Understanding Why My Cat's Stomach Gurgles

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If your cat's gurgling stomach is keeping you up at night, you may be wondering how healthy your cat's digestive system is. In most cases, when a cat's stomach is making noises, it's the result of simple digestive movement. Although typically unrelated to more serious health disturbances, it's always worth investigating these sounds to determine whether they're a sign of something more. Is your cat's stomach making noises? Read on to learn what may be causing it and when to reach out to your veterinarian.

Breaking Down Why My Cat's Stomach Gurgles

The grumbling, gurgling sound that a feline stomach makes is called borborygmus, which is the term for the bubbly sound gasses make as they're pushing their way through the stomach and the intestines.

A domestic cat with collar and bell around his neck. Cat with bells to prevent bird hunting

Picture what's happening as pockets of gas getting "popped" as they're continually squeezed by the almost rhythmic forward propulsion of ingested food. Gases are always present in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, either because they're ingested at mealtime (along with food) or because they're created by the teeming of bacteria as they work to help digest nutrients delivered by the food. Either way, gas is a normal participant in the digestive process.

However, some cats have louder digestive sounds than others — sounds that typically occur within an hour or two after a meal. Meanwhile, others will only produce these sounds when they're obviously experiencing discomfort or displaying clinical signs of a potential condition.

Cat's Stomach Making Noises: Other Signs to Look Out For

You may find yourself wondering, "My cat's stomach gurgles often — what other signs could signal there is a problem?" The first thing you should do is take note of how your cat is feeling aside from the stomach gurgling. If your cat is showing no other signs of disease or discomfort, and the gurgling is part of their normal after-meal routine, it's unlikely to be a cause for alarm. Nevertheless, it's always helpful to ask your vet about these sounds during your cat's next check-up.

However, if a cat with borborygmus starts showing signs of disease or discomfort, an urgent veterinary visit is definitely in order. Specific signs to look out for include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Regurgitation
  • Abnormal stool quality or quantity
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Lethargy

These crucial signs may be subtle and tough to identify, especially in multi-cat households. Extra vigilance is always recommended in these cases. If your cat isn't eating at all, this is considered an emergency that requires a prompt consultation with your veterinarian.

Potential Causes From Within the GI Tract

The persistent gurgling of gases can be the result of a disease within the GI tract itself or of some other organ system (or systemic disease). Causes from within the GI tract may include the following:

Two tone cat (white and orange) with red collar and blue small bell looking to the left side of photo with serious posture or bored look on blur background

  • Food sensitivities or allergies, sometimes classified as inflammatory bowel disease (which can also be triggered by stress)
  • Foreign body ingestion (toys, strings, etc.)
  • Hairballs
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Cancer of the GI tract
  • Intestinal irritation (related to parasites, eating new foods or ingesting spoiled food)

In fact, anything that causes a change in a cat's normal intestinal bacteria can cause excessive gas production, increased gastrointestinal activity and, therefore, borborygmus.

Potential Causes Due to Non-Digestive Diseases

A wide variety of illnesses can also lead to an upset digestive tract and abnormal gas activity. Here are a few of the more common reasons:

  • Ingesting excessive amounts of gas, as can happen with respiratory or dental problems
  • Diseases that cause nausea, such as brain, liver and kidney diseases
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancers
  • Thyroid disease
  • Infections

Even simple stress can lead to an upset stomach in cats.

Soothing Treatments and Interventions

Let's say your cat's sounds are mild, occasional and unaffiliated with any of the more concerning signs of disease — and you've seen your vet. In most cases, no treatment is required. However, it's always worthwhile to try one or more simple remedies for an upset stomach.

  • Probiotics: These "good" bacterial colonies can help even out bacterial disturbances of the GI tract.
  • Prebiotics: These are nutrients that feed the "good" bacteria, thereby preferentially supporting these colonies. Digestible fiber is the most common prebiotic.
  • Hairball remedies: These can offer some assistance for cats who have frequent hairball challenges. However, brushing regularly is often just as effective.

As always, ask your vet before embarking on any new course of treatment.

Preventing Cat Stomach Gurgling

Many cat parents may say to themselves, "My cat's stomach gurgles — is there anything I can do to prevent this?" If the gurgling seems persistent and possibly uncomfortable, and your vet has found no major cause for concern, consider the use of probiotics and prebiotics to help support the feline GI tract. Many are available as over-the-counter dietary supplements.

Therapeutic gastrointestinal foods for "sensitive stomachs" are also a consideration as these can often help prevent GI disturbances through a number of means. These foods are available from your vet, so go ahead and ask if one is appropriate for your furry friend.

Contributor Bio

Dr. Patty Khuly

Dr. Patty Khuly

Dr. Patty Khuly is an honors graduate of both Wellesley College and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. She received her MBA at The Wharton School of Business as part of the prestigious VMD/MBA dual-degree program. She's now the proud owner of Sunset Animal Clinic in Miami, Florida. But that's not all! Dr. K is a nerdy reader, avid knitter, hot yoga fanatic, music geek, struggling novelist, and indefatigable foodie. She lives in South Miami with four dogs, countless cats, two rescued goats and a hilarious flock of hens.

You can follow her writing at DrPattyKhuly.com and at SunsetVets.com.

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