Cat Gagging Is Kitty Choking or Just Dramatic?

cat gagging

Does your curious kitty make dramatic gagging sounds that make you wonder if they’re choking or just being dramatic? Cat gagging can definitely be puzzling and concerning when you’re not sure what’s causing it or if your furball is OK. But don’t worry – this guide will cover all the possible reasons behind the gagging, how to tell if you should be concerned, and how to care for your gaggy feline friend. With some tips on addressing common causes like hairballs and foreign objects, as well as info on when to call the vet, you’ll be prepared to handle the situation next time your cat starts gagging up a storm. So let’s explore what might be going on when kitty gags and make sure your cat stays happy and healthy!

Is Your Cat Gagging? When to Be Concerned

If your cat seems to be gagging or retching frequently, it can be worrying. While occasional gagging is usually normal and nothing to fret over, persistent gagging can indicate an underlying health issue that requires veterinary care. As a cat owner, it’s important to understand the possible causes of gagging and know when you should have your feline friend checked out.

Possible Reasons for Cat Gagging

Hairballs: The most common cause of cat gagging is hairballs. As cats groom themselves, loose hair accumulates in their stomach. Gagging or retching is your cat’s way of trying to expel the hairball. Providing hairball remedies or lubricants and regular brushing can help.

Eating Something They Shouldn’t: Cats are naturally curious and may eat strange objects like string, rubber bands or toys which can get stuck in their throat or digestive tract, causing gagging or coughing. Seek immediate vet care if your cat is choking.

Respiratory Issues: Conditions like infections, allergies or asthma can irritate a cat’s throat and airways, leading to coughing, wheezing or gagging. Have your vet examine your cat if gagging is frequent or they show other symptoms.

Dental Problems: Painful teeth or gums can make eating uncomfortable, causing gagging or reluctance to eat. It’s a good idea to have your vet perform regular dental exams to check for any problems.

Gastrointestinal Upset: Nausea from conditions like gastritis or IBD may lead to vomiting, gagging or loss of appetite. If your cat is vomiting multiple times, seems lethargic or loses weight, they need to be checked by the vet.

When to Call the Vet

While occasional gagging is usually normal in cats, you should have your cat examined by the vet right away if they show any of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent or prolonged gagging episodes
  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Excessive drooling

Your vet can examine your cat, run any necessary tests and determine an appropriate treatment plan to resolve the underlying issue, whatever it may be, and get your feline friend back to good health.

Common Causes of Cat Gagging

Cat gagging can be alarming for pet owners to witness, but in many cases it’s due to normal feline behaviors. However, frequent or prolonged gagging episodes can indicate an underlying health issue and warrant a vet visit.


One of the most common causes of cat gagging and retching is hairballs. As cats groom themselves by licking their fur, loose hair accumulates in their stomach and intestinal tract. The cat will then gag or retch to expel the hairball. Providing hairball remedies or lubricants and regular brushing can help prevent excessive hairball formation.

Foreign Objects

Cats are naturally curious and may swallow foreign objects like string, toys or trash. These items can become stuck in the throat or digestive tract, causing gagging, coughing or even choking as the cat tries to clear the obstruction or expel the object. Seek immediate vet care if your cat is choking or unable to breathe properly.

Respiratory Issues

Respiratory infections, allergies or asthma can irritate a cat’s throat and airways, leading to gagging or coughing. The cat is trying to clear its throat. Have your vet examine your cat if gagging is accompanied by other symptoms like wheezing, difficulty breathing, or nasal discharge.

Dental Problems

Dental disease, infections or injuries can cause discomfort or pain in a cat’s mouth, making eating difficult and sometimes resulting in gagging. Excessive drooling or dropping food from the mouth are other possible signs of dental issues and require vet evaluation.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Conditions like gastritis, esophagitis or IBD can nauseate a cat or make swallowing painful. The cat may gag, vomit or show a reduced appetite. See your vet right away if your cat is lethargic, losing weight or has diarrhea in addition to frequent gagging. Tests like bloodwork, x-rays or endoscopy may be needed to determine the underlying cause.

With vigilance and prompt vet care when needed, most causes of cat gagging can be diagnosed and treated. By understanding common reasons for your cat’s gagging, you can take steps to keep your feline companion comfortable and address any health issues before they become serious. Please contact your vet if you have any concerns about your cat’s gagging or overall health.

