Why Do Cats Gag?


As a cat owner, you may have observed your feline companion gagging from time to time, leaving you concerned and puzzled. Gagging in cats can be caused by a range of factors, from benign reasons to potentially serious health issues. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the reasons why cats gag, explore common causes, discuss when to seek veterinary attention, and offer insights into managing this behavior. Understanding why cats gag can help pet owners provide the best care and support for their furry friends.
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Is It Normal for Cats to Gag a Lot?

Occasional gagging in cats is not unusual and can occur for various reasons. Cats may gag due to factors such as hairballs, foreign objects, or mild respiratory irritations. However, if your cat is gagging excessively or the behavior is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s essential to consider potential underlying issues and consult a veterinarian.

Common Causes of Gagging in Cats

  1. Hairballs: Gagging is often associated with hairballs, especially in long-haired breeds. Cats groom themselves by licking, and this licking can lead to ingesting hair. When the accumulated hair cannot be easily passed through the digestive system, it can cause gagging and retching.
  2. Foreign Objects: Cats are naturally curious, and they may ingest small foreign objects that become lodged in their throat or gastrointestinal tract. This can trigger gagging as the cat’s body attempts to expel the object.
  3. Respiratory Irritation: Environmental irritants, such as dust, smoke, or strong odors, can irritate a cat’s respiratory tract, leading to coughing, gagging, or retching.
  4. Infections: Respiratory infections, such as feline upper respiratory infections, can cause symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and gagging.
  5. Nasal Discharge: Excessive mucus or discharge from the nose can lead to postnasal drip, triggering a gagging reflex.

What to Do When Your Cat is Gagging

If you observe your cat gagging, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Observe: Monitor your cat’s behavior and note any other accompanying symptoms, such as vomiting, changes in appetite, or lethargy.
  2. Check for Hairballs: If you suspect hairballs are the cause, consider using hairball remedies or cat-friendly lubricants to help the hair pass through the digestive system.
  3. Assess for Foreign Objects: If you suspect your cat has ingested a foreign object, do not attempt to remove it yourself. Contact your veterinarian for guidance.
  4. Evaluate Respiratory Symptoms: If the gagging is accompanied by other respiratory symptoms, consult a veterinarian to rule out infections or irritants.
  5. Avoid Strong Odors: Keep your cat away from strong odors that could trigger gagging. Ensure proper ventilation in your home to reduce irritants in the air.

What Smell Makes a Cat Gag?

Cats have a highly developed sense of smell, which can make them sensitive to certain odors. While individual preferences can vary, some scents that might trigger gagging or discomfort in cats include strong cleaning chemicals, perfumes, ammonia, and certain essential oils. It’s important to avoid exposing your cat to strong or potentially harmful odors.

Why Does My Cat Keep Gagging But Not Throwing Up?

If your cat is gagging but not vomiting, it could indicate various underlying issues:

  1. Hairball Issues: Hairballs can cause gagging without vomiting. The hairball may be stuck in the esophagus, causing discomfort.
  2. Respiratory Irritation: If your cat is exposed to irritants or has a respiratory infection, it can trigger a gagging reflex without causing vomiting.
  3. Throat or Gastrointestinal Irritation: Ingestion of foreign objects or irritants can lead to gagging as the cat’s body attempts to clear the irritation.
  4. Anxiety or Stress: Stress or anxiety can manifest in physical symptoms, including gagging, without necessarily causing vomiting.


1. Is it normal for cats to gag a lot?

Occasional gagging in cats is not uncommon, especially due to reasons like hairballs or mild irritations. However, excessive or persistent gagging should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

2. What to do when a cat is gagging?

Monitor your cat’s behavior, check for hairballs, assess for foreign objects, evaluate respiratory symptoms, and avoid exposing your cat to strong odors. If the gagging is concerning or accompanied by other symptoms, consult a veterinarian.

3. What smell makes a cat gag?

Cats can be sensitive to strong odors such as cleaning chemicals, perfumes, ammonia, and certain essential oils. Avoid exposing your cat to such scents.

4. Why does my cat keep gagging but not throwing up?

Gagging without vomiting can be caused by issues such as hairballs, respiratory irritation, throat or gastrointestinal irritation, or anxiety/stress.


Gagging in cats can have various causes, ranging from hairballs to respiratory irritations. While occasional gagging may not be a cause for concern, persistent or excessive gagging warrants attention and evaluation by a veterinarian. Pet owners should be observant, monitor their cat’s behavior, and take appropriate steps to address the underlying cause. By understanding the reasons behind a cat’s gagging behavior, cat owners can provide the best care and support for their feline companions’ health and well-being.

External Links:

  1. Hairballs in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies
  2. Feline Upper Respiratory Infection

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