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Cat swallowing hard

by Julie
(Georgia)

Hi Dr. Neely -

My cat Spooky will often swallow hard like she is having difficulty swallowing. This almost always happens when she is purring. She will lift her head, swallow hard a few times and occasionally hack a couple of times. She did not always do this, and I assumed it was a hairball, but she's been doing it for quite a while now.

She is well in all other areas aside from a watery eye - which from reading the rest of your site I see is a common issue. I did not, though, see anything about this hard swallowing when it was not accompanied by vomiting, a respiratory infection, or alongside some other illness.

Thank you for any advice. This is really such an informative site. Thank you for what you do.


Dear Julie,


Thank you for writing in with concern for your kitty. Without knowing your kitty's age, it is hard to say what may be causing the hard swallowing you described. There are, however, a few possible causes to consider.

The first possibility is that her salivation increases when she is purring, which creates the need for her to swallow. Many cats will salivate while purring, and this is completely normal. Since you indicated that this almost exclusively occurs when she is purring, this seems like a likely cause.

However, there are some possible medical issues that could be going on. The fact that your kitty has not always done this does concern me. She could be suffering from hyperthyroidism, especially if she is over 8 years old. Hyperthyroidism can create similar symptoms due to the thyroid gland being enlarged and putting pressure on the throat area. Dental disease could cause increase salivation, as well, leading to harder swallowing.

Without seeing your kitty in person for an examination, I cannot definitively say whether this swallowing is cause for concern or not. I would recommend that you bring her to a veterinarian for an exam, just to be on the safe side.

Best wishes,
Dr. Neely

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