Oh no, there he goes again! A hiccupping kitten is one of the cutest things around, but it can also be quite distressing for a concerned pet parent. It’s natural to want to keep your tiny new companion safe, so it doesn’t surprise me to hear a cat lover ask questions like “Why does my kitten hiccup?”, “is it normal?”, and “How can I make the hiccupping stop?”
Hiccups are completely normal for kittens. In fact, kittens begin to hiccup in the womb before they are even born. Theories suggest that the hiccups are a way for the developing kitten to exercise its respiratory system and related muscles.
What is a Hiccup?
First, let’s talk about what these strange sounds actually are. A hiccup is defined as an uncontrolled spasm of the diaphragm. This involuntary “twitch” causes inspiration (breathing in) of air that is quickly blocked by the closure of the glottis, part of the “voice box.”
The diaphragm is a muscle that separates the chest (heart and lungs) from the abdomen (contents of the belly including the stomach, liver, intestines and more). It enables the lungs to bring in air during inspiration.
In a normally breathing kitten, the diaphragm is pulled down toward the abdomen as the kitten inhales (breathes in) to allow room for air to go into the lungs. When a kitten exhales (breathes out), the diaphragm moves toward the chest and helps move air out of the lungs.
What Causes a Kitten to Hiccup?
Hiccups often occur throughout the day in healthy kittens. They can last for seconds to several minutes before suddenly stopping. Kittens will commonly hiccup after eating or drinking, especially if they do so quickly. Hiccups are also associated with being excited, nervous, or associated with hairballs. The theory is that the excitement can potentially increase the kitten’s breathing rate, which can stimulate the diaphragm. Eventually, most kittens grow out of their hiccupping habits, and the majority of adult cats seldom get hiccups.
What Should You Do When a Kitten is Hiccupping?
Hiccups are normal and not harmful. If your kitten is having hiccups that have continued for a prolonged period of time and you want to intervene, the best thing is to gently comfort your kitten. Don’t talk loudly or scold them in any way. Hiccups are a normal bodily function that your kitten can’t control, so don’t punish them for something that’s not their fault.
How to Stop Kitten Hiccups
What makes hiccups go away in kittens is much like what makes them go away in humans: that is, it differs between individuals, and the solutions aren’t consistently effective. Some suggestions for things to help halt kitten hiccups include:
- Water: Just like in humans, drinking water can halt hiccups in some kittens.
- Proper diet: Feeding a grain-free or low-grain diet can help some kittens.
- Moving around: Changing your kitten’s activity can sometimes halt hiccups. If your kitten is playing and running, cool down with a few quiet moments of cuddling. If your kitten is lazing around, try encouraging him to play.
- Distraction: Offering a new toy or changing the kitten’s mental focus will often halt hiccups.
- Slowing eating: Give smaller meals three to four times daily or use a special food bowl designed to prolong mealtimes.
- Looking for a pattern: Monitor when your kitten has hiccups and see if you can identify a pattern or influencing factor that causes hiccups in your kitten. Once identified, avoid those things and see if it makes a difference.
- Hairball treatments: Cats with long hair are prone to getting hairballs as are cats who constantly groom themselves. Some theories suggest hairballs can lead to hiccups. To help prevent hairball related hiccups keep your cat brushed and combed to reduce ingestion of hair.
I hope this article at helps you understand why kittens hiccup, what you can do to help your hiccupping kitty, and their role in natural, healthy cat behavior.