Cat Hiccups: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Russell Cargill

cat hiccups

Key takeaways:

  • Cat hiccups can be caused by eating too fast and swallowing air, hairballs, or throat irritation.
  • Differentiating normal hiccups from concerning hiccups can be determined by the duration, frequency, and presence of any accompanying symptoms.
  • It is important to seek veterinary attention if there are persistent or severe hiccups, as they may be a sign of underlying health issues.
  • Managing and preventing cat hiccups can be done by slowing down eating, reducing air ingestion, preventing hairballs and throat irritation, and creating a stress-free environment for your cat.
  • Monitoring your cat’s hiccups and overall health is essential for their well-being.

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.

Common Causes of Cat Hiccups

Cat hiccups can stem from various factors, including eating too fast, hairballs, throat irritation, or underlying health problems. Understanding these common causes is crucial in addressing feline hiccups effectively. Whether it’s a case of speedy eating or a symptom of an underlying issue, identifying the root cause ensures that appropriate measures can be taken to alleviate discomfort and promote overall feline well-being.

Eating too fast and swallowing air

Cats can get hiccups from eating too quickly and swallowing air. When they eat quickly, they take in too much air which causes involuntary contractions of their diaphragm. Fortunately, there are steps to help prevent this.

Here’s a 4-step guide:

  1. Slow down mealtime. Serve small portions of food at intervals to discourage rapid eating and reduce air intake.
  2. Use puzzle feeders. This will make cats work for their food and slow down their eating speed.
  3. Elevate food dishes. This will align your cat’s esophagus better with its stomach and help prevent air intake.
  4. Create a calm environment. During meals, ensure a peaceful atmosphere with no noise or disturbances to make your cat relaxed.

Also, note that rapid eating can cause other digestive issues like vomiting or regurgitation. So, it’s important to address this to prevent hiccups and maintain a healthy digestive system for your cat.

Hairballs and throat irritation

Hairballs and throat irritation are both common issues in cats. They groom themselves and swallow fur, which accumulates in their stomachs and forms hairballs. If these hairballs become too big or don’t pass through their digestive system, they can cause irritation and blockages. This leads to coughing, gagging, and hiccups.

Throat irritation can be from allergies, irritants in the environment like dust or smoke, infections, or respiratory conditions. These can cause soreness or inflammation in their throat, which brings on hiccups.

Hairballs and throat irritation can also lead to other health issues. Hairball blockages can cause vomiting, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, or intestinal blockage. Throat irritants can aggravate existing conditions or compromise respiratory health over time.

Cat owners should be proactive in managing these issues and seek veterinary attention if necessary. If your cat is hiccupping, it’s time to uncover their mystery melody.

Potential underlying health issues

Cat hiccups can sometimes be linked to health issues. Gastrointestinal issues, like gastritis or GERD, can cause diaphragm irritation and spasms. Respiratory infections or allergies can also cause hiccups due to inflammation and congestion. Nerve damage or seizures could also lead to hiccups, as they disrupt the diaphragm’s rhythmic contractions. Certain medications or toxins could affect the nerves and muscles, leading to hiccups. Stress and anxiety can also lead to hiccups, as cats’ muscles can spasm.

Consulting a vet is important to address underlying health issues. They may need to do blood work or imaging studies to identify conditions. Treatment options depend on the issue and may include medication to reduce inflammation or manage conditions.

Managing stress and creating a calm environment can help reduce hiccups. Make a safe space with comforting bedding and toys. Use pheromone sprays or diffusers to promote relaxation. Engage in regular playtime and exercise.

By addressing potential health issues and creating a stress-free environment, you can help alleviate cat hiccups and improve your pet’s well-being. Ask a vet for personalized advice and guidance.

Symptoms Of Cat Hiccups

cat hiccuping

Cat hiccups can sometimes be a cause for concern, but it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms to differentiate between normal and concerning hiccups. In this section, we will explore the duration, frequency, and accompanying symptoms to watch out for when your feline friend experiences hiccups. By being aware of these indicators, you can ensure the well-being and health of your beloved cat.

