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Evolutionary biologists have theorized that hiccups can be traced back to the time humans had fins and gills instead of legs and lungs. Another species that faces the annoying and frustrating problem of hiccups are cats. In this article, we will be looking at how to identify cat hiccups, what they sound like, if there is a link to heart disease, and how to stop cat hiccups.

While it is rare, cats do hiccup from time to time. It is completely normal and natural for cats to hiccup since most bouts of hiccups are benign. However, if the hiccups are very severe and prolonged a vet should be consulted for safety. Kittens are more susceptible to experiencing hiccups than adult cats. Though cat hiccups sound very adorable, some can be signs of an underlying disease or illness.

Cat Hiccups

What Do Cats Hiccups Sound Like?

Cat hiccups do not resemble human hiccups at all. Cats make a chirping noise when they hiccup. Their hiccups sound more like coughs than hiccups. This makes it very difficult to distinguish whether the cat is experiencing hiccups or is simply coughing. Cats may also make a squeaking noise when they breathe if they are experiencing hiccups, they may also wheeze or have difficulty breathing.

This is why it is important for pet owners to listen closely to their cats when they make odd noises so that they can describe it to the veterinarian as accurately as possible. The best course of action is to make an audio or video clip whenever a cat makes these noises so that they can be played back for the veterinarian.

What Causes Hiccups In Cats?

A hiccup is formed because of a sudden and involuntary contraction of the diaphragm, which is a muscular layer that lies at the bottom of the rib cage, at the same time as the larynx experiences a contraction. Such contractions of the diaphragm are usually caused by the disruption of it’s usual patterns and breathing rhythm.

The most common cause of cat hiccups is that cats tend to wolf down their food. Cats eat without chewing their food properly, swallowing a lot of excess air.

How to deal with cat hiccups

Hairballs may also cause hiccupping in cats. When the cat’s throat is irritated by the fur, the cat may attempt to dislodge the furball using their throat muscles which may cause the hiccups due to the strain.

Hiccups may be caused by mental distress as well. Hence, emotional problems like separation anxiety may cause a bout of hiccups that may occur very frequently.

However, these are not the only reasons that may cause a cat to hiccup. Asthmatic cats may also experience hiccups during asthma attacks since their breathing patterns tend to go haywire during such attacks.

What To Do About Cat Hiccups?

Most bouts of hiccups are completely normal and go away on their own in no longer than a day. However, there are some remedies pet owners can use such as:

To treat hiccups that are caused by overeating or eating too fast, cats should be fed smaller portions. The bowl which they eat out of should also be raised so that it takes more effort to reach the food, slowing down the rate at which they eat it.

If the hiccups happen due to the ingestion of hairballs, there are many diets, supplements, and gels that can be used to reduce the hairball problems. Brushing the cat’s hair can remove loose fur which they might accidentally ingest while cleaning themselves. If the cat seems to have difficulty breathing because of a hairball that is lodged in its throat, it is advisable to go a veterinarian to make sure that the hairball doesn’t get stuck in the cat’s throat.

Like in humans, drinking water can help stop hiccups.

A change in the cat’s activities can also help stop the hiccups. If the cat is playing and running around a lot, a few moments to cool down can help with the hiccups. Similarly, if the cat is very lazy, some exercise may also be the solution to getting rid of the hiccups.

Monitoring the cat’s bouts of hiccups can help identify a pattern or find things that trigger the hiccups. This can make avoiding such things easier in the future.

Certain foods may cause gas which in turn may lead to hiccups. Providing the cat with a limited ingredient diet (L.I.D.) can help. The cat can also be fed a grain-free or low-grain diet to ease digestion and prevent gas.

Though these remedies can help, there is no surefire way to cure or prevent hiccups in cats. And if hiccups last for too long it is always good to consult a vet.

cats and hiccups

New-born Kitten Hiccups

Kittens are more prone to hiccups because of the pace at which they eat food. They eat rapidly, swallowing a lot of excess air which disrupts the diaphragm’s rhythm, causing them to have hiccups. However, as the kittens get older, they tend to grow out of such eating habits, which is when the frequency of hiccups also takes a dip.

Like humans, the aging process takes a toll on cats as well. Their bodies begin to wear out and not everything works as well as before. A cat’s immune system becomes much weaker as they get old, making them susceptible to allergens and illnesses. Usually, the reason for hiccups does not differ much between younger and older cats. But older cats may have underlying conditions which cause them to hiccup, which is why if they experience hiccups for an extended period of time, they should be taken to a veterinarian. Hiccuping maybe a sign of asthma or the formation of allergies in older cats.

Cat Hiccups & Heart Disease

Though the research on hiccups is not as extensive or as complete as some other symptoms of known diseases, hiccups have been linked to a few types of diseases, the gravest being heart disease.  As established before, hiccups are caused by spasms in the diaphragm, the muscle which controls breathing. These spasms are usually caused by something the cat does, like eating too fast or attempting to cough out a hairball. However, sometimes hiccups may be a symptom of a much more serious underlying condition.

cat hiccup

Problems in the respiratory and circulatory systems may also be the cause of hiccups. The most common heart disease that presents itself in felines is cardiac myopathy, a disease where the muscular walls of the heart thicken. This, in turn, reduces the amount of blood that is pumped to the organs. Due to this problem, the cat usually ends up taking labored breaths which causes it to swallow a lot of excess air, much more than it actually needs. This ingestion of excess air causes hiccups.

Hence, it is always a good idea to check if a cat is hiccupping too frequently and if it is, the car should be immediately taken to the vet. Congestive heart failure, where there is a compromise to the blood flow to and from the heart may also cause disruptions in the diaphragm and the cat’s usual breathing rhythms. This may lead to frequent hiccupping and wheezing.

However, it is to be noted that not all bouts of hiccups are cause for alarm. Most of them are natural and subside in some time, lasting for a day at best. However, hiccups that last for more than a day should always be taken seriously even if the vet, later on, diagnoses them as being benign.

Conclusion

Hiccups are yet another thing that cats share with their human companions. They are normal for kittens, as well as fully-grown cats. Seldom is a bout of hiccups a sign of ill health or sickness. Yet, veterinarians advise pet owners to keep an eye on their cats when they hiccup.

Though they are usually associated with eating problems or hairballs, hiccupping bouts that last for very long can be a cause for concern. Anything that lasts longer than a day or occurs every few hours warrants a trip to the veterinarian’s office for a check-up.

Pet owners should keep a check on their cat’s hiccups and monitor them carefully. This information should also be conveyed to the vet to help them put two and two together and determine whether the hiccups are a problem or not. Hiccups by themselves are not a very big problem but if they are representative of something that is serious, they should be treated with caution. It is very important to know whether the cat is hiccupping, wheezing or retching as all of those may come with their own set of problems. All in all, it is a good idea for pet owners to observe what their cats are doing and whether they are acting normally or exhibiting signs of ill health. After all, no one wants to have the feline counterpart of Charles Osbourne, the man who suffered from hiccups for 68 years in a row.

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