Cat Hiccups

Sometimes cat hiccups can be cute and even funny, especially when your little kitten is trying to purr or eat her snack, only to be repeatedly interrupted by light little cat hiccups. However, if the cat hiccups continue for a long period of time and don’t stop, you may start to worry about your cat friend. In this article we’ll talk about why do cats hiccup, and what to do if the hiccups don’t stop.


Can cats get hiccups?

Yes, they certainly can. Just like other animals: dogs, horses, rats and people, cats and kittens may develop hiccups.

Why do cats get hiccups?

Modern science to this day doesn’t understand the exact reasons for hiccups (not just cat hiccups, but hiccups in general). Of course scientists know that hiccups are caused by the diaphragm (a strong muscular layer used in breathing that separates the chest and the abdomen). Contracts sharply – hiccups appear. However, scientists don’t know what makes diaphragm contract.

Reasons for cat hiccups

Vets suspect that there may be a several reasons for hiccups in both cats and dogs. Among them there are anxiety or stress, disruption of the central nervous system or he use immobilizing medication like anesthesia.

However, until scientists have a precise explanation, we know only that hiccups appear when the diaphragm shrinks. The sudden force of the diaphragm contraction pushes air up towards the closed vocal cords, which is what produces the hiccup sound.

What do cat hiccups sound like

Cat hiccups sounds different than human hiccups. Sometimes cat owners describe them more like a “chirp” sound than a normal hiccup sound. Some vets call cat hiccups “hiccough” but the meaning of “hiccough” and “hiccups” is the same.

It is very important to listen carefully how your cat (or kitten) hiccups, so you’ll be able to describe this sound to the vet. It would be a good idea to make audio or video recording of your cat making the hiccup sound and show it to veterinarian.

Video of cat hiccups

If you have never heard the sound of cat hiccups you may imagine that it look like hiccups in humans, but it sounds differently. How differently? Better to see on example. It this small video you can see an adult cat with hiccups.

Kittens usually have hiccups more often than adult cats, so in next video you may see kittens with hiccups.

Cat hiccups after eating

Sometimes a cat or kitten may begin to hiccup after eating. The most likely reason of such hiccups is that the cat is swallowing air along with the food. This is very common especially for kittens, because they are still nursing and the effort of suckling can sometimes draw in extra air.

Another reason of hiccups after eating may be in what your cat is eating. Some food may cause gas to form in the stomach or digestive tract, and the presence of this gas causes the hiccups as the air tries to escape back up and out through the mouth. So if your cat frequently hiccups after meals, it may be a signal to change his diets.

If the cat continues to hiccup after you change his diets, you should consult with vet. Cat hiccups may be the sign of some deeper problem: allergies, asthma or other breathing problems, parasites, bacterial infection, a tumor, a chronic gastrointestinal condition, inflammatory bowel disease, and other similar potential causes.

Cat hiccups when purring

Sometimes cat hiccups may be triggering by purring. However, in general hiccupping and purring starts from different areas of the body: the diaphragm and the brain/vocal cords, respectively.

Many people think that the cats purr only when they happy. Actually it is not so. For example sometimes cats purring when they are being examined at vet cabinet. And this is obviously not a time, when they are happy. So like the cat owner you should note anything else that seems unusual that may be related to the purring and hiccupping. Is your cat drinking and eating normally? How is everything in the litter box? Your job is to notice anything that may be out of the ordinary and your vet’s job is to put two and two together to help your cat feel better.

Cat Hiccups

Hiccups in older cats

Being an old cat is almost similar to being old human. Things start to wear out and stop working as perfectly as they worked before. For example your cat’s immune system may become more vulnerable to allergens and illness.

In general, the reasons for hiccups in older cats are no different from the reasons for hiccups in younger cats, but because your car is already in “respected” age, it is twice as important to have your veterinarian check for underlying potential causes ranging from allergies to hairballs to cancer.

How to get rid of cat hiccups

The exact answer on this question depends from the exact reason of cat hiccups. To find out the reason, try keeping a daily journal and note what happened just before the hiccups began. Your observation may help the vet to determine what causes hiccups to your cat.

For example, if the food you are feeding your cat may be causing gas, then you should try to change your cat’s diet (consult with vet for best cat diet). After it the hiccups should go away. Or if your cat is eating very quickly and swallowing too much air, invest in a slow feeder bowl or a treat ball to help him slow down at mealtime.

Sometimes hiccups may be caused by allergies or asthma. In this case in order to get rid of hiccups your cat will have to recover from the main disease – the true reason of hiccup.

How to prevent cat hiccups

Obviously hiccups are not pleasant thing and it would be better to prevent it or at least make it stop. But unfortunately as there is no way to prevent human hiccups, there is no way to prevent cat hiccups.

Help! My cat is hiccuping!

Many cat owners have at least one story about their cat hiccupping. Usually the problems with hiccups are resolved in short time. However, in cases when hiccups do not resolve quickly, it is time to take them seriously and give your veterinarian a call (or even a visit).

References and Further Reading

  • Howes, D., “Hiccups: a new explanation for the mysterious reflex,” Bioessays, 2012.
  • Kovner, A., “Why do we hiccup?,” IFL Science, 2018.
  • Kornreich, B., DVM, “Dyspnea,” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 2016.
  • Bailey, S., DVM, DABVP, “Retch, Heave, Yack, Gag N’ Hurl – What Do We Really Mean,” ECats Veterinary Hospital, 2016.
  • Nichol, J., DVM, “Cats Abdomen Jerks After Eating,” 2018.
  • Lyons, L.A., DVM, “Why Do Cats Purr?,” Scientific American, 2018.

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