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What is Umbilical Hernia?

If you notice an abnormal outward bulge sticking out from your kitten’s naval area, he or she could have an umbilical hernia. Umbilical hernias can occur shortly after birth if the opening in the abdomen that was once used for nutritional passage does not close. The majority of umbilical hernias will not cause any harmful effects to the infant and will go away on their own when the feline reaches six months. Unfortunately, other umbilical hernias can trap part of the intestine and the hernia soon becomes a medical emergency.

Symptoms of Umbilical Hernia in Cats

All umbilical hernias will cause an outward bulging in the area of the umbilicus or belly button. The hernia is soft to the touch and easily pushes inward, bouncing back to its original outward position. Some umbilical hernias make a gurgling sound when pressure is applied, indicating that a section of intestine has seeped through, whereas other make no sound. The majority of feline umbilical hernias do not show any additional symptoms other than the visible abnormality of the abdomen. However, some hernias can cause symptoms such as: 

  • Depression 
  • Anorexia 
  • Vomiting 
  • Pain in the swollen area
  • Unusually large umbilical hernia that is warm to the touch

If your kitten is experiencing any of the above symptoms, or if you hear a gurgling sound when pressure is applied to the affected area, seek the advice of a veterinary professional promptly. Your young cat could be suffering from a more serious type of umbilical hernia in cats, called a complicated umbilical hernia. 


An umbilical hernia in cats can either be classified as uncomplicated or complicated. 

Uncomplicated Umbilical Hernia

An uncomplicated umbilical hernia is a hernia that may come and go, appearing as a soft swollen protrusion from the abdomen. An uncomplicated umbilical hernia does not cause the feline to deplete in overall health and may correct itself on its own when the kitten reaches six months of age. 

Complicated Umbilical Hernia 

A complicated umbilical hernia appears as a soft protrusion from the abdomen, but in this case, the abdominal organs have passed through the abdominal muscle within the hernia. The section of intestine entrapped in the hernia can lose blood circulation and die, causing the young cat to become ill. Complicated umbilical hernias will not go away on their own and require surgical care.

Causes of Umbilical Hernia in Cats

An umbilical hernia in cats is caused by an incomplete closure of the feline’s abdominal muscles shortly after the time of birth. Inside the womb, a kitten’s abdominal muscle are open to allow the passage of nutrients from mother to infant. This abdominal opening is called an umbilical ring and the umbilical blood vessel, or cord, attaches baby to the mother. As the kitten is born, the umbilical blood vessel is pulled, eventually snapping off, which in turn pulls the abdominal wall. In most cases, this naturally occurring action of birth doesn’t result in a hernia, but for unknown reasons, some infants develop the condition.

Some feline bloodlines do show a pattern of umbilical hernias, suggesting umbilical hernias could be part of a genetic predisposition. Orphan kittens have developed umbilical hernias due to incidental trauma and over handling by their caregivers. Rubbing the underbelly of the kitten to stimulate defecation and urination, for example, could easily cause trauma to the naval region.

Diagnosis of Umbilical Hernia in Cats

An umbilical hernia in cats can usually be identified through a physical examination, as the 1-2 ½ cm abdominal protrusion can be visually noted. During the physical examination, your veterinarian may ask you questions such as:

  • When did you first notice the umbilical hernia?
  • Has it grown since the first day you noticed it?
  • Has your kitten been eating, drinking, defecating, and urinating on a regular basis?
  • Has the feline expressed any pain or discomfort in her abdomen? Has she bitten or scratched you during handling? 

Depending on your kitten’s symptoms and the diagnostic findings your veterinarian made on the physical exam, an abdominal ultrasound or x-ray may be requested. Through an ultrasound or x-ray, your veterinarian will be able to determine if a section of the intestine has been entrapped within the hernia. The diagnostic findings your veterinarian makes will aid him or her in treating your kitten appropriately.

Treatment of Umbilical Hernia in Cats

Treatment is not always necessary in umbilical hernia cases. Uncomplicated hernias often correct themselves before the time of sterilization (removal of reproductive organs) at about six months of age, and do not recur. If the hernia does not correct itself by the time of sterilization, however, your veterinarian may recommend surgical correction. Complicated umbilical hernias are also always treated with surgery, as necrotic tissue of a section of the intestine is a potential threat. In an umbilical hernia surgery, any scar tissue that has formed will be removed and the umbilical ring closed with sutures. 

Recovery of Umbilical Hernia in Cats

The prognosis for felines with an umbilical hernia is excellent, even for those who have undergone surgical correction. To avoid complications following the procedure, your veterinarian may ask you to check the surgical site a couple of times a day. If you note any bleeding or signs of infection, contact your veterinarian immediately. Keep your kitten clean, comfortable and safe in a small area of the house to prevent the sutures from coming out of place. In general, very few kittens experience post-surgery complications and the hernia does not reoccur. 

Umbilical Hernia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Black cat
1 Year
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms


My cat has an umbilical hernia. It was suppose to get fixed when she got spayed but the procedure didn't take place. My cat got fixed around 8.5 months of age, she's now a year old. She's been acting strange like she doesn't want anyone near her belly or that entire area in particular and I have this feeling that it is causing her discomfort rather than pain as of right now but I'm not sure. Is there something I should do or will I have to go to the vet to get another surgery done?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
Some cats live their whole lives without any issues from their hernias, whilst others may have discomfort or worse from theirs; I would recommend visiting your Veterinarian immediately for an examination before it possibly becomes an emergency, the surgery is quite simple and routine to correct an umbilical hernia and at her age there is little to be concerned about regarding anaesthesia. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Urinating Outside Litterbox

Hi, my two year old cat Shiro has had an umbilical hernia since the day I brought her home. She is spayed, and at the time I didn't have the finances to remove it during spaying. It has grown nor shrunk since then, but I'm wondering if it's time to think about removing it? Are there any serious health risks associated with her having it? And vice versa with it being removed? She has always been a small cat, drinks a lot and doesn't eat too much. She also peed all around the house when I'm not home (assuming that's anxiety) Otherwise very happy and healthy. Thanks!

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
Some cats have umbilical hernias all their life without incident and others have emergency surgery due to complications arising from the hernia; it is best to have the surgery to remove any risk of complications or other issues from the hernia. Shiro is still young and should tolerate the surgery well, it is a straightforward procedure as simple as a spay procedure so there is little to worry about. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Black cat
6 Weeks
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

don't drink a lot
defecate and urinate normally
eats normally

Hi, my kitten is now 6 weeks old. I have it since week 4 because the mother ate the 3 other kittens and wasn't feeding her last kitten anymore. I have noticed an hernia on her belly that seems bigger compared to 2 weeks ago.The skin is soft when I touch it, but when I push on it with my finger, it feels like different kinds of abnormal things are present in there.She eats normally as well as defecating and urinate on a regular bassis. The only thing I have noticed is that she don't drink a lot, even if I gave her milk with a syring. Doesn't seems to be painfull, but sometimes sge starts bitting me when I palp it. I don't know if it's abnormal, but eshe sleeps a lot compared to my 4 years old cat.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
A kitten will sleep more than an adult cat so this is normal, also most small hernias comprise of fat; however if there is a pain response on palpation I would recommend having a Veterinarian examine the area to determine if there is anything to be concerned about. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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