Cat Hiccups | Everything You Need To Know About Why They Happen

cat hiccups

Cat Hiccups | Everything You Need To Know About Why They Happen

Ever wondered if cat hiccups are a thing, or is your cat just making some sort of mockery of you?

Can cats really get the hiccups?

Like us, cats can go through a bout of hiccups and recover just fine on their own and it’s usually nothing to worry about.


That’s right, just because cats hiccup doesn’t always mean you should turn a blind eye to your cat’s hiccups as they can on occasion, be a medical condition. 

Let’s take a closer look at why cats hiccup below.

Do Cats Get Hiccups? 

Yes, hiccups, or hiccoughs, are normal in cats and kittens. A hiccup is caused by a cat’s diaphragm contracting strongly when it is irritated by something. 

“Synchronized diaphragmatic flutter” is the technical term.

Causes Of Cat Hiccups

Generally, hiccups are caused by an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm simultaneously with the glottis closing. This happens because the nerve connecting the diaphragm gets irritated by something. 

The diaphragm is located behind the lungs at the end of the rib cage, which normally acts as a separating membrane.

A number of conditions, like intestinal parasites, heartworm disease, feline asthma, heart disease, cancer, food allergies, and even foreign body ingestion, can cause irritation to the nerve supplies to the diaphragm, which can ultimately result in chronic hiccups.

If a cat has been hiccuping for an extended period of time, especially if it is an older cat, this could indicate a more serious health problem, such as asthma, a tumor, heart disease, parasites, foreign bodies, or food allergies.

  • A cat hiccup is most likely due to eating too fast. During mealtimes, cats often swallow a lot of air, which results in them not chewing properly. Aside from causing hiccups, eating too quickly can also lead to stomach upset and vomiting.
  • Just like in humans, eating too much can cause hiccups.
  • Other causes of hiccups for cats include hairballs. Fur may cause the cat to cough up loose hair if the throat is irritated, which will lead to hiccups.
  • Chronic or sudden hiccups may be a sign of a larger issue, such as a tumor, organ disease, or even nerve problems. It’s worth taking an old cat to the veterinarian if it suddenly starts hiccupping like never before.
  • There are also times when hiccups can be a sign of emotional problems, such as separation anxiety.
  • Hiccups can sometimes be mistaken for coughing, which can be a sign of a serious medical problem. Allergic reactions, tumors, asthma, heartworms, and something stuck in a cat’s throat can all cause coughing.

Generally speaking, hiccups are not a cause for worry in cats and are a normal occurrence. 

Symptoms Of Cat Hiccups

cat hiccuping

Hiccups in cats may be hard to recognize because they sound different from those in humans or dogs.

Unlike the classic hiccupping sound, a cat hiccup sounds more like a chirp. Cats rarely suffer from hiccups, but if you notice that your cat suddenly starts doing it, or if more hiccups are happening than usual, then you should seek veterinary attention.

You may notice any of the following symptoms in your cat when they have the hiccups:

  • They squeak when they breathe
  • Their abdomen shows signs of spasm, or sometimes you feel it but cannot see it
  • Breathing difficulties or wheezing
  • When they breathe, it sounds as if something is caught in their throat

Treatment For Cat Hiccups

If it’s just a case of the common hiccups then the only real remedy for cats is to just wait to let it pass. 

With that said, often the best cure is prevention. 

Below are tips on how to treat common hiccup symptoms and reduce their frequency. 

  • If your cat is eating too much and is overeating, feed them smaller portions and place their bowl on a raised platform. You can also switch out a normal cat bowl for a slow feeding cat bowl
  • Hairballs usually lead to hiccups, but there are various foods and gels that you can feed your cat to reduce the problem. Additionally, using a good cat brush to help remove loose fur from their coat reduces the amount of hair they ingest.
  • Whenever a cat exhibits sudden hiccups that last for weeks, or seems to suffer from discomfort, it’s time to consult with a veterinarian. Find out whether the symptom is due to a larger underlying issue. An animal’s throat can be treated by a veterinarian in some cases, but it might be an indication of heart disease, asthma, or tumors if it is caused by these conditions.

More Tips On How To Prevent Cat Hiccups

In order to best prevent cat hiccups you must first identify what might be causing them. For example, if you think hairballs are the issue, set a good grooming routine and make sure their food isn’t a contributing factor. 

Certain foods can help reduce hairballs, however, grooming is far more effective.

1. Hydration Is Key

Don’t limit your cat’s access to water to mealtimes. Provide fresh drinking water throughout the day. If you do this, your cat will be able to digest his or her food more effectively, while reducing the chance of hiccups occurring or alleviating them once they begin. 

It’s a good idea to separate your cats drinking water from their food bowl. Cats have a natural instinct to avoid still water near their food to avoid ingesting any potential bacteria that might be in the water.

You’ll find that some cats, if not most, prefer to drink water that’s flowing or moving. This explains why cats jump up on our kitchen bench when the taps are running.

If this sounds like your cat, you should invest in a cat drinking fountain. They are relatively inexpensive and can help avoid your cat becoming dehydrated.   