Hairballs: The Usual Suspect for Kitty Retching

If your cat is gagging or retching frequently, hairballs are typically the culprit. As cats groom themselves, loose hair accumulates in their stomachs. When enough hair gathers, it forms into a ball that the cat tries to expel through gagging, coughing or vomiting. While occasional hairballs are normal and typically pass without issue, frequent episodes can be concerning and require veterinary care.

To help prevent and alleviate hairballs in your cat, try the following:

•Brush your cat regularly with a quality brush and comb to remove loose hair before it’s ingested. Aim for 2-3 brushing sessions per week for long-haired cats, 1-2 times for short-haired cats. Daily brushing is even better if your cat will tolerate it.

•Provide hairball remedy or lubricant according to the product directions. These petroleum-based gels help lubricate hairballs to aid their passage through the intestines. Offer the remedy when you notice your cat gagging frequently or see hairballs passed in the litter box.

•Increase fiber in your cat’s diet. Fiber helps stimulate intestinal movement to help pass hairballs. You can add a spoonful of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling), wheat bran, or ground flaxseed to your cat’s regular food 2-3 times a week. Be sure to start with a small amount and slowly increase the amount to avoid digestive upset.

•See your vet if gagging is frequent or severe, your cat shows difficulty breathing or swallowing, loses appetite or weight, or vomits blood. These can indicate hairballs have caused a blockage or other medical issue needing evaluation and treatment. Your vet may need to sedate your cat to remove hairballs that will not pass on their own.

With regular grooming, the proper diet, and hairball remedies as needed, you can help reduce gagging episodes in your cat and keep hairballs from causing bigger issues. Be attentive to your cat’s gagging and overall health, and don’t hesitate to call your vet with any concerns. Keeping hairballs under control will help ensure many healthy and happy years with your feline companion.

Other Culprits Behind Cat Gagging

Cat gagging can sometimes be caused by issues unrelated to hairballs or foreign objects. Two other possible culprits include:

Respiratory infections

Respiratory illnesses like bronchitis can inflame a cat’s throat and airways, causing discomfort that leads to gagging, coughing, or wheezing. Respiratory infections often come with other symptoms like lethargy, fever, or nasal discharge. If your cat is gagging frequently and showing other signs of illness, it’s best to have your vet examine them.

Dental problems

Pain or irritation from dental issues may cause excessive drooling, difficulty eating, or gagging in cats. Gum disease, tooth decay, or other dental injuries can make chewing painful. Your cat may gag when trying to eat or drink, or while grooming themselves. Take your cat to the vet right away for an exam if you notice red, swollen gums, broken or missing teeth. The vet can treat any dental problems and provide medication for pain relief so your cat can eat comfortably again.

To rule out dental issues or illness, gently examine your cat’s mouth for any abnormalities before assuming gagging is caused by hairballs or objects alone. Respiratory infections and dental problems require diagnosis and treatment by a vet to alleviate discomfort, avoid complications, and get your cat back to good health.

An occasional gag may not raise alarm, but if gagging persists for more than a couple of days, or your cat shows additional symptoms, it’s best to call your vet. They can determine if it’s a minor issue that may pass, or if your cat needs to be seen for an exam and diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment of infections or other problems are key to your cat’s wellbeing and long term health.

Your cat relies on you to notice when something seems off. Paying close attention to your cat’s behavior, eating habits, and the frequency or severity of gagging episodes will help ensure you get them proper care right away if a problem arises. By understanding potential causes of cat gagging beyond hairballs alone, you’ll be better equipped to determine when it warrants a call to your vet.

Foreign Objects and Gagging: Don’t Let Kitty Swallow That!

As curious as cats are, it’s no wonder they sometimes put things in their mouth they shouldn’t. String, hair ties, toy parts, and other small household items are common culprits for cat gagging and choking. Keep a close eye on your feline friend and be sure to cat-proof your home by picking up any loose items they could swallow.

If your cat gags or chokes after eating something they shouldn’t have, it’s critical to take them to the vet immediately. The foreign object could cause an intestinal blockage or laceration if swallowed, or become lodged in their throat, cutting off their airway. Either situation is life-threatening without prompt veterinary care.

