Why Does My Cat Choke Himself?

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  • Post last modified:September 17, 2022
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Cats are such an interesting pet to have. They have unique behaviors that you may not see with other breeds of pets. But even with these unique behaviors, some may seem quite concerning. 

This includes when your cat is choking himself. So why does he do it? There could be a few causes that make your cat do this, whether it is a physical ailment or behavioral. 

Most of the time, this isn’t a cause for concern, but just careful observation because it is most likely a hairball.

But just in case you feel like it is something more, here are some other causes and what you need to do when you see this type of behavior.


Why Does My Cat Choke Himself?

Your cat could be doing this for a multitude of reasons. In most cases, that isn’t a bad sign that your cat is sick, but with other ailments, it could be something a little more serious. 

Here are some reasons why your cat is trying to choke itself:

  1. A hairball.
  2. Something is stuck in its throat.
  3. Throat irritation.
  4. Trying to itch its throat.
  5. Allergies
  6. Nausea
  7. Heart disease
  8. Kidney or liver disease
  9. Eating too fast
  10. Bronchitis or another respiratory virus

A Hairball

Cats use their tongue to groom themselves. Because of this, they often end up swallowing hair. This hair can get stuck in their throat or accumulate into a hairball. 

Your pet may be trying to dislodge hair or a hairball.

Something Stuck in His Throat

Your cat may have gotten something stuck in its throat that may not be a hairball. If you think that this could have happened, keep an eye on your cat. 

You don’t want the item or food to get stuck in their throat, choking them. As you keep an eye on them, try not to dislodge the object yourself. 

Allow the cat to do what it needs to do to get it out. You could do more harm than good and actually close the airway.

Throat Irritation

Sometimes your cat may have irritation in its throat. This can cause them to choke or seem like they are choking. 

There isn’t a need to be alarmed if you think this is the case. If the choking occurs more often than usual, then contact a vet.

Trying to Itch Its Throat

Sometimes when you have an itchy throat, you may try to scratch it by coughing, and it may seem like you are choking. 

This goes for a cat as well. Your cat may be trying to itch its throat because it is dry or allergies.

Allergies

When your cat has allergies, it can cause their throat to be itchy, leading to gagging and causing increased mucus production. 

The mucus can build up in your cat’s throat, and your cat will choke or gag to try and dislodge it.

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Nausea

Sometimes when your cat is nauseous, your cat may choke itself in an attempt to vomit. They think that puking will help get rid of this feeling. 

Nausea really isn’t something to be concerned with unless your cat’s diet dwindles. There may be an underlying cause of nausea if this happens.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is one of the more serious causes of your cat gagging. 

This is because the heart isn’t performing appropriately and causes the lungs to work extra hard to get more oxygen to the body. 

Some other symptoms you will notice with the gagging includes:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Swollen belly

If you suspect your cat may have heart disease, contact your vet so you can begin tests. The sooner it is treated, the better your cat’s quality of living will be.

Kidney or Liver Disease

There is a chance that your cat may be showing symptoms of kidney or liver disease. 

Usually, you don’t have to be worried that this is the cause, but if your cat is exhibiting these signs as well, you will want to contact your vet:

  • Your cat is extra thirsty.
  • Your cat is acting even more tired than usual.
  • Vomiting.
  • Discoloration in their eyes.
  • Enlarged stomach.

Eating too Fast

Your cat choking itself could be as simple as them eating too fast. 

They got food dislodged in their throat because they didn’t break down the food enough or became nauseous. Either way, they may be gagging to get rid of the food or throw it up.

If you suspect this, you may want to provide smaller portions of food at different times of the day. This can help reduce the amount they eat and may not make them nauseous.

Bronchitis or Other Respiratory Virus

Bronchitis or other types of respiratory viruses can cause irritation within your cat’s throat or an increased production of mucus. 

Your cat may start choking because of it. 

Your cat can get these types of viruses when there is a new cat at home, or if your cat goes outside.

If you see any of these signs and symptoms with the gagging, it could be a respiratory virus:

You will need to contact your vet if you suspect this is the cause. Your vet will have to prescribe medications like antibiotics to get rid of it.


Is This a Behavioral Issue?

There are times that this may not be a physical ailment. Sometimes your cat can be exhibiting behavior issues instead. 

If your cat is only doing this choking behavior when you are around, or something specific is around, your cat may just be trying to get your attention.

Not all cats demand affection by jumping or crawling into your space. They may have tried this already too, and so now they have resorted to choking themselves. 

Cats are smart, and if this action got your attention once, they know that they can do it again for the same attention.

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When Should You be Concerned?

Choking because of a behavioral issue isn’t really a cause for concern. You will want to contact your vet if you feel this behavior is causing harm to your cat. 

But if it is just annoying you, try to give your cat a little more attention when they are doing good behavior rather than when they are choking.


What Should You Do When This Happens?

When your cat comes into the room and starts to gag or choke, it can be pretty nerve-racking. You may not know what to do, but don’t let your fear get in the way. 

You will want to do two things: don’t be alarmed and check for other symptoms.

Don’t Be Alarmed

Your anxiety could make the situation worse. Take a pause and take into consideration your cat’s current status. 

Does your cat seem to be breathing? Is your cat showing any other symptoms that should cause alarm? Ask yourself these questions to know what the urgency of the matter is.

Your cat will be able to sense your anxiety and may start acting worse. Take it slow, and don’t rush to the worst possible solution. 

It may be just something small like they had an itchy throat, and you don’t want to immediately start CPR. 

Check for Other Symptoms

Before jumping to conclusions, check for other symptoms. 

If your cat seems to be breathing well, then you know that your cat’s life isn’t in immediate danger. Look for other symptoms that were previously listed. 

If your cat is just choking and gagging, you don’t have much to worry about. 

If your cat is showing more symptoms along with choking, you will need to contact your vet to set up a check-up. It may be nothing, but it is always better to be safe.


When Should You Seek A Vet?

If you feel like your cat has abnormal behavior, you may want to set up an appointment. 

You won’t need to set up an appointment if your cat has only done this once or twice. Just keep a lookout if it becomes more frequent.

If your cat is showing any signs and symptoms that are related to kidney, liver, or heart disease, consult your veterinarian. You want to ensure that these aren’t the reasons for choking or the result of another type of disease or viruses.

Expect your cat to get some tests done to figure out the cause of the choking. A virus will allow you to go home to recover, but kidney, liver, and heart disease may need more in-depth exams.


Conclusion

Cats are quite abnormal, and sometimes choking is a part of their abnormal behavior, but it can also be a physical ailment. 

Watch your cat closely when you see this behavior, just in case it is something more. But more than likely, it is just something to occur a few times.