Bloating in Cats

Written By Michele K.
Published: 12/05/2016Updated: 10/28/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Michele K.
Bloating in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Bloating in Cats?

Cats can be masters at hiding illness until their condition might become severe. When the cat begins to show symptoms such as pain, unexpected weakness, attempting to belch or vomit, or difficulty breathing, it should be taken to the veterinarian immediately.

Bloating in cats is a condition that is potentially deadly. Bloating can develop if the cat has overeaten or had too much water to drink, or may develop as the result of one of several underlying medical causes. If the condition isn’t detected early, it can be fatal because the cat’s organs are being compressed, making it difficult for the animal’s body to function normally. If the bloated stomach gets large enough, the cat may have difficulty breathing. 

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Symptoms of Bloating in Cats

Cats usually develop several signs that can tip the pet owner off to a major problem. Until the veterinarian knows just what has caused the bloated stomach, knowing the cat’s signs helps the pet owner fill the veterinarian in more accurately:

  • Repeated attempts to vomit or belch
  • Swollen abdomen and stomach
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Pale gums
  • Lowered body temperature
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sudden weakness or collapse

If the cat has developed gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV), its symptoms may include:

  • Depression
  • Signs of pain
  • Shock

Causes of Bloating in Cats

While quite uncommon, kittens and cats might develop bloated stomachs because of several different reasons:

  • Intestinal parasites (roundworm, hookworm, protozoal parasites)
  • Retaining too much fluid (develops from liver or kidney failure)
  • Overeating (If this is chronic, an underlying disease may be the cause)
  • Constipation
  • Indigestion
  • Swallowing too much air while eating
  • Blocked valve at the end of the stomach
  • Gastric dilation and volvulus (stomach twists, then swells)
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease

In kittens, mild to severe stomach bloating can develop from one of these causes:

  • Infection in mother cat’s mammary glands or uterus lead to toxic milk syndrome
  • Improperly mixed milk replacement formulas
  • Spoiled replacement milk or abnormal cat’s milk
  • Too many carbohydrates in kitten food (dry)
  • Congenital defects
  • Viral infections (enteric corona viral diarrhea, panleukopenia)
  • Insufficient good intestinal bacteria
  • Intestinal inflammatory illness combined with beneficial intestinal bacteria

Diagnosis of Bloating in Cats

The veterinarian conducts a full physical exam of a cat with abdominal bloating and makes note of every sign. To help the diagnostic process, the veterinarian might also take X-rays, or examine a stool sample or urinalysis, which can help to rule out other illnesses. The stool sample can tell the veterinarian if the cat has intestinal worms or parasites. A complete blood count (CBC) and systemic bloodwork can allow the veterinarian to determine whether the cat is suffering from a different illness.

If the veterinarian begins to suspect that an underlying illness has set off the bloating, they may need to conduct even more testing on the cat to confirm or rule out these conditions, including liver or kidney disease. Even constipation can tip the veterinarian off to other, more serious illnesses, such as an intestinal occlusion (blockage) or tumors.

Treatment of Bloating in Cats

Treatment of a bloated stomach should begin just as soon as the veterinarian has a solid diagnosis.

Although quite rare, if the cat has gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV), the only cure for this condition is emergency surgery. The surgeon physically straightens the stomach out. During surgery, the surgeon should closely inspect the stomach to make sure no other injuries have taken place. Once the cat has suffered GDV, it is vulnerable to repeat incidences. For this reason, the veterinarian may attach the stomach to the wall of the abdomen, reducing the risk of a future twisting event.

Bloating that develops as a result of intestinal parasites can be treated with the right deworming medication. If the cat or kitten has protozoal parasites, it will need a different medication to eradicate this infestation.

Panleukopenia and diarrhea caused by the enteric coronavirus, or FIP, can be treated, though the prognosis for a cat or kitten with feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is not as positive. Curious about which health plan is right for your dog? Head over to Forbes' breakdown of the best pet insurance plans.

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Recovery of Bloating in Cats

When a cat’s bloated stomach is the result of overeating, intestinal worms or parasites, the cat should recover well and resume living a normal, happy life. Cats with worms or parasites may need to receive preventive treatments to avoid a new infestation that could cause future episodes of bloating.

The cat’s owner should change some daily routines and keep a close eye on the cat as well. Overeating can make the cat’s stomach larger, and can make a future bloating episode more likely. Knowing this, the pet owner should provide the cat with several smaller meals throughout the day instead of giving only two or three larger meals.

If cats are allowed to roam outside, they may scavenge food from other sources, such as garbage cans. The new food may cause intestinal symptoms, gas and bloating. If the cat’s owner knows the cat has a tendency to do this, the cat should be retrained to live indoors. 

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Bloating in Cats Average Cost

From 424 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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Bloating in Cats Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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domestic cat

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Five Years

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25 found this helpful

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25 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Bloating, Excessive Vaginall Discharge
What is causing my cat to be bloated and have yellow/white vaginal discharge? She’s not pregnant as she has never been outside.

Feb. 21, 2021

Answered by Dr. Sara O. DVM

25 Recommendations

Hello, this sounds like your cat has a pyometra. This is an infection in her uterus. She would need to be spayed as soon as possible. I would recommend going to the ER vet tonight with her as this can be life-threatening.

Feb. 21, 2021

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Bombay Cat

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Three Weeks

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33 found this helpful

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33 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Bloating
Bloating in kitten and diarrhea and squishy stomach/feels like it’s a balloon

Sept. 28, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

33 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Parasites are very common in kittens, and can cause bloating and diarrhea. The best thing to do would be to have a veterinarian see that kitten and look at a stool sample for parasite eggs. They will be able to help with that bloating, and make the kitten feel better. I hope that all goes well!

Oct. 4, 2020

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Average Cost

$1,500

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