Why Your Cat Gags and What to Do About It

Cat Gagging

From meowing to yowling and from purring to coughing, cats make all kinds of noises. These noises are how they communicate with each other and their owners and also how they express their feelings. While there are some noises that you hear every day, there are other noises that your cat may make that you will not hear all that often. One such noise is gagging, and this noise is often accompanied by your cat making a twitching movement. While gagging is often nothing to worry about, it is also possibly a sign that something is wrong with your cat. To help you to understand this noise and behavior more thoroughly, here is an explanation of cat gagging and its causes.

What is Cat Gagging?

According to Catster, the gag reflex is a contraction of the throat muscles that is caused by stimulation of the pharynx. The gag reflex of cats is excellent as it is needed for survival. It is normal and healthy for a cat to gag if something harmful has entered their system or they are suffering from irritation. Gagging differs from coughing and sneezing as coughing is related to the lungs and sneezing is related to the nasal passages, whereas gagging relates to the throat.

What Does Cat Gagging Sound and Look Like?

Cat gagging sounds similar to the noise a human makes when they are retching prior to being sick. When a cat is gagging, they will often extend their neck and start swallowing. They will also widen their mouth and gagging is sometimes followed by vomiting.

What Are the Causes of Cat Gagging?

The most common cause of gagging in cats is hairballs. When cats groom themselves, they lick away some of their hair and this collects into a ball in their stomach. Eventually, the cat’s body will rid itself of the hairball by vomiting. As the hairball reaches their throat, it will cause the cat to gag. This is not serious as bringing up hairballs is normal cat behavior. However, if you are a new cat owner, it can appear alarming the first time you see you cat bringing up a hairball. Once the cat has brought up the hairball, the cat gagging should desist. Although hairballs are the most common cause of cat gagging, they are not the only reason why this happens and some of the causes are most serious. According to the Pet Health Network, foreign bodies are another major cause of cat gagging. This is usually a minor problem, but it can also become a serious problem depending on the object.

For example, if you cat has eaten grass and has a blade of grass lodged in their throat causing irritation, it will usually dislodge itself eventually and the cat will either swallow it cough it up. On the other hand, eating a bird or small animal and getting this lodged in their throat is a bigger problem as this may not dislodge on its own. This may require an emergency trip to the veterinarian to have the foreign body removed. It is sometimes possible for the vet to extract the foreign object using an instrument inserted via the cat’s throat, but surgery is sometimes necessary.

There are also several medical conditions that can cause cat gagging, says Wag Walking. If your cat is gagging, also known as dry heaving, on a regular basis, then it is possible that there is an underlying medical cause for this. One potential problem is kidney disease. This can cause vomiting or gagging if the cat has no stomach contents to vomit. There are many causes of kidney disease, and other symptoms of this condition to look out for include weakness and lethargy, increased urination, and itching.

Liver disease is another potential cause of cat gagging. Some other symptoms of liver disease include loss of appetite, weight loss, jaundice, circling, head pressing, distended abdomen, pale gums, and extreme thirst. A final potential cause of regular cat gagging is heart disease, and heart disease is common in cats. Problems associated with heart disease in addition to gagging include breathing difficulties, coughing, weakness, swollen abdomen, and irregular heart rate.

What Should I Do About Cat Gagging?

If the gagging is a one-off incident, then you do not need to do anything. It is likely that the case was a small foreign body that is now dislodged or that the cat is trying to bring up a hairball. If the gagging is a regular thing and no hairball is produced, then it is time to take it more seriously. This is especially the case if you notice any of the other symptoms listed that are associated with other causes. In that case, you should book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

What Will the Veterinarian Do About Cat Gagging?

The first step that a veterinarian will take is to thoroughly examine your cat and discuss their general health with you. They may then decide to conduct further tests. These may include an X-ray to look for foreign objects, bloodwork to check for signs of underlying conditions, and scans that can show problems with organs. Which tests the vet will conduct can vary from one cat to the next and will depend on what they find during the physical examination. Treatment will then depend on the findings of the tests.

Cat Gagging – The Final Verdict

Cat gagging is normal cat behavior that is caused by the gag reflex. In most cases, it is not serious and is a reaction to bringing up a hairball or a small foreign object irritating their pharynx. However, if cat gagging is a persistent problem, it is potentially a sign of something more serious, such as kidney, liver, or heart disease. Therefore, you may need to see the vet if this problem continues and they will conduct the necessary tests and decide the best course of treatment.


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