What Is The Cause Of A Cat Gagging At A Comb?

Disclaimer: The information presented below is for general informational & educational purposes only. Always consult with animal professionals in case of specific concerns.

In this post, we’ll explore some of the most prevalent reasons cats may gag in response to combing, as well as tips and techniques for minimizing this reaction and keeping everyone happy and healthy.

Have you ever been brushing your cat and noticed them suddenly start gagging or choking? It can be alarming to see your furry feline friend struggle in this way out of nowhere. Understanding the causes of cat gagging during combing sessions is important to help prevent discomfort for your pet and ease any worries for cat parents. This guide will explore some of the common reasons why cats may gag or even dry heave when being brushed with a comb and provide tips on how to minimize this unwanted reaction. By learning more about what triggers your specific cat’s gagging response and adapting your brushing technique accordingly, you can make the daily coat care routine a calmer experience for both of you going forward.

What Is The Cause Of A Cat Gagging At A Comb?

If your cat is gagging when you comb them, it could be due to several reasons:

  • Skin Irritation: Combing can sometimes irritate a cat’s sensitive skin, inducing a gag reflex.
  • Hairball Formation: Hairballs formed due to grooming can sometimes cause gagging in cats.
  • Nervous Reaction: Some cats exhibit a gag reaction out of anxiety or stress when faced with a grooming tool such as a comb.
  • Allergic Reaction: In rare cases, the cat might be allergic to the material of the comb, causing it to gag.
  • Dental Issues: Dental problems might make the cat associate the combing process with the pain in their mouth, causing them to gag.

How Can I Make Grooming More Comfortable For My Cat?

Start early: Get your cat accustomed to grooming from a very young age; this will make it easier for them to accept it as a part of their routine.

Be gentle: Use slow and gentle movements to calm your cat down and avoid causing your cat stress. 

Use the right tools: Ensure that you are using the correct grooming tools. Brushes specifically designed for cats can make the grooming process more comfortable. 

Positive reinforcement: Reward your cat after each grooming session. This could be in the form of a treat or extra playtime. 

Take breaks: If your cat becomes agitated or uncomfortable, take a break and resume grooming later. 

Professional assistance: If your cat continues to resist grooming, consider seeking help from a professional groomer or a veterinarian.

DSC04501 Rubio | How much Rubio enjoys with brushing !!!!. P… | Flickr

Could There Be A Medical Reason For My Cat’s Gagging During Grooming?

Yes, there may be medical reasons behind your cat’s gagging during grooming. Cats can sometimes gag if they have an underlying respiratory issue, such as bronchitis or asthma, which can make it difficult for them to breathe during the grooming process. Additionally, hairballs can also cause gagging, as can certain gastrointestinal problems. Oral health issues, including dental disease or throat infections, could be another cause. If you notice that your cat frequently gags during grooming, it’s a good idea to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any potential medical issues.

What Should I Do If My Cat Consistently Gags During Grooming?

If your cat consistently gags during grooming, it’s essential to take appropriate action to ensure your pet’s wellbeing. Start by observing your cat closely during grooming sessions. Note any specific triggers or behaviors that seem to coincide with the gagging. Try to adjust your grooming techniques or tools, ensuring gentleness and considering whether a different brush might be less irritating. However, if the gagging persists, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian. A professional can conduct a thorough examination to determine if there is an underlying medical condition causing this response, such as respiratory conditions, oral health issues, or gastrointestinal problems. 

Should I Use A Different Type Of Comb Or Brush?

The type of comb or brush you use for grooming your cat can significantly impact their comfort levels. There are several types of cat brushes available, and the optimal choice depends on your cat’s fur type. For cats with short hair, a soft bristle brush often works best. For long-haired cats, a slicker brush or a comb with both wide and narrow teeth can be effective for preventing and removing mats and tangles. If your cat gags or seems uncomfortable during grooming, it may be worth trying a different type of tool to see if it improves their experience. Always ensure to use gentle, slow strokes while grooming, regardless of the tool used.

Are Certain Breeds Of Cats More Prone To Gagging While Grooming?

While all cats groom themselves and occasional gagging may occur, certain breeds may be more prone to this behavior due to various factors. For instance, long-haired breeds like Persians and Maine Coons often ingest more hair, leading to hairballs and subsequent gagging. Additionally, breeds with brachycephalic features, such as the British Shorthair, might experience more gagging due to their distinct facial structure. However, persistent gagging can be a sign of underlying health issues, so it’s always recommended to consult a veterinarian if such behavior is observed.

How Can I Address My Cat’s Aversion To Grooming?

  • Understand their Fear: Identify what particular aspect of the grooming process your cat dislikes. It could be the grooming tool, the grooming area, or even a specific action such as brushing around their ears or tail.
  • Slow Introduction: Gradually introduce grooming sessions. Start with short sessions and slowly increase the time as your cat becomes more comfortable. 
  • Distraction: Using toys or treats can help distract your cat during grooming sessions. This can help associate grooming with positive experiences.
  • Comfortable Environment: Make sure the grooming area is quiet, calm, and familiar to your cat. Avoid grooming in noisy or new environments which could be stressful for your cat.
  • Professional Help: If your cat continues to resist grooming, consider hiring a professional groomer who has experience handling cats who dislike grooming. 
  • Consult a Veterinarian: If the aversion continues, consult with a vet to ensure there are no underlying medical issues causing this behavior. The vet can also provide advice on how to make grooming more comfortable for your cat.

Read more: What Is The Phenomenon Of Cats Gagging At Sounds?


In conclusion, the cause of a cat gagging at a comb can vary and it is important to understand why your feline friend may be exhibiting this behavior. Gagging can be a normal occurrence in cats, brought on by grooming behavior or ingesting hairballs. However, it is also important to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could potentially be causing this issue. By taking your cat for regular check-ups and keeping an eye on their grooming habits, you can help prevent any potential problems. Additionally, incorporating a balanced and nutritious diet into their daily routine can also aid in preventing hairballs and promote healthy digestion. As pet owners, it is our responsibility to provide the best care for our beloved companions. So, if you notice your cat gagging at a comb or any other items, remember to closely monitor their behavior and seek professional advice if necessary.