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Why Do Cats Gag at Combs? 6 Likely Reasons, Facts, & FAQ

Patricia Dickson

By Patricia Dickson

ginger cat grooming

When your cat gags, it can concern you as the pet owner. There are a few reasons cats gag, but if you’ve ever noticed that your cat gags at the sound of a comb when you’re combing their fur, there are also reasons for that.

Cats have a unique sense of hearing, which allows them to pick up on the sound of the comb, but there are other reasons as well.

The 6 Reasons Why Combs Make Cats Gag

1. The Cat has Sensitive Skin

It is possible that your cat has sensitive skin. This will cause them to gag when you run the comb through their fur because it irritates the skin. You can combat this by trying a different comb or brush designed for cats with sensitivity issues.

If that doesn’t work, try using a shampoo or detangler spray that gets most of the tangles out of your cat’s fur before you begin combing.

combing maine coon cat
Image Credit: Katrin Baidimirova, Shutterstock

2.  The Cat Is Afraid of Combs

We all know that cats can be skittish, and your cat could be afraid of the comb, which will make the cat gag when it can’t get away from the thing it fears. It’s best to let your cat get used to the comb slowly. Instead of holding your cat down for combing, present the comb to your cat gently, so it can sniff it, then run it through their fur when they are used to the material.

You can also reward your cat with treats when it lets you comb it, which will help your pet associate the comb with a positive reward.

3. The Cat is Allergic to Their Fur

As strange as it may sound, some cats are allergic to their own fur. When you start combing them, the allergens settle in their nose, mouth, and lungs and cause an inflammatory response. If you think your feline pal is allergic to their own fur, then it’s best to make an appointment with your local vet for diagnosis and treatment. Your vet can give you medication and tips to make your cat comfortable and healthy during grooming sessions.

ginger cat check by vet
Image Credit: Nestor Rizhniak, Shutterstock

4. The Cat Is Gagging on Its Vomit

This is a scary possibility for a pet owner, but your cat could be gagging on its vomit. This is often because there’s an underlying condition causing the problem. If your cat is gagging on its vomit, it’s essential to make an appointment with your vet so you can determine the reason behind the condition.

5. The Cat Could Have an Underlying Condition

If your cat sometimes gags for no apparent reason, it could have an underlying condition that needs to be treated. Allergies, respiratory diseases, and heart disease are issues that could cause your furry friend to gag when you’re trying to brush it. If this happens with your cat, take them to the vet for proper treatment.

cat and vet
Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

6. The Cat Has a Foreign Object Stuck in Its Throat

If your cat is pawing at its mouth and gagging, it is possible it has something stuck in its throat. In this case, it’s a medical emergency, and you need to get your feline to an emergency vet as soon as possible.

Divider-Dog Paw and Bone- New


Now that we’ve given you some of the reasons combs make cats gag, we’ll answer some of your questions.

What Is FARS?

Can a comb give a cat a seizure? The answer is yes. However, for most cats, the gagging and sound of the comb is simply an unpleasant experience. Some cats suffer from FARS, also known as Frequency Dependent Auditory Response Syndrome, which is a condition that causes the cat to be overly sensitive to high-frequency sounds. Cats already have great hearing, and FARS makes their hearing supersonic.

This condition can be treated with medication. However, it’s best to take your cat to the vet, instead of searching online for medicine, to ensure they prescribe the medication your cat needs to become healthy once again.

Tabby cat lying in her owner's lap and enjoying while being brushed and combed
Image Credit: Impact Photography, Shutterstock

Are There Other Sounds That Make Cats Gag?

Yes, other sounds besides a comb will make your cat gag. Unfortunately, most of these sounds are common in everyday life.

  • Nail clippers
  • Using a mouse
  • Typing on a keyboard
  • Hammering a nail
  • Thunder
  • Hissing sounds from other cats
  • Clinking of coins and keys
  • The sound of a coffee grinder
  • Running water
  • Foil paper crinkling
Image credit: artcasta, Shutterstock

What Sounds Do Cats Like?

There are also a few sounds that cats really enjoy as well.

  • Sounds that toys for cats make
  • Classical music
  • Sounds of canned food being opened
  • Sounds from shaking a food bag
  • Sound of water filling up a bowl


If your cat is constantly gagging over combs or other issues, schedule an appointment with your vet to determine the exact cause. While it is possible that your cat doesn’t like the comb, it is also possible that there’s an underlying condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated.

Featured Image Credit: Damian Lugowski, Shutterstock

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