We’ve all experienced our share of hiccups, but can cats get them, too? Have you ever noticed a behavior in your feline pal that seems similar to hiccups in humans? Is it really hiccups, or something else? Let’s take a look.
What a “Hiccup” Actually Is
When you hiccup, you’re experiencing a contraction of your diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle that sits between your lungs and stomach. When functioning normally, this muscle pulls downward when you inhale and relaxes to let air out as you exhale. The involuntary spasm of the diaphragm, which is what we know to be a ‘hiccup’, is the muscle’s reaction to an irritant.
This irritation actually occurs in the nerve that connects your diaphragm to your brain, which is why hiccups can be brought on by both physical and emotional factors. These causes and factors include:
- Eating too quickly
- Eating too much
- Drinking carbonated beverages
- Sudden changes in temperature
- Stress and anxiety
- Chewing gum
The noise you might hear when you hiccup is your vocal chords closing suddenly. Though only in rare cases, hiccups can also be a symptom of an underlying disease. So if these are the facts about human hiccups, is the same true for your cat?
Hiccups in Felines
Cats get hiccups in a similar way to and for similar reasons as humans. In felines, overeating or eating too quickly are the primary causes of hiccups. If food isn’t chewed properly, it can cause excess ingestion of air, which is what leads to the irritation and, in turn, the spasm of the diaphragm.
Anxiety is another cause of hiccups that humans and cats both experience. In some cases, emotional distress like discomfort or separation anxiety in your cat will lead to odd physical symptoms like hiccups.
However, there’s a common cause of hiccups in cats that humans don’t experience: hairballs. When cats groom themselves, they tend to ingest a hair or two as they use their tongues to clean their fur. The hairs can be irritating to your cat’s throat and the spasm can help them loosen or cough up the fur.
When to be Concerned About Your Cat’s Hiccups
If your cat’s bouts of hiccups are infrequent and short-lived, there’s typically nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if your feline pal seems to be getting hiccups frequently, or their bouts are lasting longer than usual, it could be a sign of a medical condition that should be treated by your cat care specialist. Some underlying conditions that may cause your cat to experience abnormal hiccups include:
- Organ disease
- Heart disease
- Neurological disorders
- Ingestion of a foreign object
- Severe allergies
Wondering if Your Cat’s Hiccups are Normal?
Hiccups are more common in young kittens than in older cats, but no matter your cats age, shape, or size, it can be concerning when you witness them experiencing hiccups for the first time. Whether your cat has been having more hiccups than usual or you’re simply trying to determine the cause of the spasms they are having, the veterinary specialists at Catonsville Cat Clinic can help. We know that when it comes to your cat’s health, you’d rather be safe than sorry, which is why we’re here to provide medical advice and cat care for pet owners throughout the area.
Reach out today to schedule an appointment.