Cats, much like humans, are plagued by all kinds of bodily processes. They get gassy, they sneeze, they get the hiccups. Some cats are incredibly funny when they start hiccuping, while others may even cause you some alarm, as they look like they are about to be violently sick.
Why do cats get hiccups and what should you do when you notice them? Let’s find out!
Can Cats Get Hiccups?
Yes, cats can get hiccups, usually when they eat too fast or too much. When they don’t chew their food properly, they will swallow extra air, which leads to the diaphragm spasms we call hiccups.
Adult cats and kittens alike will occasionally get the hiccups. Kittens may be completely confused by them, and you will see them jumping up and down with each contraction. Adult cats are more familiar with the feeling, so will usually just ride it out.
A hiccup occurs when the diaphragm and the muscles between the ribs involuntarily contract. A flap that protects a cat’s airway while they are swallowing food, called the glottis, closes at the same time, causing the sound and funny movement. We believe hiccups are caused by irritation to the nerve that runs down to the diaphragm.
Hiccups are generally not dangerous. Unless your cat gets them very often or they last for a very long time, there is nothing to worry about. Kittens are more prone to them than adult cats, so don’t be surprised if you see them bouncing up and down and hiccuping.
What Does a Cat’s Hiccup Sound Like?
Cat hiccups can sound like a lot of different things. Some cats make a slight squeaking noise, others have visible spasms in their tummy, but hiccups can sound like they have a hairball lodged in their throat too.
Some cats don’t even make any noise when hiccuping, they will just appear to be spasming. Some cats will have several hiccups in a rapid burst, while others will only have the one.
Here is an example of a cat hiccup:
What Causes Cat Hiccups?
Cats can get hiccups when they eat too much or too fast, but they can also be caused by hairballs, even allergies and asthma. Some cats can also get hiccups when anxious.
While kittens usually get hiccups more often than adult cats, they can happen at any age. Some cats just get them more often, while others never seem to hiccup. You may also not identify their chirping or squeaking as a hiccup.
Here are the most common causes of hiccups in cats:
Eating Too Quickly
Just like humans, cats can get hiccups when they eat too quickly and swallow too much air. You can prevent them from getting hiccups by feeding them smaller bites, or by using food puzzles that will make them eat more slowly. Since cats want you to watch them eat, you can easily monitor their eating habits to see if they are the cause of the hiccups.
Some cats feel they need to eat quickly because they are afraid another cat will steal their food, or they may feel too exposed. Aim to make mealtimes a calm affair, put their food bowl in a secluded area and make sure each cat enjoys some privacy while eating.
Eating Too Much
Eating too much in one sitting can also lead to hiccups, as the diaphragm’s nerve gets irritated and too much food is swallowed too quickly. Feeding your cat smaller meals can help.
Hairballs are a natural part of any cat’s life. If one gets lodged in a cat’s throat, they may get the hiccups trying to get rid of it. By regularly brushing your cat, you can reduce the number of hairballs they get, but you are not likely to eliminate them altogether.
Cats with longer hair naturally get hairballs more often, so talk to your vet about adjusting their diet and establishing a regular grooming schedule.
Believe it or not, purring can also give a cat hiccups. As they tend to produce more saliva while purring, our furry friends will also be swallowing more often. This can cause them to swallow some extra air, which can then lead to the hiccups.
Allergies or Asthma
We may sometimes mistake coughing for hiccups in a cat, since they can sound quite alike. If your cat is allergic to something, has a cold or has asthma, they may sound like they are in the middle of a hiccuping fit, when they are actually just coughing.
Make sure your cat with allergies or asthma has regular checkups at the vet, to ensure their symptoms are under control and that they generally feel as well as they possibly can.
Anxiety is a less common cause of hiccups. When in distress, a cat can start to manifest physical symptoms, like getting the hiccups. This can happen if they suffer from separation anxiety, or if you’ve recently done something to upset their usual routine.
Aim to make your cat feel as safe and snug as possible, and make the time to play and cuddle with them, so that they are able to feel more relaxed.
Can Cats Get Hiccups From Purring?
Yes, cats can get hiccups from purring. As they produce more saliva while purring away, they may swallow excess air which will lead to the hiccups.
It’s perfectly normal for a cat to get the hiccups while they are purring, especially if the purring lasts a very long time. Don’t worry about it, they will soon settle down. You can stop petting them to give them a moment to recover. In fact, they may purr and then bite you, as a way of signaling that they want to be left alone.
How Long Should ‘Normal’ Cat Hiccups Last?
Cat hiccups should last no longer than a day (most often just a couple of minutes) and will go away on their own. Hiccups lasting for days or hiccups after most meals should be checked by a vet.
It may just be that your cat is a bit greedy and wolfs their food down too fast. If this turns out to be the case, you can start giving them smaller meals and use a smart feeder to make your cat eat slower.
Most hiccups will go away on their own in a matter of minutes, but if you do notice they are too frequent or seem to last for a very long time, take your kitty to the vet just to make sure they are perfectly okay.
Is It OK For Cats to Have Hiccups?
It’s perfectly okay for a cat to have hiccups. They usually don’t last long, and while they may get on your cat’s nerves, they aren’t anything to worry about.
Unless your cat gets the hiccups very frequently or they last a very long time, they are a-okay.
What Do I Do When My Cat Has Hiccups?
In most cases, you don’t need to do anything when your cat has the hiccups. Just let them cease on their own.
You may need to stop petting your cat, if they get annoyed by the hiccups and want to be alone, or you may want to reconsider the amount of food you give your cat, but most hiccups require absolutely no attention.
How to Stop Cat Hiccups?
There is nothing much you can do to stop cat hiccups. You can offer your cat some water, but never force them to drink (or eat). Don’t try to scare them either, it won’t work.
Hiccups are easier prevented than stopped, so if you feed your cat smaller portions and make sure they don’t eat too fast, you can do a lot to prevent their hiccups. Brush them regularly and adjust the fiber content in their diet to match the amount of hair they digest, and their general needs.
Should You Worry About Cat Hiccups?
Cat hiccups are quite common and in most cases nothing to worry about. If your cat is suddenly suffering from chronic or excessive hiccups, take them to the vet to make sure there is no other underlying issue.
Most hiccups are caused by food and hairballs and are not a cause for alarm. Rarely can they be a sign of a disease or health concern, which your vet will be able to identify if your cat is suddenly hiccuping too often.
Wrapping It Up
Cat hiccups are perfectly common and should be nothing to worry about. Give your cat some space and they will most likely go away on their own. If they seem to be getting very frequent and very lengthy hiccups, you are advised to take them to the vet, just to rule out any underlying health conditions.