Cat Swallowing A Lot – What Does It Mean?

Cat swallowing a lot

Is your cat gulping, gagging, swallowing, or coughing a lot?

This could be a sign of disease or a blockage he is trying to remove.

Read on to discover the real reason behind cat swallowing a lot and not eating.


If your cat keeps swallowing a lot, he could be trying to get rid of hairballs stuck in his throat. Cat gulping and gagging could also be a sign of feline dysphagia. Also, a cat swallowing a lot, and not eating could be due to feline asthma. Vet intervention is necessary to correct the problem ailing your cat.


It is a heartbreaking thing to watch as a pet parent.

Your cat keeps swallowing but is not able to until the third or fourth attempt.

Or maybe your cat gulping habit has gotten worse and you are wondering what you can do to help the poor furball.


You are one of the many pet parents experiencing the same problem.

Your cat swallowing a lot and not eating enough food to keep him healthy.


What is the cause of all this?

A cat gulping, gagging, or swallowing a lot is doing so for three main reasons;


  • They are trying to get rid of hairballs
  • They have feline asthma
  • The cat is suffering from feline dysphagia


Hairballs in cats

Cat hairball

Cat gulping or gagging when grooming could be a sign of hairballs.

When cat’s groom themselves, the tiny spikes on their tongues, called papillae, pull hair from their coat and push it to the back of their mouth.


Most cats end up swallowing this hair as they groom.

But since hairballs are not on a cat’s menu, they have to come out eventually.


You will notice your kitty sticking its tongue out and coughing to try and get the hairballs out.

If this does not work, option number two for a cat would be chewing on grass.

Grass acts as a laxative that aids the cat in vomiting.

If this does not work, then the little feline might be in trouble.


Hairballs that are not coughed or vomited out end up causing blockages in the digestive system.

This is why your cat keeps swallowing to push the hairball out of the throat and into their tummy.

Other cats would gulp and cough repeatedly to try and get rid of the obstruction.


So how do you know if your cat has hairball blockage?

  • If he is constantly gagging, hacking, or tries to vomit to no avail
  • When the cat is constipated
  • If your cat eats less and shows signs of rapid weight loss
  • Lethargy and disinterest in doing normal cat activities- playing, grooming, walking all over your laptop



Learn More:



Feline asthma

Like humans, cats do get asthmatic as well.

But cat asthma is much harder to detect because it is often mistaken for hairball coughing.


Also, cat asthma is rare, affecting only 1 to 5% of cats.

Feline asthma is often a reaction to environmental allergens.

When a cat inhales the allergen, the immune system responds by releasing antibodies to fight the foreign object.


The aftermath of the immune system’s response to allergens is what causes cat asthma.

Cat asthma may be caused by inhaling dust, pollen, mold, smoke, or toxic fumes.

Some cats may get an asthmatic attack from smelling fragranced bleach.  


Other causes of feline asthma include;

  • Aerosol sprays
  • Emotional stress
  • Rapid changes in weather conditions

VIDEO: A Rare Feline Asthma


Symptoms of feline asthma

Feline asthma is common in middle-aged cats (cats between 2 and 8 years).


The symptoms that present during an asthmatic attack include;

  • Gagging
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing

Some cats would stick their tongue out while they cough.

Feline asthma may resemble hairball gagging which is why it can miss your eye.


But feline asthma is quite different from hairball coughing.

When a cat gulping from hairballs often ends up in vomiting.

This is because it affects the digestive system.


For feline asthma, the cough is from the respiratory systems.

The cough will sound moist, dry, or wheezing.

Your cat may also crane the neck forward as he coughs.

VIDEO: Signs and Symptoms of Feline Asthma


Feline Dysphagia

Feline dysphagia is a more serious condition that affects the muscles that control swallowing.

Cats are affected by three types of feline dysphagia;

  • Oral dysphagia
  • Pharyngeal dysphagia
  • Cricopharyngeal dysphagia

Oral dysphagia affects the muscles associated with chewing and pushing food to the throat.

Pharyngeal dysphagia affects the front muscles of the pharynx while cricopharyngeal dysphagia affects the back muscles of the pharynx.


What causes feline dysphagia?

feline dysphagia

Dysphagia may arise from a preexisting dental disease.

Infections that cause swelling or deterioration of oral muscles associated with chewing may also lead to dysphagia.

Temporary paralysis of the tongue and jaw can also lead to feline dysphagia.


Other causes of feline dysphagia include

  • Foreign bodies lodged in the mouth
  • Benign growth that is inflammatory
  • Cleft palate
  • Mouth injuries
  • Jaw fractures
  • Tumors


Cat swallowing a lot and not eating, how to treat it?

Cat not Swallowing

If you notice your cat keeps swallowing a lot, gagging, or choking, rush them to the vet.

A trained vet will help rule out the main cause of frequent gagging, coughing, or choking.

Most vets know that any cat swallowing a lot and not eating could be suffering from the three aforementioned conditions.


Diagnosis and treating hairballs in cats

Cats can get rid of hairballs through vomiting or excretion.

But if the hairball is stuck in your cat’s digestive tract, and causes a blockage, a vet may have to surgically remove it.


As a pet parent, grooming your cat regularly can help prevent hairballs.

Cats with longhaired coats are more likely to swallow hairballs.

Cutting your cat’s coat short makes self-grooming easy and reduces the frequency of hairballs forming.


Diagnosing and treating feline asthma

CT scans can help detect feline asthma. The airways of an asthmatic cat are narrower than usual or blocked with mucus.

Your vet will prescribe medication to clear the blockages and dilate the airways.

Corticosteroids help treat inflammation while bronchodilators open up the airways.


Diagnosing and treating feline dysphagia

There are various ways to treat feline dysphagia;


Final thoughts

An experienced vet will help you understand why your cat keeps swallowing but not digesting its food.

If your cat has asthma or dysphagia there are medical measures that can help correct that.

Grooming your cat regularly will help reduce hairball choking .


See Also

Frequently Asked Questions

Mild dysphagia may clear on its own when the underlying condition, like a dental abscess or fractured jaw, is addressed. By dysphagia caused by muscle atrophy will require medical intervention.

If not treated, feline dysphagia can cause your cat to lose excess weight and nutrients. If your cat keeps swallowing a lot and not eating, the food may lodge in the airways causing him to choke. Untreated feline dysphagia may also cause dehydration in cats.

Yes, cats get sore throats from viral or bacterial infections in the throat. Cat flu is one of the causes of sore throats in cats. A sore throat may cause your cat to gag or swallow a lot.

Your cat may swallow a lot when he is excessively stimulated. Relaxing actions like biting and kneading blanket can cause your cat to salivate and swallow a lot. Humping a blanket also stimulates the cat and may cause him to salivate more.


A pet owner who loves to share useful facts and information about a variety of animals.