Cats have distinct personalities and temperaments. They also vary when it comes to being vocal and while some tend to purr louder than the others, some will rarely meow or purr at all. However, if you notice that your cat not only purrs but also swallows hard, take special note. It may be telling you that something is wrong with your kitty.
Why is my cat swallowing hard when purring?
These are the probable reasons why your cat is swallowing hard when she is purring:
1. Your cat may just be swallowing excess saliva.
Some cat owners observe that their cats are swallowing hard when purring because of the excess saliva in their mouth. This usually happens when the purring is accompanied by kneading. Your cat may swallow hard and with a gulping sound when they knead and drool excessively. If your cat does this, it is not something that you should be worried about.
Cat experts note that kneading is an instinctive trait among felines and they often knead on a blanket, soft surfaces, other cats and humans. Cats find it relaxing and soothing especially because it reminds them of when they were still kittens and they knead their mom’s tummy when they nurse. It is usually accompanied by purring contentedly while some drift off to sleep.
2. Your cat may have asthma.
Some cats that were swallowing hard when purring or vocalizing were diagnosed with asthma. Feline asthma is usually caused by an allergic reaction due to inhaled allergens that stimulate a cat’s immune system. Signs and symptoms may include wheezing, rapid breathing, coughing or hacking, vomiting, difficulty breathing or open-mouthed breathing.
When cats have an asthma attack they may hunch their body close to the ground and extend their necks. Treatment for feline asthma may include corticosteroids which come in either oral, inhaled or injectable form as well as experimental therapies and purifying indoor air.
3. Your cat may have a tooth infection.
Some cats that were seen by vets because they were swallowing hard when purring had tartar and infected teeth. Like humans, cats also accumulate plaque and if left untreated it hardens and becomes tartar that irritates the gums, causes gingivitis, tooth infection as well as tooth loss. To correct it, teeth cleaning should be done and by giving your cats some chew toys that scrape plaque from cats’ teeth.
4. Your cat may have feline herpes.
Feline herpes or feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) is caused by feline herpes virus type-1 which causes infections in domestic and wild cats of all ages. FVR is the major cause of upper respiratory disease among cats and also causes conjunctivitis or inflammation of tissues surrounding the eye area. The common symptoms may include nasal congestion, excessive blinking, squinting, fever, lethargy, poor appetite and sneezing.
Cats may experience a discharge from the eyes and nose that is clear and watery or may also contain pus. Treatment may include antibiotics and hospitalization where your cat will be given intravenous fluids and other supportive treatment.
5. Your cat may have a streptococcal infection.
Another possible reason why your cat is swallowing hard when purring is a streptococcal infection. It is an infection caused by the streptococcus bacteria and most susceptible are kittens and older cats due to underdeveloped or declining immune systems. The common symptoms include fever, lethargy, pain, coughing, arthritis, pneumonia, difficulty swallowing due to swelling or tonsillitis and abscesses. Treatment may include antibiotics and hydration.
6. It may be due to hairballs.
Hairballs may develop since cats are very particular when it comes to grooming themselves. When cats groom, the tiny hook-like structures in their tongues catch dead and loose fur which they tend to swallow and form into hairballs. If you suspect that your cat has hairballs, look for these symptoms as well: gagging, retching or vomiting, constipation, lethargy, loss of appetite and diarrhea. Treatment may include Laxatone, Petro Malt and Cat Lax hairball laxatives. You should also groom your cat regularly, feed her a hairball formula cat food and discourage excessive grooming.
7. It may be stress-induced.
Cats may experience stress when there are drastic changes in their routine. It may also be due to loud noises, a house relocation, new family members or pets and vet visits. Stress among cats could lead to behavioral problems like aggressive behavior, depression and litter box avoidance. It may also bring about physical signs like diarrhea, vomiting, runny nose and eyes, poor appetite, eating non-food items also called pica, weight loss or weight gain and poor coat condition.
Treatment options may include a calming collar and pheromones like Feliway. You should also provide adequate playtime with your cat, place enough litter boxes and scratching posts within your home and create a safe and quiet place for your cat.
8. Your cat may have acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Another possible reason why your cat is swallowing hard when purring is acid reflux or GERD. It is the uncontrollable reverse flow of gastric fluids to the tube that connects the throat and esophagus. This may be due to chronic vomiting or a brief relaxation of the muscular opening at the sphincter, or the base of the esophagus. GERD is common among cats and affects felines of any age but younger cats are more prone to it.
Symptoms may include spitting up food, howling while swallowing, weight loss, fever, extreme salivation and lack of appetite. The common treatment options may include prokinetic agents to improve the movement of stomach contents. Your vet may advise you to withhold food for at least two days and follow a diet regimen of low-protein and low-fat.
Nevertheless, some cat owners say that it may just be that the purring vibration releases nasal secretions that get caught up in the throat, thus, cats have to swallow hard to push it down the throat. Also, cat experts agree that this behavior usually occurs among senior cats.
Image: istockphoto.com / © Viktor Kintop