2. Give Them Smaller Meals

For cats who overeat or eat too quickly, giving them smaller meals more frequently may be helpful. Certain cats may benefit from puzzle feeders and bowls designed to slow down their eating. 

In addition to slowing them down, this also stimulates their natural ‘hunting’ skills and makes mealtime a little more interesting.

3.Slow Down Quick Eaters

Hiccups can be caused by air being swallowed while eating, irritating the phrenic nerve close to the diaphragm. It is more likely that a cat that gulps his food down will swallow air with the food and irritate their diaphragm.

The biggest challenge with some cats is that they are so greedy that they eat way too fast. It is possible for cats who feel unsafe while eating, due to other feline friends competing with them or because other pets or children are interfering with their feed time, to bolt their food.

Is your cat worried about other animals or cats when he or she eats? Do other cats try to steal his or her food? Will changing their surroundings lessen competition between cats who eat the same food? 

If possible, feed cats in different parts of the house or elevate them off the ground far from other pets.

4. Give Them Bite Size Pieces So They Can Chew Properly

Since cats swallow food without chewing it, they produce less saliva, causing their stomachs to fill up rapidly and causing hiccups. Cat food comes in many different shapes and textures, especially dry kibble. 

Small kibbles might be preferred by some cats, while larger chunks requiring more chewing may be preferred by others. 

Individuals might need to try a few different types as their cats get older, and you may have to experiment with a few different kinds until you find the right one for your cat!

This may be of concern if you notice your cat no longer chews its food as much as normal, or if they are eating differently. It may affect the way they eat food if they are suffering from a sore throat or dental disease. 

Having regular checkups with a veterinarian can help detect dental disease and other problems early. Consult a Veterinary professional whenever you notice changes in your cat’s eating habits.

5. Did You Know That Purring Can Cause Hiccups? 

It sounds crazy but hiccups in cats can sometimes be triggered by purring. There’s no prevention for this but it’s good to know. 

The saliva that cats produce during purring is often swallowed with air (we’ve all seen a little cat dribble when we pet our furry friends!) However, there is no reason why they can’t swallow more saliva during other times of the day. 

Although purring is often the sign of a contented, happy cat, it is important to keep in mind that not all cats purr because they are happy. 

Click the link to an article I wrote on reasons why cats purr.  

6. Real Medical Problems

Infections of the digestive tract, inflammation, and food allergies can all increase gas production. 

Regular bouts of hiccups can be caused by this irritated stomach and diaphragm. 

Changing appetites, changing weight, and changing stools could also indicate a need for further examinations by the vet.

How Long Should ‘Normal’ Cat Hiccups Last?

Hiccups usually last for a day or so and then disappear on their own. Cat hiccups after eating can be an indicator that a cat is eating too fast or too much, but still needs to be monitored. 

Veterinary attention should be sought if something lasts for a long time or occurs frequently.”

What To Do If Your Cat Gets Hiccups?

In most cases, hiccuping is not a cause for concern and you don’t need to do anything to treat it.

The hiccups usually go away on their own when a cat occasionally gets them because they usually occur spontaneously. 

If hiccups persist longer than one day, are severe, occur daily, or are accompanied by additional symptoms of sickness, such as vomiting, drooling, weight loss, loss of appetite, seizures or tremors, then you should see your vet.

When To Be Concerned About Your Cats Hiccups? 

Typically, you shouldn’t be alarmed if your cat has a few hiccups every now and then. 

Alternatively, if your cat seems to have hiccups quite often or for a longer period of time than normal, that may indicate a medical problem that should be addressed by your cat care specialist. 

Your cat may experience abnormal hiccups because of the following underlying conditions:

  • Organ disease
  • Heart disease
  • Tumors
  • Neurological disorders
  • Ingestion of a foreign object
  • Severe allergies
  • Parasites

Let’s Wrap This Up

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of cat hiccups now. 

In general, we are able to internally giggle when our kitty gets a small hiccup. It’s usually nothing to worry about. 

When you observe your cat experiencing hiccups for the very first time, regardless of their age, shape, or size, it can be concerning, especially if they are young. 

The important thing is to remain calm. Try to record your cat experiencing a hiccup and get them to a vet if you are worried.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do when my cat has hiccups?

The majority of cat hiccups are self-resolving, so pet parents don’t have to do anything. 

If hiccups persist more than one day, are severe, occur daily, or range from vomiting to drooling, weight loss to appetite loss, seizures, tremors, and lethargy, intervention may be required.

Why does a cat get hiccups?

The occasional hiccup is normal for cats of all ages. There are several causes of cat hiccups in older cats, including eating too fast, gulping air, intestinal parasites, heartworm disease, asthma, cancer, food allergies, and ingestion of a foreign object. 

Can hiccups be harmful?

They are generally harmless. When cats are older they are more likely to get hiccups from gulping air or have hairballs when they eat too fast. 

You can also get cat hiccups from intestinal parasites, heartworm disease, feline asthma, heart disease, cancer, food allergies, or ingestion of a foreign body.