Some signs your cat has swallowed a foreign object include:

• Gagging, choking or wheezing
• Pawing at their mouth
• Loss of appetite or difficulty eating
• Lethargy or weakness • Vomiting (especially if there are foreign items in the vomit)

To help prevent curious kitties from swallowing things they shouldn’t:

• Keep strings, hair ties, tinsel, and small toys out of reach. Cats can easily swallow things they bat around and chase.
• Provide interactive cat toys that are too big to swallow, like feather toys, laser pointers and scratching posts.
• Give your cat puzzle feeders and treat dispensing toys to keep them occupied. Bored cats are more prone to chewing and swallowing foreign objects.
• Keep trash, laundry, and sewing supplies secured in cabinets or closets.
• Consider using motion-activated air sprayers, double-sided tape or aluminum foil to deter cats from chewing on cords, plants or other household items.

By keeping a close eye on your cat and eliminating access to potential choking hazards and foreign objects, you can help ensure many happy and healthy years with your feline companion. If your cat does swallow something they shouldn’t, don’t delay in getting them proper veterinary care. Their life may depend on it!

Respiratory Issues Can Also Lead to Gagging

Respiratory infections, allergies, or asthma in cats can lead to an irritated throat and airways, causing gagging or coughing. As your cat tries to clear their throat, they may gag or retch. Some signs your cat may have a respiratory issue include:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Sneezing, especially in bursts
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth

If your cat is exhibiting these symptoms along with gagging, it’s best to have them checked out by the vet. Respiratory issues can become severe if left untreated.

Your vet may prescribe medications like bronchodilators, steroids, or antibiotics to reduce inflammation, open airways, and fight infection. They can also suggest ways to minimize allergens in the home environment that may be aggravating your cat’s condition. Making your cat comfortable will help speed their recovery, so be sure to:

•Keep them warm and hydrated. Offer extra food and water to keep energy levels up.

•Consider using a humidifier to moisten the air. A cool mist humidifier can relieve irritation in the throat and airways.

•Minimize stress. Keep a regular routine and give your cat extra love and affection. Stress can weaken the immune system and slow down healing.

•Limit activity. While exercise is important for health, too much activity can tax your cat’s respiratory system. Short, low-impact playtimes are best during recovery.

With treatment and care, most cats can recover well from respiratory issues. However, some may require lifelong management with medication and lifestyle changes to remain comfortable. Be attentive to your cat’s symptoms and breathing difficulties, and call your vet right away if their condition seems to worsen or they have trouble breathing. By understanding the causes and learning how to properly care for your gagging cat, you can help get them back to purring in no time.

How to Care for a Gagging Cat

If your cat has been gagging more frequently, it’s normal to feel concerned. While occasional gagging is usually nothing to worry about, if it’s persistent or severe, it’s a good idea to have your vet examine your feline friend. In the meantime, here are some steps you can take at home to help alleviate their discomfort and keep them happy.

First, make grooming a regular part of your cat’s routine. Brushing or combing their fur a few times a week can help reduce loose hair and cut down on hairballs, a common cause of gagging. You might also try a hairball remedy or lubricant, available at most pet stores. These can help hairballs and other foreign objects pass more easily through the digestive tract.

Check that there aren’t any toys, string, or other objects your cat could have swallowed. Cats are naturally curious, and anything they ingest can lead to gagging as they try to cough it up. Do a quick scan of the area where your cat eats and plays to ensure there’s nothing they could choke on.

If gagging is frequent, your cat may have an underlying condition like a respiratory infection, allergies, or gastrointestinal issue. Watch for other symptoms like changes in eating or drinking, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or difficulty breathing. See your vet right away if your cat shows these or other worrying signs in addition to persistent gagging. They can examine your cat, run tests if needed, and determine the best course of treatment.

With regular grooming, a safe environment, and prompt veterinary care when necessary, most cases of cat gagging can be managed well. However, if your cat’s gagging is severe or does not improve with home treatment within a couple of days, it’s best to have your vet examine them as soon as possible to be safe. Your cat’s health and comfort should be top priorities, so don’t hesitate to call the vet if you have any concerns.

Preventing Hairballs and Easing Kitty’s Gagging

Hairballs are one of the most common causes of gagging in cats. As your feline friend grooms themselves by licking their fur, loose hair accumulates in their stomach. The gagging occurs when they try to expel the hairball. To help prevent hairballs and reduce gagging episodes, regular grooming and hairball remedies can make a big difference.

