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Why is My Cat Gagging?

Most cat parents have had the experience of seeing their fur baby gag. It can be scary to watch them, as it looks very serious as it is happening. It is normal for cats to gag now and then. However, if the gagging persists, it could signify a serious issue.

Your cat gagging can often be attributed to having hairballs, especially if your cat is an avid groomer. Gagging could also signify a situation requiring a trip to the emergency vet. Your cat may be gagging because they have a blockage in their throat or rear.  

A cat gagging now and then is not a serious issue, but if it is consistent and other symptoms are present, you may need to take your cat to the vet. If you want to know more about why your cat is gagging, take a look at this article.

Funny British Shorthair Cat Portrait Looking Shocked Or Surprised

What Causes a Cat to Gag?

When your cat is gagging, it is normal to be concerned and want to help. There are numerous possible explanations why your cat could be gagging.


The most common reason a cat may gag is that they have a hairball. If a cat is gagging on a hairball, they will cough it up most of the time. However, it may take several tries before that occurs. Hairballs tend to accumulate in the stomach. Sometimes if one hairball comes up, there is more to follow. If your cat has frequent hairballs, it could be due to:

  • Food allergies
  • Intestinal upset
  • Hormonal issues
  • Excessive grooming

Hairballs are often hidden in vomit. There are particular medications you can give your cat to help prevent hairballs. It is typically in a gel-like form, similar to Vaseline. You can also try a hairball preventative cat food, which contains an increased supply of vegetable fiber. The fiber helps the stomach digest the contents and eliminate waste properly.

You may also want to groom your cat more regularly, as it helps to remove some of the excess hair. If you have a longhaired cat, it is even more vital for you to groom them daily. If your cat has frequent hairballs, you should take them to the vet and have them examined to be safe.

Eating Too Fast

Sometimes cats get anxious when it comes to food, and it causes them to eat too quickly. When cats consume their food too fast, their bodies cannot tolerate it. It can make the cat gag until the food goes down and settles in the stomach. Your cat may also overeat, which is a bad combination. Either or, both can trigger gagging issues.

Unintentionally Swallowing a Foreign Object

Cats will sometimes swallow objects they should not, leading to gagging. When they break down something through the chewing action, pieces of the thing can trigger the gag reflex. There are many items that cats can inadvertently swallow:

  • String
  • Fishing line
  • Foreign body
  • Toxic substances
  • Tinsel
  • Bones

Ingestion of a foreign object can produce a partial obstruction. If something is stuck in your cat’s throat, they may gag without even vomiting. You should never try to take a piece of string out of your cat’s throat or rear, as it can cause intestinal harm. If you suspect your cat has swallowed a piece of string, take them to the vet immediately.

Upset Stomach

Cats may gag due to an upset stomach. If your cat is gagging and vomiting, it is a sign that they are nauseated. Nausea may be a sign of an illness or disease. It could also mean that your cat is nauseous from their food. Some cats cannot tolerate certain foods, and sometimes even the smell of certain foods can make them gag. If your cat experiences nausea, it will likely cause them to gag.

Ingestion of Toxic Substances

If your cat eats something toxic to them, it can trigger gagging. For example, they may have eaten a specific toxic plant, like the asparagus fern. When a cat consumes a poisonous plant, it will trigger a bad reaction. If your cat has ingested a toxic ingredient, get them to the emergency vet right away.

Heart Disease

Sometimes cats who suffer from heart disease will gag. Cardiomyopathy is the most common type of acquired heart disease in cats. Gagging is one of the most common indicators of heart disease in cats. Other symptoms will often accompany the gagging:

  • Coughing
  • Lack of energy
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Fast breathing
  • Regularly elevated heart rate

If you believe that your cat has a heart disorder, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Certain illnesses can repeatedly lead to a cat retching, and heart disease is one of them.

Kidney or Liver Disease

Kidney disease is common in older cats. It may or may not be correlated with an underlying condition, such as urinary tract infections. Liver disease may also be the culprit. There are some other symptoms of liver disease in cats:

  • Bloated abdomen
  • Lack of energy
  • Excessive thirst
  • Discoloration of the skin and eyes

It is essential to note that just because a cat is gagging does not mean that they have a disease. If they are gagging and these symptoms accompany the gagging, they may be ill and require immediate veterinary attention.


Allergies can trigger gagging in cats because allergies create inflammation in the throat area. It may cause them to retch, even when nothing comes up. If the problem is serious, it can cause the respiratory tract to close and give them breathing difficulties. An allergen can be almost anything that causes a bad reaction in your cat. Even dust can make them gag.

How Can I Tell if My Feline is Coughing or Gagging?

Coughing and gagging may seem very similar, although they are two different actions. Coughing is a strong and abrupt ejection of air from the lungs, but gagging presents as a choking sound. When a cat coughs, it is a symptom of a disease or medical issue.

It may require immediate treatment, or it could be something simple that can be managed with treatment or a slight change in your cat’s food or routine. Coughing is an action that is employed to eliminate fluids, foreign objects, or little particles from the airways. Coughing is a protrusion of air that helps to dislodge unwelcome substances.

However, if your cat is gagging, it will often sound like choking or retching. It may be a symptom of another problem, and it usually necessitates urgent care. If something is touching the back of your cat’s throat, it typically means that something is blocking the airway rather than simply irritating it.

Obstruction is a dangerous situation that requires a trip to the emergency vet. Therefore, you need to understand the difference between coughing and gagging.


If your cat is gagging, watch out for other symptoms that may coincide. If your cat has any of the symptoms discussed in this article, in addition to gagging, take them to see the vet. It is better to see the vet to be sure of the cause of your cat’s gagging.

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