Do cats burp, fart or hiccup? It's a question that may have kept you awake at night, and it's one that can prove decidedly tricky to answer based solely on your own observations.
If you have cats it's entirely likely that you've never seen or heard any form of comical gas escape from them, but knowing how secretive cats can be, it's also entirely possible that they go off somewhere else to eructate luxuriantly at their leisure, and you may never know about it.
Then again, you may have caught your cat doing an adorable little feline belch after gobbling down a bowl of the best cat food, or an equally adorable bout of squeaky hiccups, or even farting, which in our experience is just as surprising for the cat as it is for you. If so you may be wondering if that's normal, and whether it's a sign that you may need to take your gaseous little fluffkin to be checked out by the vet.
From common causes to the most likely times a burp, hiccup or fart is likely to occur, here's everything you need to know about these unglamorous events that your feline friend would rather stayed a secret.
What is a burp or hiccup?
They're two quite different things, albeit with similar causes. A burp or a belch is the body's way of expelling gas from your upper digestive tract, through the esophagus and out of your mouth; how it got there is likely to be down to what – and how – you've been eating or drinking.
Guzzling a quart of soda's a sure-fire way to make it happen, as is eating too quickly and swallowing too much air with your food. And while we're on the subject of expelling unwanted gas, a fart is much the same thing: it's a mechanism for venting built-up gas from the lower digestive tract, only from the other end.
Hiccups can also be caused by over-eating, or by overdoing it on the fizzy drinks, but the mechanism is different: a hiccup is an involuntary spasm of the diaphragm, followed by a closure of the vocal cords, which is what causes the 'hic' sound. Hiccups can occur singularly, or in repeated bouts that can go on for a few minutes or even longer.
Can cats burp, fart or hiccup?
Some vets will swear blind that cats are unable to burp, however there's lots of anecdotal evidence to the contrary and you may even have witnessed it yourself. We'll get to why it may happen in just a moment.
There's no similar argument over whether cats can fart or hiccup; the answer to the question 'do cats fart?' is that they absolutely can, although when it comes to farting and hiccuping, you're unlikely to see it happen very often
Why does my cat burp, fart or hiccup?
So, you've caught your cat in the middle of some kind of gaseous incident. Why might that happen? The most likely explanation, as with humans, is that it's down to what it's been eating or drinking, and how quickly it's been doing it.
If you have a perennially hungry cat that practically inhales its meals at maximum speed, the cause of any burping, farting or hiccups is almost certainly likely to be that it's swallowed too much air along with its food.
Because cats don't tend to enjoy fizzy drinks, and generally have much plainer diets than us, there's little chance of it emitting a loud and lengthy burp or a resonant fart; more likely they'll get it over with quickly and quietly and you probably won't be any the wiser.
There are, however, some cases where the burping, farting or even hiccupping may be cause for concern; we'll come to those in a bit.
But if you think that the reason for your cat burping, farting or hiccupping is that it's eating far too quickly, consider a slow feeder cat bowl.
Be sure to read our guide on what to do if your cat is eating too fast for further advice.
Is it normal for a cat to burp, fart or hiccup?
The occasional isolated burp, fart or hiccup from your cat is really nothing to worry about, and frankly your cat will thank you for not making a big deal out of it. However if your cat's regularly burping the national anthem, there could be other causes, including stomach upsets, hairballs, indigestion and even acid reflux.
As is often the case with weird cat symptoms, you should look out for other symptoms that may indicate some underlying health problem, such as vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss or lethargy; any of these are a sign that you should book an appointment with your vet.
Similarly, with hiccups there should be little cause for concern; if hiccups aren't down to your cat eating too fast and swallowing air, it could just as easily be down to hairballs irritating its little throat. However, if the hiccupping goes on for a long time, particularly in an older cat, then it's definitely worth consulting your vet; it could be a sign of a more serious health problem.
As for feline flatulence, while it's most likely to be down to your cat swallowing a load of air while eating, there could be other causes, including allergies to food, dust, pollen and parasites.
Again, watch out for other signs, such as vomiting (our article on why is my cat throwing up can help with that), diarrhea, weight loss and so on, and try not to give your cat human food, as it can be loaded with ingredients that are bad for kitty; instead, be sure to treat it to the best cat food.
Times when your cat might burp, fart, or hiccup
As you'll have worked out by now, the main time your cat's likely to delight you with an unexpected gaseous emission is after a meal consumed a little too quickly.
And if you pick your cat up for a cuddle soon after a meal, this may speed the process of getting that unwanted gas out, at precisely the time you really don't want that to happen.
What does a cat burp sound like?
If you've never heard a cat burp and you're expecting it to sound like a human burp, prepare for disappointment; a cat burp's a much daintier and quieter eructation. Here's the best example we could find:
How to burp a cat
You should never have to burp a cat. However, if you're bottle-feeding a kitten, just like with human babies, they can easily gulp down air with its milk, and may require gentle burping.
It's almost exactly the same as burping a baby: cradle it against you with its head on your shoulder, and pat it gently on the back until nature takes its course. For further information on newborn kitten care see our vet's guide.
Cats can, and do, burp, fart and hiccup, but they don't do it very often, they usually keep it to themselves and it's generally nothing to worry about. But if it becomes a regular occurrence there are some things you can try to discourage it, such as altering your cat's feeding routine or diet.
However, if prolonged burping, farting and hiccupping are combined with other troublesome symptoms, you should of course get your cat to the vet for a check-up.
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Jim is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler based in Bath, who last year adopted a pair of sibling rescue cats who turned out to be effectively feral, and has spent a lot of time since then trying to get them accustomed to people (some success) and each other (ongoing project).