Did you know that cats can hiccup, too? While it may be rare for you to see your cat hiccuping, it's actually completely normal for cats and kittens to experience hiccups, just like humans and all mammals. While your cat's little chirp may not sound like your hiccup, they are likely experiencing the same frustrating spasm. While hiccupping can be cute at times, cat hiccups that are frequent or suddenly happen multiple times a day may be the sign of a bigger problem.
Causes of Cat Hiccups
Just like in humans, hiccups are spasms in the diaphragm (a muscle across the bottom of the rib cage) that cause strange and abrupt breathing with unique sounds. They are more common for kittens than adult cats, but can happen at any age. These spasms could have a number of causes:
- The most common cause of hiccupping in cats is eating too fast. Cats have a habit of eating without chewing properly and swallowing a lot of air while they eat. In addition to hiccups, eating too quickly can cause stomach upset and vomiting.
- Overeating can also cause hiccups, just like in humans.
- Hairballs are another big cause of hiccupping for cats. If the throat is irritated by fur, the cat may try to loosen or cough up the hair with their throat muscles and cause hiccups.
- Hiccups, if sudden and chronic, could be a sign of a bigger problem, such as a tumor, organ disease, or even nerve problems. Especially if an old cat starts hiccupping like never before, it's worth a trip to the veterinarian to check for problems.
- Hiccups could also be a sign of an emotional problem, like separation anxiety.
- Sometimes coughing can be confused for hiccups, which can be the sign of a more dangerous problem. Coughing can be caused by allergies, tumors, asthma, heartworms, or something stuck in the cat's throat.
Symptoms of Cat Hiccups
If your cat is experiencing hiccups or coughing, they may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
- Making a squeaking noise when they breathe
- A spasm is visible in their abdomen, or sometimes it is so slight you can only feel it
- Wheezing or having trouble breathing
- Sounds like something is caught in their throat when they breathe
Treatment for Cats with Hiccups
Most hiccupping in cats is completely normal and will go away on its own, just like in humans. Even if it happens frequently, it may only be the result of eating too fast. If you've made changes to feeding and hiccups continue, start investigating and treating other possible causes, starting with treating hairballs, and talk with your veterinarian about the problem. It may help your vet understand better if you can bring a video of the hiccupping in action.
- To treat eating too fast or overeating, feed your cat in smaller portions and put their bowl on a raised platform so that it's more difficult to get to the food, which will slow down eating.
- If hiccupping is due to hairballs, there are a variety of foods and gels you can give your cat to reduce hairball problems. You can also brush your cat more often to remove loose fur they might ingest while cleaning. If your cat seems to be suffering from a difficult hairball for several days or is having trouble breathing, go to the veterinarian to ensure it isn't stuck in your cat's throat.
- If hiccups are sudden, last for days, or seem to be distressing or hurting the cat, it is time to check with the veterinarian and make sure it is not a symptom of a bigger problem. Some throat injuries can be corrected by a vet, but if it is a sign of asthma, tumors, or heart disease, treatment should be started as soon as possible.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.