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Why Does a Comb Make a Cat Gag? Facts & FAQ

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

a cat that feels sick and seems to vomit

Why Does a Comb Make a Cat Gag? Facts & FAQ

Maybe you have seen the videos online or experienced this yourself at home: you flick the teeth of a comb, and your cat gags. Why? Cats are far more sensitive to sounds than humans, and they can hear frequencies that we cannot. So, when your cat hears the teeth of the comb being flicked around, it irritates them enough to make them gag.1

Although this might sound amusing at first glance, it is anything but. If your cat is distressed by the sound, it should not be recreated intentionally. Keep reading to learn more about the potential health concerns associated with combs and other odd sounds.

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Can a Comb Give a Cat a Seizure?

It might sound ridiculous, but it is true: the sound of combs can give cats seizures. That is why it is so important to avoid creating sounds that can lead to serious complications.

Why does this happen? Well, it is a lot like audiogenic epilepsy in humans. The condition in cats is known as FARS.

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

What is FARS?

FARS stands for feline audiogenic reflex seizures. It is also sometimes referred to as Tom and Jerry syndrome. It is a form of epilepsy in cats triggered by high-pitched noises, such as the teeth of a comb being flicked.

How FARS Develops

At this moment, it is uncertain how this condition forms in cats. However, due to its prevalence in certain breeds, it is thought that there may be a genetic component.

Age is also thought to be a factor. As cats age and lose their hearing, they cannot hear lower-pitched noises. Because of that, higher-pitched noises may spook older cats more.

Potential Triggers

Triggers may vary between cats. While your cat may gag at the sound of a comb, another may not be so bothered by it. Yet, some familiar sounds tend to trigger FARS reactions in cats.

Some of these sounds include:

  • Crinkling tin foil
  • Tapping a glass
  • Hammering nails
  • Tongue clicking
  • Crunching paper or plastic bags
  • Keyboard tapping or mouse clicking
  • Metal clanging against ceramic (such as a spoon and a bowl)

If your cat reacts poorly to any of these sounds, try to find ways to avoid making them.

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Types of Seizures

There are different seizures that your cat could suffer with FARS. The type of seizure your cat experiences can change how their body reacts.

sick cat lying on blanket
Image credit: one photo, Shutterstock

Generalized Tonic-clonic Seizures

This is most likely what you envision when you think of a seizure. A generalized tonic-clonic seizure is when the muscles stiffen and the body thrashes. These seizures can occur for 1 to 3 minutes and can be frightening to witness.

Your cat may lose control of their bladder or bowels, and when the seizure is over, they may be exhausted and distressed. If the seizure continues for 5 minutes or more, call for emergency help.

Myoclonic Seizures

Myoclonic seizures are quick, sudden jerks in the muscles and aren’t unusual. In fact, you have probably experienced something similar before without knowing it. If you have ever had the experience of jolting just as you are about to fall asleep, you have experienced myoclonus.

If your cat seems fine after this, there is likely no need for medical treatment or examination. But if you are concerned, an impromptu check-up never hurts.

Absence Seizures

Absence seizures are often characterized by bouts of staring or absent-mindedness. Although cats often space out on their own, if it seems abnormal to you, it could result from an absence seizure.

They can occur alongside one of the other two seizures listed or appear independently. If an absence seizure occurs on its own, it is likely unnecessary to take your cat to the vet. Still, use your own discretion when making this decision.

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Which Cats Are Most Susceptible?

So, which cats are most likely to develop FARS? Elderly cats have a higher risk for FARS. Also, some breeds are more susceptible to it. It has been noted that Birman cats have higher chances of suffering from FARS, which is why experts believe there could be a genetic component involved in the condition.

Treatment

Different medications can treat your cat if they experience seizures often. Consult your vet about which medications are suitable for your feline friend, and stay vigilant about avoiding noises that may trigger an episode.

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Conclusion

Cats rely on their owners to care for them, and it is important to avoid exposing them to sounds that may cause them distress or pain. When your cat is gagging from the sound of the comb, that is their way of telling you that they do not like that!

Paying attention to our furry friend’s needs is the best way to ensure they live a happy and healthy life. We hope this article has given you greater insight into your cat’s quirks and needs!

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Featured Image Credit: Katrin Baidimirova, Shutterstock

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