Hiccups may sound funny and cute at first. However, having this for longer can be downright annoying.
This is so true for human hiccups, but is it the same for cats? Can cats get hiccups? Are cat hiccups a normal phenomenon, or is it something worthy of your concern?
Perhaps your cat is among the very few that have experienced hiccups. If so, stay tuned because Feline Living is here to give you the lowdown on cat hiccups – its causes, remedies, and more.
Geeky, Must-Know Facts About Hiccups (In Humans)
A hiccup is the involuntary flexing of the diaphragm – a muscle found beneath the rib cage between your chest and abdomen.
This muscle spasm forces air to be sucked into the throat, causing the sudden closure of the glottis (the opening that controls airflow). The unexpected movement in the vocal chords makes the distinguishing “hic” sound.
When it comes to hiccups, its use may remain unknown at this point, but everyone at one point in their life would have gone through it. Short bouts of hiccuping are completely normal.
What Makes Us Hiccup?
Often triggered by the irritation of the vagus nerve – a nerve that runs from the brain to the thorax, diaphragm, and abdomen – the most common cause of this irritation for humans is overeating or eating too fast.
Other reasons for this phenomenon include the following:
- Drinking soda or carbonated beverages
- Alcohol consumption
- Emotional distress
- Sudden changes in temp
- When you eat food and swallow air at the same time.
While most hiccups go away easy peasy, there are cases (although rare) wherein hiccups last more than three hours or even years (think Guinness World record holder Charles Osborne who had hiccups for 68 years). For a few, hiccups can even disrupt their eating and sleeping.
Long-term or chronic hiccups can signify a mild or severe underlying disease or health problem. This includes asthma, food allergies, nerve damage, and nervous system disorders like tumors and stroke.
Can Cats Get Hiccups?
Now that you know what hiccups are all about, pet parents are probably asking: Is there such a thing as cat hiccups?
The short answer here is yes.
Hiccups are experienced by humans and other mammals, including cats. In fact, it can happen to both young kittens and adult cats. However, it’s good to note that this type of irritation is usually seen in younger kittens than older cats.
How To Know If Cats Have Hiccups
Now, your cats may have been experiencing hiccups, but it’s possible that you missed it since it is hard to notice. This is because, unlike humans, a cat sounds different.
They usually let out a subtle “chirping” sound. Their heads may also move up and down while having a bout.
Possible Causes Of Cat Hiccups
Now that you know that cats get hiccups, you might as well know the common cause of hiccups in cats. Like humans, the causes can range from something mild to severe. And similar to humans, the common reason for hiccups in cats is speedy eating or overeating.
Like a cat’s canine counterpart, your cats tend to swallow without chewing their food properly. When this happens, the air is often swallowed simultaneously. This causes the diaphragm to jerk.
Apart from brisk eating, cat hiccups happen because of the following:
Yes, those yucky-looking wad of fur, aka “hairballs,” that your cat vomits is among the main culprits of hiccups. While your cat tries to cough out the fur off its throat, the hairballs can infuriate your cat’s throat and trigger a spasm.
Like humans, the cause of a cat’s hiccups can be emotional in nature (think stress and separation anxiety).
If your cat suffers from anxiety or other negative emotions, you might notice your cat pooping somewhere else instead of their litter box. Your cats can also be extra obsessive when it comes to grooming. Odd physical symptoms can also be observed, and this can include hiccups.
Underlying Health Conditions
While cat hiccups, in most cases, are caused by eating food quickly, hairballs, and negative emotions, the reason behind your cat’s hiccups can be something more serious. This is especially true for an older cat with hiccups for an extended period (say more than a day).
Here is a rundown of some of the possible root causes of your cat’s hiccups:
- Feline asthma
- Food allergies
- Inflamed bowel
- Foreign body ingestion
- Heart disease
What To Do To Avoid/Stop Cat Hiccups
Is your cat hiccuping? If yes, there’s no need to panic.
Although there are a lot of similarities between cat and human hiccups, the usual home remedies that we use to put a stop to it won’t work on your furry pals. If you wish to help your cat, try out the following tips, which we’ve divided into two.
General Hiccup Care Points
As pet owners, your cats’ health should be at the top of your priority list. This ensures that conditions like hiccups are kept at bay. The basic cat care practices include the following:
Make sure that your cat stays nourished
This does not mean that you have to force-feed your cat since this just makes it more stressful. Remember that stress can also cause hiccups. When it comes to food and water, just make sure that it’s available.
Some cats prefer running water, so having a water fountain might come in handy.
Keep your cats’ surroundings stress-free
Instead of scaring your cat (since this sometimes works for humans), give your cat some break and some quiet time.
Other Nifty Hiccup Remedies
Now, if your cat starts hiccupping and the above points fail, here are other ways worth trying:
Feed Your Cat Smaller Portions
Since eating food quickly or overeating is the most common cause, ensure to space out your cat’s feedings. You can also slow down your cat’s eating by doing the following:
- Place the food bowl somewhere that is a bit hard to reach.
- Putting a toy or any object in your cat’s food can also slow them down. Just make sure that the thing is clean and is large enough for your cat not to swallow.
Regular Cat Grooming
If your cat’s hiccup is hairball induced, then regularly brushing their fur might just work. Not only will this action reduce the hairballs, but it will also calm down your feline friend’s nerves.
Hairballs can also be minimized by changing your cat’s food and switching it to a diet specially made to manage hairball. Now, before you decide to change up your cat’s diet, it’s best if you contact your vet.
Seek The Help Of A Trusty Vet
If your cats get hiccups and the above cat care tips don’t work, consider the possibility of the hiccups being caused by an existing ailment like asthma or heart disease. Such cases would require veterinary attention.
Yes, cats can get hiccups, and most of the time, it’s not a cause for panic. However, you’d know if your hiccupping cat is in danger if your cat’s hiccup (which at times resembles coughing) is persistent. Your cat may also have trouble breathing. If this happens, contacting your vet is your best course of action.
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