Cat Hiccups : Everything You Should Know

Imagine this scenario: you’re lounging on your couch watching your favorite Netflix binge-worthy series, and suddenly you hear something strange. Pausing your show, you listen carefully. The suspicious noise sounds like a cross between a chirp and a squeak, and it’s coming straight from your cat!

What is happening? Should you laugh?  Is she OK? Should you call the vet?

Before you shoot into alarm mode, consider this:

It’s probably just a case of the hiccups! You may have never thought about this before, but yes, cats can get hiccups, and no, they don’t sound like human hiccups. Cat hiccups sound more like a chirp, squeak, whine, or even a strange cough.

What Causes Cat Hiccups?

Cat hiccups are caused by the same factors as human hiccups! Hiccups are kind of hard to define, but according to Medical News Today, “When a hiccup is formed, it is due to the sudden, involuntary contraction of the diaphragm at the same time as the contraction of the voice box, or larynx, and complete closure of the glottis.”

Um, what? Let me translate…

Hiccups are simply spasms in the diaphragm (the muscle across the bottom of the rib cage) that cause abrupt breathing and strange sounds like a chirp, squeak, or even a whine. Kittens typically have more cases of hiccups than adult cats since they tend to eat rapidly and swallow a lot of air while eating, although as kittens grow, their eating patterns usually even out.

Hiccup spasms can have a variety of causes, mostly related to eating patterns.

1. Eating Too Quickly

The most common cause of hiccupping (in humans and cats!) is eating too fast. Some cats wolf down their dinner without thoroughly chewing it up, which causes them to swallow too much air, which causes hiccups.

2. Overeating

Another common cause of cat (and human) hiccups is overeating. It may be tempting always to have food available for your cat since most cats graze throughout the day. However, some overeat, which causes digestion issues and hiccups.  To prevent hiccups, make sure you don’t overfeed your cat.

3. Hairballs

Another common cause of cat hiccups is hairballs. The throat can become irritated as it is trying to dislodge the hairball, causing hiccups.

4. Emotional Problems

Yes, you read that right. Cats can experience emotional problems, such as separation anxiety, that manifest in physical ailments, such as hiccups. Other emotional problems that may cause hiccups are fear of being enclosed in a small space, fighting for territory or food, or the need for attention from a caregiver.

5. More Serious Causes

While these causes are less common, hiccups can be a sign of a more serious issue, including a tumor, heart disease, or parasites. If your cat’s hiccups don’t go away for longer than a day, you should take her to the veterinarian to make sure there is nothing bigger going on.

Are there Common Cures for Cat Hiccups?

Most hiccupping in cats is normal and goes away on its own. However, if you are concerned about the strange sounds coming from your cat and want to try to help alleviate her discomfort, try these tips:

Try to Figure out the “Why”

Do some detective work and ask yourself questions about your cat’s eating patterns:

  • Does he eat too fast every time you give him a can of meaty, salmon-favored food?
  • Does he overeat on occasions?
  • Does he frequently cough up hairballs?

If you can identify a potential cause, you can take steps to get rid of the hiccups. If your cat eats too fast or too much, try feeding him smaller portions on a raised platform so he will have to “work” to get his food, which may slow down his eating.

Also, switching to a limited ingredient diet (L.I.D.) can help. Some veterinarians say to feed your cat or a grain-free or low-grain diet to ease digestion issues.

If you think the hiccups may be caused by hairballs, try switching to food or gel that specializes in reducing hairball issues. Laxatone is a veterinarian-created lubricant that helps eliminate and prevent hairballs. You can also brush your cat to remove any loose hair that she may ingest while grooming.

Should I Use Human Hiccup Remedies for My Cat’s Hiccups?

You have probably heard some age-old hiccup remedies that some people swear by including “scaring” the hiccups away, holding your breath, and drinking water while lying upside down.

While there are some other ones that are more scientifically based like holding your breath, breathing into a paper bag, and drinking water, “human hiccup remedies” won’t work to cure cat hiccups for apparent reasons.

Should You Worry About Cat Hiccups?

Probably not, but keep an eye on her. If her hiccups last more than a day or occur several times within a week, you should seek out your veterinarian’s advice.

However, here are some factors that may require immediate veterinarian:

  • If a cough accompanies the hiccups, it could be a sign of a bacterial infection.
  • If your cat has hiccups and is staggering around with a poor sense of balance, it may be a sign of a serious condition.
  • If your cat is hiccupping while vomiting, she may have a digestive issue.

Basically, if the hiccups are in conjunction with any other symptom such as coughing, wheezing, vomiting, or lethargy, you should get her checked out.

The Bottom Line

Cat hiccups can be the result of something simple like overeating or something more serious, like a disease. It’s important to pay close attention to your cat to see if they go away on their own, which most of the time, they do.

So, let’s go back to our Netflix binge we started at the beginning. You’re watching your show, and out of nowhere, you hear a funny chirping sound coming from your cat. You decide it’s just hiccups. You laugh because, well, it’s funny. So you snuggle your kitty, watch your show together, because you know the hiccups will probably go away in an hour.

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Renee Whitmore is an American college professor and freelance writer from North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in English Education. When she is not driving her teenage son to wrestling practice or learning the ins and outs of Fortnite from her younger son, she is working on her first book to be published soon.

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