it occurs in tandem with other symptoms — it is best to consult a professional.