Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Cats > Why Does a Comb Make My Cat Gag? Feline Behaviour Explained

Why Does a Comb Make My Cat Gag? Feline Behaviour Explained

a cat that feels sick and seems to vomit

Every cat owner knows cats are interesting and unusual creatures. Most march to their own drum, and some cats’ behavior is downright weird. Speaking of weird, have you ever noticed that something as simple as a comb can make your cat gag? Yes, you read that correctly. Cats gag when you run your fingers across a comb’s bristles or teeth because they have extremely sensitive hearing. Read on to explore this strange phenomenon in depth.


Why Does a Comb Make a Cat Gag?

You may have noticed viral videos on social media showing someone running their fingers down a comb’s bristles, followed by a cat gagging. The reason for this is due to cats’ sensitive hearing.

Cats can detect high frequencies, and high-frequency vibrations can overstimulate your cat. Cats don’t seem bothered by combs while brushing, but they don’t care for fingers rubbing against the bristles.

Cats naturally have an incredible sense of hearing for hunting purposes and can hear high-pitched noises very well. Cats rely on their hearing more than any other sense for hunting prey, and their hearing is fine-tuned. To put this more in perspective, cats have a hearing range up to 77,000 hertz, whereas humans can hear up to 19,000 hertz. The gist is this: any high-pitch or high frequency can stimulate your cat’s gag reflex.

Can a Comb Give a Cat a Seizure?

Unfortunately, a 2015 study came to the conclusion that older cats can, in fact, have a seizure from environmental stimuli from certain high-pitched frequencies.1 This is a type of epilepsy seizure known as Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures or FARS. Since you are now armed with this information, you should refrain from performing this little experiment with combs, especially if your cat is 14 years old or older.

a plastic hair comb on hair
Image Credit: Natriyka, Shutterstock

What Other Sounds Can Make a Cat Gag?

The crinkling of aluminum foil and keys rattling can also trigger this bizarre reaction. Another way to put this phenomenon into perspective is to think how irritating it is for humans to hear nails down a chalkboard; that sound is equivalent to the sounds that make cats gag. Doesn’t sound pleasant, does it?

Are There Other Causes for a Cat to Gag?

 The sound of fingers running down the teeth of a comb is not the only sound that will make your cat gag. Certain medical conditions can also cause a gag reflex, such as allergies, feline asthma, dental disease, respiratory problems, and hairballs. You should consult your veterinarian if you notice your cat gagging often, especially if no comb is present.


Final Thoughts

It may seem like a fun experiment to perform on your cat, but running your fingers down the teeth of a comb is not fun for your cat in any way, shape, or form. As we’ve mentioned, it’s the equivalent of nails running down a chalkboard to us humans; we all know that’s not pleasant.

Remember that combs are not the only reason your cat can gag. Certain medical conditions can cause gagging, too. If you notice your cat gagging often, seek the advice of your veterinarian or take your cat in for a checkup.

Featured Image Credit: chie hidaka, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets