We can all agree that hiccups are one of the most annoying involuntary responses… right up there with belching. As humans of this floating rock, we’ve all experienced our fair share of hiccups, but this post is not about us. Do cats get hiccups? Is it really hiccups or some other type of involuntary response?
What Is Hiccup?
A hiccup is a contraction of your diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle that lies between your stomach and lungs. When operating normally, this muscle pulls down upon inhalation and relaxes to let the air out as you exhale. A hiccup is the involuntary spasm of this muscle (diaphragm) when it reacts to an irritant. This irritation occurs in the nerve that links your diaphragm to your brain, which is why hiccups can be induced by physical and emotional factors. These causes and inducers include:
- Eating too fast
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Eating too much
- Abrupt changes in temperature
- Chewing gum
The noise associated with hiccups is actually your vocal cords suddenly closing. In unique cases, hiccups can also be a sign of an underlying disease. So, there you have it, the facts about human hiccups. Does the same thing apply to cats?
Because cats are mammals just like humans, they get hiccups due to similar reasons as humans. In cats, overeating or gorging food too quickly are the leading causes of hiccups. When food isn’t chewed correctly, it causes excess ingestion of air, leading to irritation and, in turn, the contraction of the cat’s diaphragm.
Anxiety is another reason why cats experience hiccups. In most cases, emotional anguish such as discomfort or separation anxiety may lead to odd involuntary reactions like hiccups.
While humans and felines get hiccups for much of the same reasons, there’s one common cause of hiccups in cats that humans don’t experience: hairballs. When cats clean their fur with their tongue, they tend to ingest a hair or two. The hairs can be bothersome to your cat’s throat, and the spasm can help them free or cough up that wet ball of hair.
Treatment For Cats With Hiccups
Cat hiccups are common and often go away on their own. Even when they happen repeatedly, it may only be a bad case of eating too fast. If you’ve made the necessary adjustments to your cat’s feeding and hiccups continue, start narrowing down other possible causes.
- To prevent your cat from overeating or eating too fast, consider shifting to smaller portions or put the bowl on an elevated platform so that it’s more challenging to get to the food. This, in turn, will slow down eating.
- If your cat has a bad case of hairballs, there are various foods and gels you can give your cat to solve this problem. Consider brushing your cat more frequently to get rid of the loose fur they ingest while self-grooming. If your cat seems to be suffering from hiccups for several days and has trouble breathing, don’t delay; go to your vet to make sure those hairballs aren’t stuck in your cat’s throat.
- If hiccups last for days or seem to be hurting your cat, it is time to check in with your vet so that she or he makes sure it is not a symptom of a more significant problem. Some minor throat injuries can be treated by a vet. However, if it is a symptom of asthma, tumors, or heart disease, treatment should be started right away.
When To Be Worried About Your Cat’s Hiccups
If your cat’s hiccups are infrequent and transitory, there’s nothing to be concerned about – it’s pretty standard. However, if your cat gets hiccups frequently and they last longer than usual, it could be a sign of an underlying condition that should be looked at by
a cat specialist. Some medical conditions that may cause your cat to experience unusual hiccups include:
- Heart disease
- Neurological disorders
- Organ disease
- Ingestion of a foreign object
- Severe allergies
- Cat Parasites
Wondering If Your Cat’s Hiccups Are Normal?
Yes, hiccups are totally normal. Hiccups are more prevalent in kittens than in older cats. Still, no matter your cat’s age, breed, or size, it can be worrying when you see them experiencing hiccups for the first time. If your cat has been experiencing more hiccups than usual lately and you’re trying to determine the cause of the issue, your vet should be able to help.
It’s unlikely that your cat will require emergency attention when it comes to hiccups. Still, we understand how this might worry cat parents. If your furry feline friend has been recently hiccupping, consider taking some preventative actions at home to help them overcome this annoying period of hiccups. More on cat care: