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My Cat Makes Weird Noises When Drinking: 6 Vet-Verified Explanations

Written by: Adam Mann

Last Updated on April 18, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat drinking water from bowl in carpet

My Cat Makes Weird Noises When Drinking: 6 Vet-Verified Explanations


Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo


Dr. Karyn Kanowski

Veterinarian, BVSc MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Are you worried that your cat has an odd way of drinking water? You’re not alone in this thought process. It’s a common question for cat owners, and usually, it’s nothing you need to worry about. Still, you’re probably just stuck asking the same questions every time this happens: Why does my cat make weird noises after drinking water, and what does it mean?

Well, it all depends on what noises they’re making, the sounds they make when they’re not drinking, and whether they’re doing anything else out of the ordinary! Keep reading and we’ll break down everything you need to know.

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Normal Cat Drinking Sounds

If you’ve never heard your cat drink before (which we highly doubt unless you just brought home a new cat) and all you can focus on is the weird sound they’re making, it’s certainly possible that this is a perfectly normal sound. Cats can make a weird sound while drinking simply because of the oddity of the mechanics that go into their drinking water.

Unlike dogs, when cats drink water, their tongues don’t form a “J” shape that acts like a ladle. Instead, the only part of the tongue to touch the water is the smooth tip. Much like how some water sticks to our hands when we dip it in and out of water, the same principle applies to a cat drinking. The tip of the tongue touches the water before they pull it back into their mouth. This draws water into the mouth, keeping their chin dry—for the most part.

As you might have put together, this can create some noise every time your cat drinks. However, if your cat started drinking a little differently than normal, there could be some reasons for it.

Cute cat drinking from water dispenser or water fountain
Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

Coughing, Wheezing, Gagging, and Choking

When you’re listening to a cat drink water and the odd noises they make, it’s important to distinguish between these three different types of noises, because they all mean different things.

If your cat is choking, it’s a medical emergency that you need to address right away. It is different from gagging and will include signs like drooling and repeated attempts to swallow. You will want to ensure their throat is clear and get them to the vet immediately. This is where pet first aid can come in handy.

Meanwhile, if your cat is wheezing, you’ll want to schedule an appointment with your vet right away to figure out what’s happening. Again, this is different from gagging. If you think your cat might be gagging or coughing, these sounds that don’t always necessitate an immediate trip right to the vet or pet emergency room, and are much more common while a cat is drinking water. However, they still might be a cause for concern if they happen regularly.

The 6 Explanations Your Cat Makes Weird Noises When Drinking

1. They’re Drinking Too Fast

If your cat is essentially gulping down water instead of slowly lapping it up, it can build up in the esophagus before it has a chance to empty into the stomach. When this happens, they’ll often gag, and sometimes they’ll even regurgitate some water. Additionally, they may be swallowing air in their haste, so this can also lead to bloating, burping, and regurgitation. If your cat is regularly drinking fast and taking in a lot of water, you should schedule a checkup with the vet. There are a number of health conditions that will cause your cat to drink more water than normal, including diabetes, kidney disease or infection.

tabby cat gagging or choking
Image Credit: Suzanne Tucker, Shutterstock

2. They Need Food

Cats shouldn’t drink a large amount of water on an empty stomach. Just like us, if they drink a lot of water, especially cold water, on an empty stomach, it can cause a bit of gurgling and reflux.

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3. Dental Problems

If your cat has a sore or loose tooth, or a large amount of calculus on their teeth, this could be causing them to drink differently and create unusual sounds when drinking. Cats can also develop cancer in their mouth, so if you notice that the way your cat is drinking has changed, book an appointment with your vet.

4. Their Collar Is Too Tight

If you can’t slip a finger between your cat’s neck and the collar, it’s too tight. They might be able to breathe and move around with it on, but it can make it extremely uncomfortable for them to swallow, and that can be enough to make them cough or gag.

5. The Water Is Different

Did you switch to tap water, a different type of bottled water, or water at a different temperature? Or maybe the water has been out for a few days and has become a bit dusty. Any of these things can lead to your cat having an adverse reaction, like gagging when they drink it.

Cats can be very particular about many things, including the water they drink. The right water fountain can provide your cat with clean, fresh water.

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6. They’re Sick

Sometimes, your cat simply isn’t feeling the best when they go for a drink. Just like when you have an upset stomach and take a drink, it can make you feel nauseous; the same thing can happen to your cat. See if your cat starts feeling better in a day or two, and if not, take them to the vet.

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Final Thoughts

Now that you know a little bit more about what’s normal for your cat and what isn’t, it’s up to you to keep an eye out for abnormalities so you know when you need to take them to the vet. It’s possible that, if this is a new cat, this is just the noise they make when they drink. However, any change in behavior, including the noises they make while they drink, could be a sign of something more serious. So, be sure to talk to your vet if you’re unsure about what’s causing this change.

Featured Image Credit: AnnaStills, Shutterstock

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