Cat Hiccups: Why Do They Happen And How To Stop Them
Christopher Kjolseth - December 9th, 2019
Accuracy Review & Edit: Nicole Wanner, DVM - August 3rd 2021
Charles Osborne started hiccupping in 1922, and he didn't stop until 1990, that's 68 years and approximately 430 million hiccups later. He is the current Guinness World Record holder for the longest attack of hiccups.
We will explore the possibility of cat hiccups and find out if your cat is likely to break this record.
Table Of Contents
Just like people and other mammals, cats too can get hiccups. Both cats and kittens can get hiccups, and it's quite common and very similar to when humans get a hiccup.
A hiccup happens with the diaphragm and muscles between the ribs contract suddenly and forcefully. The glottis (a flap that protects the airway while your cat swallows) then immediately closes, trapping air. These involuntary movements are thought to involve irritation of the nerve that runs to the diaphragm.
We're all familiar with how we sound when we get a hiccup, let's take a look at what a cat sounds like when it gets hiccups.
Anybody who has witnessed a cat hiccup knows that they do not always sound like a human hiccup, they make more of a subtle "gulp" or "chirp" sound. This video of a hiccupping cat is a great example:
The most likely culprit is your cat's appetite. Eating without chewing causes air to be swallowed, leading to hiccups. A phenomenon that you may have experienced yourself.
Another cause, one which we hope you haven't experienced, is hairballs. The irritation caused by hair in the throat can trigger a bout of hiccups. Like us, cats can also get hiccups without a clear cause.
Lastly, hiccups that last days or weeks may indicate a larger problem like asthma, parasites, or heart disease. It’s especially important to be on the lookout for these issues in older cats.
A well-known solution for stopping human hiccups is to be scared; we do not recommend that you attempt to scare your hiccupping cat, a better idea may be to offer them some water.
We think the best approach to cat hiccups is a preventative one. Slow your cats eating down by using a puzzle feeder, an automatic feeder, or by squishing the wet food down at the bottom of their bowl; when eating slowly, they are less likely to ingest air and suffer hiccups.
Try to reduce the occurrence of hairballs by regularly brushing your cat; when routinely done, cat grooming can be a relaxing experience for both parties. You can also discourage cat hiccups by avoiding anxiety-filled or new situations and making sure your cat doesn't encounter any swift temperature changes.
Most of the time, cat hiccups do not require veterinary attention, and you can assist by taking some preventative measures at home. If your cat is hiccupping very frequently or for long periods, it could potentially be a warning of a more serious health problem, and you will want to consult your veterinarian.
It's unlikely that your cat will break Charles Osborne's 68-year world record hiccup attack. Its also unlikely that they will require veterinary attention in all but the most severe cases of hiccups. If you do notice your furry friend hiccupping, it should suffice to take some preventative measures at home to help them avoid future hiccups.
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