Ah, cats. Strange creatures, aren’t they? It seems every time I turn around my feline is doing something weird and making me laugh a little more than I should. Take hiccups, for example. Hilarious. So hilarious, in fact, that I find myself unable to do anything about it other than laugh.
Maybe I’m a cruel human, maybe I have a sick sense of humour, maybe I should spend more time asking myself ‘why do cats get hiccups?’ and less time giggling my ass off about it.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of watching a poor, helpless kitty fight an attack of the hiccups, allow me to introduce you to this little guy named Panda…
I know I shouldn’t laugh. Sparrow’s asthma is no joking matter, and anything that goes on with his throat or his breathing should be taken seriously. It’s just really hard for me to do that sometimes.
Anyway. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s all stop laughing and get serious about poor little Panda’s predicament.
What is a Hiccup?
We’ve all had hiccups, but probably haven’t thought too much about what’s actually going on there. All hiccups begin with the diaphragm muscle. In its normal working state, the diaphragm muscle pulls air down into the lungs when we inhale, and relaxes to allow air back out when we exhale.
A hiccup is the sudden, involuntary contraction of the diaphragm muscle, usually caused by some kind of irritation. As this muscle contracts, air rushing in causes the opening between the vocal chords to snap shut as a way of checking the air intake and this is what causes that hilarious sound.
Animals of all species can be annoyed by hiccups from time to time. Hiccups do not discriminate – anyone who has this kind of breathing system is susceptible and while they’re not necessarily dangerous, hiccups can be really freaking irritating. And funny.
Why Do Cats Get Hiccups?
Probably the funniest thing about hiccups is that they appear to have no useful purpose, other than making us laugh. Unlike a cough or a sneeze, it’s not the body’s way of getting rid of anything and they are usually not a cause for concern.
Cats hiccups are more common in little kittens than adult cats and are often barely noticeable. These little muscle spasms are so slight that you might not even see them unless you’re really paying attention. A cat hiccup might sound like a tiny little chirp and might make you fall off your chair laughing. Or is that just me?
Common causes of hiccups in cats may include:
Just like in humans, eating too fast and not chewing properly can cause your kitty to swallow a lot of air. Usually, this will cause cats to vom, but if you’re lucky you’ll get a case of hiccups instead. Much easier to clean up.
That one little irritating hair getting stuck in the throat can cause no end of amusement…I mean hiccuping. Sometimes cats will try to cough that hair out and end up with a case of the hics instead.
Separation anxiety, emotional distress, fear, panic or any kind of stress can sometimes cause your cat to hiccup. Troubled kitties can develop hiccups out of the blue due to minor stress or major upheaval.
Hiccups can be caused by a number of health issues including allergies, tumours, heartworms and asthma. Sometimes hiccups of this nature can be mistaken for coughing.
Can You Stop Laughing Long Enough To Fix it?
I know I can’t. Most of the time cat hiccups are harmless and will pass on their own. Depending on what’s causing your cat to hiccup, there are a few things you can do to prevent these episodes in the first place:
If it’s a food issue…
Try feeding your cat smaller, more frequent meals and if you have more than one cat try feeding them in separate rooms so they’re not racing to finish first and help the other out. A raised bowl can help to slow your gobbler down and give him a better angle for swallowing.
If it’s a hairball issue…
Frequent brushing will help get rid of the loose hairs that get stuck in kitty’s throat. This is especially important for long-haired cats and also for asthma cats, who have enough trouble in the throat area to begin with. Natural remedies for hairballs, such as coconut oil are great, but if this is an ongoing problem please visit your vet to make sure the hairball is not stuck in your fluffball’s throat.
If your cat has mental problems…
Psychology might not be the answer, especially if your cat doesn’t speak English. Really, all cats have some kind of mental problem – why else would they be so strange? Environmental enrichment, routine and plenty of TLC will work wonders for keeping your kitty emotionally stable. If you find your cat needs more help, products such as Rescue Remedy or Feliway are my great go-to cat calmers.
If your cat has health problems…
Hiccups are generally harmless, but if they last for days or seem to be overly distressing for your cat, they could be a sign of a bigger problem. If your cat is hiccuping and showing other signs of sickness, please arrange a visit with your vet.
If The Hic Won’t Stop
As with any strange behaviour that your feline friend might be displaying, it’s important to keep an eye on things just to make sure there isn’t a bigger problem at play. Even something as minor and entertaining as hiccups should be noted, just in case something bigger comes of it. Your vet will have a much easier time figuring out what’s wrong if you can give good, detailed information.
Asthma cats are especially sensitive little critters, so even though hiccuping may be harmless, it’s a sign of some kind of irritation. If you take a few simple steps to eliminate whatever’s causing the irritation the hiccups may just go away…and then you’ll have to find something else to laugh at.
Got a hiccuping cat? Do you find it as entertaining as I do? Head to the comments and share your thoughts!