Keep Kitty Well-Groomed

Make grooming your cat a regular part of their routine. Brushing them 2-3 times a week can remove loose hair before they ingest it, decreasing the likelihood of hairball formation. Slicker brushes, deshedding tools and grooming wipes/gloves are very effective. Your cat will appreciate the attention and massage, and you’ll have a lap full of fur instead of a gagging cat!

Offer Hairball Remedies

Commercial hairball remedies, pastes or lubricants containing petroleum jelly or laxatives help hairballs pass more easily through the digestive tract. You can find these over-the-counter at pet stores. Offer the recommended amount according to your cat’s weight, usually 1-2 times per week. These remedies are very safe and effective, and your cat will probably love the fishy flavor!

Provide Extra Water

Keeping your cat well-hydrated also helps facilitate the movement of hair and fur through their digestive system. Place multiple water bowls around the house and consider getting a pet fountain to encourage them to drink more. You can also add a bit of water or broth to their regular food. Every little bit helps!

With regular grooming, hairball remedies and keeping kitty hydrated, you should notice significantly less gagging and retching. However, if your cat’s gagging seems severe or persistent, or is accompanied by other symptoms, it’s best to have your vet examine them to determine if there are any underlying issues that require treatment. By understanding the causes of cat gagging and learning ways to prevent hairballs, you can keep your feline companion purring happily for years to come!

Cat Gagging FAQs: Your Top Questions Answered

Cat gagging can be alarming for pet owners, but it’s often a normal behavior or caused by a minor issue. However, frequent or severe gagging could indicate an underlying health problem and requires veterinary care. Here are the answers to your top questions about cat gagging.

Is cat gagging normal?

Occasional gagging, especially when coughing up hairballs, is typically normal behavior for cats. However, if your cat is gagging frequently, for prolonged periods, or showing other symptoms, it could signify an underlying issue and you should contact your vet.

What causes cat gagging?

There are several possible causes of cat gagging:
Hairballs: The most common cause. Cats groom themselves by licking their fur and swallow loose hair. Gagging helps cough up hairballs.
Respiratory infection: Upper respiratory infections can irritate the throat and airways, leading to gagging and coughing. Other signs include sneezing, nasal discharge, and lethargy.
Foreign object: Your cat may have swallowed a foreign object like string, toys or trash which can cause gagging, coughing or choking. Monitor your cat closely and contact your vet immediately if choking occurs.
Dental disease: Tooth or gum infections can cause pain or discomfort when eating, resulting in gagging. Your cat may drool or drop food from their mouth.
Gastrointestinal issue: Conditions like gastritis or IBD can lead to nausea, vomiting and gagging. Weight loss, diarrhea or loss of appetite may also occur.

When should I take my cat to the vet?

You should take your cat to the vet if they show any of the following symptoms:
Frequent gagging over multiple days
Difficulty breathing or wheezing
Lethargy or weakness
Loss of appetite or weight loss
Vomiting, drooling or diarrhea
Choking or coughing up blood
Your vet can examine your cat, run tests if needed, and determine the underlying cause of the gagging. They can then recommend treatment to relieve your cat’s discomfort and address any health issues.

How is cat gagging treated?

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your cat’s gagging. Some options include:
Hairball remedies to lubricate the digestive tract
Antibiotics for respiratory or gastrointestinal infections
Dental cleaning or tooth extractions for dental disease
Surgery to remove foreign objects
Dietary changes for gastrointestinal disorders
Allergy medication for environmental allergies
With prompt diagnosis and proper treatment, many causes of cat gagging can be managed well. Be sure to follow up with regular


So there you have it, cat gagging can be a concern for even the most seasoned cat owner. Whether it’s hairballs, foreign objects, respiratory issues, dental problems, or gastrointestinal disorders, understanding what’s causing your cat’s gagging is key. Keep an eye out for persistent or severe symptoms and don’t hesitate to call your vet. With attentive, loving care and regular grooming and hairball remedies, your fur baby’s gagging doesn’t have to cause chaos. Breathe easy knowing this behavior is common, but also know when to take action if things take a turn. We’re all in this cat parenting thing together!


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