Has your cat suddenly started gagging when offered food? This kind of behavior is more common than you might guess. There are several reasons why this might happen, some of which are related to health issues and may be a cause for alarm.
Why do cats gag when they smell food
It is important to know what is the reason behind the gagging. The vomeronasal sac (Jacobson’s organ) is a part of the olfactory sense organ that can be found behind the teeth in the roof of a cats mouth. It is responsible for detecting heavy moisture-borne odor particles and a cat reacts instinctively to this by opening her mouth and curling the upper lip during inhalation.
Do you have to worry when your cat gags when she smells food?
Not usually. The gagging behavior is a reflex caused by smelling a particular scent or pheromone that is unbearable for her. When she gags, she appears to grimace and uses her tongue to direct the smell to the organ.
You might have given her food that has a smell that the cat finds unpleasant. Cats typically hate the smell of citrus and mint.
What smells do cats hate and why is it important to know
Cats have a powerful sense of smell, in fact, they have an average of 45 to 80 million smelling receptors compared to 5 million receptors of humans. It is useful to know which smells your cat hates. For example, if you are trying to keep her off from entering the garden, you may ward her off with a plant that has a particular smell. This would also apply if you want to stop her from scratching or bothering your favorite furniture by spraying an odor she hates on that area.
Following are some smells that most cats hate:
The strong scent of citrus like lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and limes is widely reported as unpleasant and repugnant to cats. Even though these fruits are considered non-toxic for cats, eating them may cause vomiting, diarrhea and dermatitis.
2. Mint, Menthol and Wintergreen
Even though mint plants belong to the family of catnips, they still have a pungent smell which cats do not like. If use these spices, you may want to store them in a sealed container as they may even be toxic for cats.
3. Cinnamon, Rosemary, Lavender and Rue
As much as you love the sight, smell, and taste of these plants, they are abhorred by cats. Do not consider giving them any food that contains any of these, as they are reported to cause harm to the liver and may lead to death.
There are always exceptions as not all cats dislike these scents. Although some of these odors can be dispensed as essential oils, it is not recommended using these scents as deterrent for your cat.
Is she actually gagging
Know the difference between gagging when she smells food and gagging without smelling food or other objects. Smelling food and gagging may not pose any problem but when she gags while doing something else or for unknown reasons, this is a problem to look into.
Gagging while grooming
While grooming, she may swallow and digest fur which ends up in her stomach, and when it cannot be properly passed by the digestive system, it turns into a “cat hairball”. If you see her sitting low to the ground, neck extended with rolling movements at the throat, she is probably vomiting the unwanted fur mass or cat hairball.
Gagging while eating
When she is eating and suddenly gags, it means that there is something that touches her larynx. It may be from the chunks of food or bones. Ejecting something out of her mouth is often followed by swallowing, neck extension, and a widening of her mouth. It is sometimes followed by vomiting.
When is the time to worry when a cat gags?
Cats have the ability to quickly reject something they ingested, especially something harmful that has entered their system. They can successfully eject something out of their mouth most of the time and not need help from their pet parents.
When gagging and vomiting are occurring too frequently, it is a cause for alarm. The most important thing to do is to immediately check her airways. Gently draw her tongue forward and check with a light to see any blocking objects. If you see something that looks long, like a string, do not pull it out, take her to the vet immediately. You might now want to accidentally pull out something that can harm her insides.
Even if you are unable to identify the cause of the excessive gagging, you should still take her to the vet as it may be a result of something serious.