Differentiating normal hiccups from concerning hiccups

Telling Hiccups Apart in Cats – Normal Versus Concerning

Hiccups in cats can be normal. But distinguishing between normal and concerning hiccups is key. Normal hiccups are usually brief and occasional.

They may happen after a meal or drink. Generally, they are harmless.

Concerning hiccups may occur more often and last longer. This could be a sign of a health problem that needs attention.

Normal hiccups in cats usually don’t need medical help. They may show up after a cat eats or drinks quickly. That means they breathed in the air. These hiccups usually go away without help. But, concerning hiccups may be more intense and last longer.

This could mean a problem that needs vet help.

Other symptoms, along with hiccups, can help to tell if they are normal or concerning.

Normal hiccups in cats are usually just one event with no other signs of distress or discomfort.

If your cat has other signs of the hiccups, like breathing trouble, coughing, throwing up, or changes in appetite or behavior, it could be an underlying health issue. Take your cat to the vet for an evaluation.

It’s important to know the difference between normal and concerning hiccups in cats. If your cat has long-lasting or severe hiccups with other symptoms, get vet help.

Early detection and care can help figure out what’s causing the hiccups and get your cat back to feeling healthy.

The duration and frequency of hiccups

When it comes to hiccups in cats, there can be a range of times for their duration.

A hiccup may only last for seconds or a minute, but it could also persist for several minutes or longer. They can come and go intermittently throughout the day.

The frequency of the hiccup is also important to monitor. Cats may only experience hiccups occasionally, such as once every few days or weeks. Or, they may have hiccups multiple times within a day or even daily.

It’s important to take note of the duration and frequency of your cat’s hiccups.

Occasional and short-lived hiccups are generally considered normal, but persistent or frequent ones could indicate an underlying issue.

Therefore, it’s important to stay vigilant and proactive to ensure your feline companion’s health and well-being.

Any accompanying symptoms to watch out for

Is your cat’s hiccuping accompanied by something else? Pay attention! It may be due to a hairball or throat irritation, a respiratory problem, or digestive/gastrointestinal issues.

You should observe any accompanying symptoms. These may include:

  • Coughing or choking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting or regurgitation

Keep an eye out for changes in behavior or health while your cat has hiccups. This can help you decide if the hiccups are normal or if an underlying issue is present.

Seeking medical attention from a vet is advised if these symptoms persist or become more severe. Regular monitoring of your cat’s hiccups and overall health can ensure their well-being.

One cat owner took her pet to the vet due to hiccups accompanied by coughing. It turned out the cat had swallowed a small piece of string, resulting in an irritation in her throat.

If your cat’s hiccups sound like a pirate chorus, it’s time to make an appointment with the vet.

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.

Strategies to prevent hairballs and throat irritation

Preventing hairballs & throat irritation in cats is possible with these strategies!

  • Regular grooming & specialized diets help.
  • Increase hydration & use hairball remedies.
  • Provide environmental enrichment & regular vet visits.
  • Maintain a clean litter box & regular exercise.
  • Consider alternate products like natural supplements.
  • Create a stress-free environment for your cat.

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.

Can adult cats get hiccups?

Yes, adult cats can get hiccups, although they are more common in kittens.

What does a cat hiccup sound like?

Cat hiccups may sound different from human hiccups and are often described as a “chirp” sound.

What are some common causes of cat hiccups?

Possible causes of cat hiccups include eating too fast or too much, swallowing air or gas, having a hairball in their throat, or underlying health issues such as obesity, anxiety, or stress.

Should I be concerned if my cat has hiccups for more than a day?

If your cat’s hiccups last for a long period of time or happen frequently, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition, and it’s best to consult a vet for proper diagnosis.

How can I prevent cat hiccups?

To help prevent cat hiccups, you can try feeding your cat smaller portions, using slow feeders or activity feeders, ensuring they drink enough water, and making diet changes if necessary, with guidance from a veterinarian.

When should I seek veterinary attention for cat hiccups?

You should seek veterinary attention if your cat’s hiccups persist for a long time, become severe, are accompanied by other signs of sickness, or if your cat is an older cat experiencing sudden or frequent hiccups, as it may indicate a larger problem or underlying medical condition.

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