Hiccups may seem like a uniquely human affliction, but they can occur in many species. So, do cats get hiccups? Yes—cats can get hiccups! Hiccups are more common in kittens than adult cats, and are usually caused by overeating, eating too quickly, or hairballs. Learn more about what causes cat hiccups and when—if ever—you should be concerned.
What are hiccups?
Medically speaking, hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. In humans, hiccups are typically caused by drinking or eating too fast, drinking carbonated beverages or alcohol, smoking, or chewing gum. Sometimes, however, they can be a sign of underlying disease.
Why do cats get hiccups?
We’ve established that cats can get hiccups. Kittens are more likely to get hiccups than adult cats, although they can occur at any age. Cat hiccups don’t sound like human hiccups—instead, they often sound like small, consistent chirps or even squeaks. Or, you may only notice a slight spasm in your cat’s abdomen. So why do cats get hiccups?
Overeating or eating too quickly
Much the same as humans, the main reason cats get hiccups is overeating or eating too quickly. Your cat may not be chewing his food properly, causing him to swallow excess air. (This is also a common reason for your cat throwing up wet food or passing gas.)
How to help: Feed your cat smaller, more frequent meals, or use food puzzles to force your kitty to slow down while eating.
Another common cause of cats hiccuping? Hairballs! Your cat may be trying to loosen or cough up the fur that is irritating his throat after grooming, which can lead to hiccups. Learn more about hairballs and how to prevent them.
How to help: Brush your cat at least weekly or try hairball-specific food with higher fiber content. Veterinarians also recommend Laxatone, a tasty laxative “lubricant” for cats.
Less commonly, hiccups may be a sign of emotional distress in your cat. If your cat suffers from separation anxiety, for instance, he may exhibit stressed behaviors that manifest into odd physical symptoms.
How to help: Try to determine what’s causing your kitty’s anxiety. Treatment may include creating a safe space for your cat, providing daily playtime, sticking to a routine, and trying natural calming pheromones like Feliway. If all else fails, talk to your veterinarian about anxiety medication for cats.
When there’s cause for concern
Your cat’s hiccups should be short-lived, like your own. If your cat experiences prolonged or chronic hiccups, this may be a sign of underlying medical problems. Serious underlying causes of hiccups may include:
- Heart disease
- Organ disease
- Neurological disorders
- Foreign object ingestion
- Serious allergies
Furthermore, you’ll want to make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible if your cat’s hiccups are accompanied by wheezing, trouble breathing, or chronic coughing—as these could all be signs of cat asthma.
So, do cats get hiccups? Yes, they sure can. In most cases, your cat’s hiccups are not cause for alarm and will go away on their own. When in doubt, make an appointment with your veterinarian if you’re concerned about your kitty’s case of hiccups.
Cover photo by Lisa Algra on Unsplash