Do cats hiccup?

“Hic…hic…hic” that is the hiccupping sound you have made for the nth time. Cats, just like humans can hiccup too although the sound cats make is quite different from the hiccupping sound humans make. A cat owner would be amused if the cat lying on his lap would hiccup every few seconds. Hiccup is not really a serious concern but it is rather irritating. Cats would experience the same discomfort humans experience from a bout of hiccups.

The sound and the frequency of hiccup in cats may differ from human hiccup but it appears that the scientific reason for this involuntary action is the same. Synchronous diaphragmatic flutter is the medical term for hiccup. Hiccup is described as an involuntary action that is likened to catching a breath while sobbing. Hiccup occurs when the diaphragm muscles suddenly contract. Bouts of hiccup can occur in cats because these animals, like humans, have diaphragms too. Hiccups start from the diaphragm, the dome shaped structure at the bottom of the rib cage. The diaphragm has an important function in respiration. During inhalation the diaphragm contracts thereby enlarging the thoracic cavity and creating a suctioning effect that will pull air into the lungs. During exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes to allow air to flow out of the lungs and exit through the nose and mouth. Hiccup occurs from the involuntary contraction of the diaphragm muscles. For some reasons, the normal functioning of the diaphragm is disrupted. The diaphragm can be pulled down suddenly while air is being exhaled. Hiccup results when air suddenly hits the voice box.

It is normal for cats to get hiccups but when do these rather irritating involuntary action occur? What causes hiccups in cats? A full stomach is one of the causes of hiccups. Unlike dogs that would usually gulp the food, cats normally eat daintily. Cats though can also eat fast…can gulp food that are not thoroughly chewed. Eating too much or too quickly can irritate the diaphragm causing it to function abnormally. A bout of hiccupping can be triggered by a foreign object in the cat’s throat like fur ingested when the cat grooms. Hiccupping can be associated with the cat’s allergic reaction to dust and to other allergens present in the environment. An irritation of the nerves that extends from the cat’s neck to the throat is another reason for the hiccup. Hiccups are more common in kittens. Although rare, a hiccupping cat can have an underlying medical condition. Hiccupping can be caused by an anatomical problem on the cat’s throat. Chronic hiccup that persists for more than 3 hours would already require urgent medical attention especially if the energy level of the cat is affected due to shortness of breath and abdominal pain.

Hiccupping is not life threatening but we know how irritating hiccups can be. Although cats would appear to be unaffected by hiccup, owners would still want to help the pet. In most cases, hiccup would just go away after a while. We humans have several ways of getting rid of hiccups. One is to drink water from the wrong side of the glass. Holding the breath for ten counts and breathing in and out from a paper bag are other home remedies for hiccup. Needless to say, these tricks would be difficult to do on the cat. The cat cannot be forced to hold its breath or to use a paper bag to breathe in. Elevating the water and the food bowls will force the cat to eat slowly. A vet’s attention would be necessary if the hiccupping is attributed to the cat’s allergic reaction. Urgent medical attention must be given if the cat that has been hiccupping for quite a while appears distressed.