What Is The Phenomenon Of Cats Gagging At Sounds?

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

In this blog post, we will delve into the phenomenon of cats gagging at sounds and try to uncover the reasons behind it.

Cats are fascinating creatures, beloved by millions of people around the world. These furry companions provide us with love, entertainment and sometimes even a good laugh. However, have you ever noticed your cat gagging or retching at certain sounds? It can be quite alarming to witness and may leave you wondering if something is wrong with your feline friend. Fear not, as this phenomenon is fairly common among cats and has a scientific explanation behind it. In this blog post, we will delve into the curious world of our feline friends and explore why they gag at sounds – from meows to music to even sneezes! 

What Is The Phenomenon Of Cats Gagging At Sounds?

The phenomenon of cats gagging at certain sounds is a curious and somewhat mysterious behavior in feline ethology. Sounds like crinkling tin foil, metal spoons clanging against dinnerware, or even typing on a keyboard can induce this reaction in some cats. The exact cause of this reaction is unknown, but theories suggest it could be related to the high-pitched frequencies of these sounds, which may irritate or overstimulate a cat’s acute hearing. Further research is needed to fully understand this intriguing aspect of feline behavior.

cat on the keyboard | I'm letting her run around in the offi… | Flickr

Why Do Cats Gag At Certain Sounds? 

Cats may exhibit a variety of reactions to certain sounds, and gagging might not be a common response. However, some cats may exhibit peculiar behaviors in response to certain sounds due to their heightened sensitivity. Here are a few reasons why a cat might react to specific sounds:

High-pitched Frequencies: As mentioned above, one theory is that the high-pitched frequencies of certain sounds, such as crinkling tin foil, can agitate a cat’s acute hearing. 

Predatory Instincts: Cat’s have evolved as predators, and strange, unexpected sounds could trigger their hunting and defense instincts. The gagging reaction may be an instinctual response to perceived threats.

Sound Sensitivity: Some cats might have a condition known as hyperacusis, where they are overly sensitive to certain types of sounds, and this sensitivity could trigger the gagging response.

Stress or Anxiety: Loud, piercing noises can cause stress or anxiety in many cats, leading to physical responses which could include gagging.

Medical Conditions: In rare cases, a cat’s gagging response could be due to certain medical conditions affecting their nervous or digestive system. If the gagging is frequent or is accompanied by other symptoms, a visit to the vet is advised. 

Is This Behavior Common Among All Cats?

It’s crucial to note that not all cats exhibit this gagging behavior in response to certain sounds. Cats, like humans, have individual preferences and responses to sensory stimuli. Some may be more sensitive to certain sounds, while others are entirely unfazed. The variability can be attributed to differences in a cat’s age, health, upbringing, or even breed. If your cat is reacting adversely to certain sounds on a regular basis, it’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health concerns.

Is There A Specific Type Of Sound That Triggers This Reaction In Cats?

In general, cats seem to have reactions to sounds that are high-pitched or sudden. These could be everyday household noises such as the crinkling of tin foil, the clanging of metal spoons, or typing on a keyboard. It’s also observed that some cats may react to electronic sounds like phone ring tones or the beeping of a microwave oven. These sounds share a common characteristic – they are sharp and unexpected, which could potentially startle a cat or overstimulate their highly sensitive hearing.

Are There Any Potential Health Concerns Associated With Gagging At Sounds?

While the act of gagging in response to certain sounds is not inherently harmful, it may indicate underlying health issues in some cases. If your cat gags frequently or appears distressed when exposed to these sounds, it may be a sign of medical conditions such as hyperacusis, anxiety, or issues with the nervous or digestive system. Prolonged stress or anxiety, potentially caused by frequent exposure to distressing sounds, can also lead to a variety of health concerns, including decreased immune function and digestive problems. It’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian if you notice persistent gagging behaviors or any other unusual behaviors in your cat.

How Can I Prevent My Cat From Gagging At Sounds?

Monitor your cat’s reactions: Start by paying close attention to which sounds seem to cause your cat distress. If you notice a pattern, try to minimize their exposure to these sounds where possible.

Reduce high-frequency sounds: As cats are particularly sensitive to high-pitched noises, consider investing in appliances and items that produce less noise or have lower pitched sounds.

Create a peaceful environment: Regular exposure to loud noises can cause stress in cats, leading to physical responses including gagging. Try to provide a quiet, peaceful home environment as much as possible.

Provide safe spaces: Ensure your cat has access to safe spaces where they can retreat if they feel overwhelmed by noise. This could be a secluded corner, their favorite box, or a cozy cat bed.

Gradual desensitization: For sounds that are unavoidable, consider a desensitization approach. This involves gradually exposing your cat to the sound at a low volume and slowly increasing the volume over time, helping them become less reactive to the sound.

Consult a Veterinarian: If your cat continues to gag at certain sounds despite your best efforts, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian. They can guide you on the best course of action and rule out any underlying health issues.

Are There Any Products Or Remedies That Can Help Alleviate This Behavior?

  • Physical Exercise Equipment: Toys like balls, rope pulls, and chew toys can help keep the pet engaged and reduce unwanted behavior. 
  • Calming Treats: These are usually infused with natural ingredients like chamomile and tryptophan that help soothe the pet and reduce anxiety.
  • Behavioral Training Courses: Professional training programs can teach your pet to modify their behavior.
  • Pheromone Diffusers: These devices release a scent that is calming for animals.
  • Anxiety Wraps: These apply gentle, constant pressure that can help calm a pet.

Read more: Why Does My Cat Gag At Food?


In conclusion, the phenomenon of cats gagging at sounds is a complex and intriguing one. As discussed, it is believed that this behavior stems from their innate predatory instincts and heightened sensitivity to certain noises. However, there may be other underlying factors at play such as stress or anxiety. While we may never fully understand why cats exhibit this behavior, it is important for us as pet owners to be aware of it and take necessary measures to ensure our feline friends feel safe and comfortable in their environment. Whether it’s using noise-canceling techniques or seeking professional help, let’s continue to educate ourselves on the fascinating world of cats and provide them with the love and care they deserve.