Hiccups are a common human occurrence, but they can also affect other species. But Do Cats Get Hiccups? Absolutely! While they more commonly affect kittens than adult cats, hiccups do occur in felines. They usually result from hairballs, eating too fast, and overeating. Let’s review these causes, how you can mitigate them, and whether you should be concerned about your cat’s hiccups.
What Are Hiccups?
According to Mayo Clinic, hiccups are involuntary diaphragm contractions that happen when the organ contracts involuntarily at the same time the glottis closes. This contraction usually occurs when the nerve that runs to the diaphragm is irritated. Generally, human beings hiccup when they chew gum, drink carbonated beverages, or eat or drink too fast. In some cases, it can be a sign of an underlying condition. When it comes to felines, hiccups occur more often in kittens than adult cats, although there is no age limitation. Cat hiccups are somewhat tricky to identify because they do not sound like human hiccups. They sound like tiny consistent squeaks or chirps – like something is caught in their throats. Sometimes, you will also notice a spasm in their abdomens.
What Causes Cat Hiccups?
Like in human beings, hiccups in cats can primarily be attributed to overeating or eating too fast. If your cat is hiccupping, here are the three possible reasons why:
Cats lick themselves and their kittens – if they have any – as a way of grooming. Sometimes, their tongues rip out fur from their bodies which can then get stuck in their throat, forming hairballs. When a cat tries to cough up or loosen a hairball, it might end up getting hiccups. Hairballs are very irritating to the throat, so you cannot stop your cat from trying to dislodge them. The best you can do is try to minimize their occurrence by brushing them at least once a week or feeding them a cat-specific laxative lubricant.
2. Eating Too Quickly or Overeating
Overeating and eating too quickly are the most common cause of hiccups – in cats as in human beings. When your cat overeats, they may fail to chew their food properly and end up swallowing excess air. This air could irritate the diaphragm and lead to hiccups. The best solution to this problem is incorporating food puzzles into your cat’s meal times to encourage them to slow down. You should also feed them smaller portions spread out throughout the day.
While less common than the first two, anxiety can cause cat hiccups. If your cat is prone to separation anxiety, they can exhibit emotional distress signals like hiccupping. It is important to determine the cause of your cat’s anxiety and address it as soon as possible. One way to do this is to create a safe space for them, stick to a routine, and give them playtime. If all these interventions fail, you should consult your vet about anxiety medication.
How Long Should Cat Hiccups Last?
Typically, cat hiccups should go away on their own after a day or less. If your cat experiences hiccups for longer than a day, it could be a sign of a serious underlying problem like food allergies, foreign body ingestion, parasites, heart disease, a tumor, or asthma. This especially applies to older cats. If the hiccups have lasted too long or appear too frequently, you should have your cat checked by a vet.
Getting Rid of Cat Hiccups
Overall, food and water-related hiccups are normal, and there is very little you can do to make them go away. It is very possible to go overboard and harm your cat over a bout of hiccups that would have gone away on its own over time. Generally, you should strive to provide your cat with enough water and feed, then allow them the peace and quiet they need to feed. If your cat prefers running water, consider making a circulating fountain or tap available for them. However, you should not try to force them to drink water – or eat for that matter – unless you know what you are doing. In case your cat’s hiccups are caused by overeating or eating too fast, consider feeding them smaller portions spaced out over several hours. You can also raise their bowl after every few bites to force them to eat at a slower pace.
Another possible solution is to purchase an automatic feeder or puzzle feeder. These tools will help your cat slow down or eat smaller portions at a time. Alternatively, you can add a toy to your cat’s bowl to distract them during meals and prevent them from eating too fast. Ensure the toy is large enough not to be a choking hazard and clean. If your cat’s hiccups seem to be caused by hairballs, try changing their diet to prevent hair loss and hairball formation. Talk to your vet about meals that could help you achieve this goal, then incorporate them into your cat’s diet. You may also brush your cat once or twice a week to minimize the amount of hair they ingest during grooming. Lastly, if the cause of your cat’s hiccups is anxiety, the best solution is to determine the cause of the anxiety and address it. Give your cat some space if they are acting nervous, and try to establish a routine whenever you introduce them to new environments.
Should You Be Concerned About Cat Hiccups?
Generally, no. Cat hiccups, like human hiccups, are normal and will occur from time to time. They are usually nothing to worry about and tend to disappear on their own. However, if your cat’s hiccup bouts are extended or too frequent, there could be a cause for concern. Unusual hiccup durations could be a sign of an underlying problem, such as:
- Severe allergies
- Heart disease
- Foreign object ingestion
- Neurological disorders
- Organ disease
So, Do Cats Get Hiccups? Yes, they absolutely do. Most of the time, cat hiccups are not a cause for concern and will subside on their own. This is especially true for bouts caused by overeating, hairballs, or eating too fast. However, it is important to remember that cat hiccups should not last longer than a day, and if they do, you should consult your vet.
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