Bloated belly in your cat – What causes it?

What causes a bloated belly in your cat?

There are different forms that cause a bloated belly in your cat. For example, the bloated belly in an unsterilized cat can simply be caused by the fact that she is pregnant. But a bloated belly can also arise because fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity, causing the belly to increase in size. In addition, organs in the abdominal cavity can enlarge and cause a bloated belly in your cat. But in most cases, your cat unfortunately simply has become too fat. The abdominal cavity and skin then contain excessive amounts of accumulated fatty tissue, causing a bloated belly in your cat.

Obesity and potbelly as a cause of a bloated belly in your cat

If weightgain is the cause of your cat’s bloated belly, you can recognise this by the fact that your cat has too much fatty tissue all over its body. You will feel a soft mass under the skin in that case. You can feel this best at the ribs of your cat. There should actually be a thin layer of skin on the ribs almost immediately. Is there a soft, compressible layer in between? Then your cat unfortunately probably is too fat.

You can also judge this by looking at his belly from the side. The belly should be as high as his sternum. Is it lower? This is also a signal that your cat is obese, but this naturally also occurs with pregnancy or with another cause of a round belly. But especially if it hangs under the belly, feels soft and is a potbelly, then this is fatty tissue. Obesity in cats occurs in about 1 in 3 cats in Europe, where it is over 1 in 2 cats in the USA. 

Cat without a bloated belly, but with a normal size belly.
Cat with a healthy weight.
An obese cat with a giant bloated belly
Severe obese cat

A bloated belly in your cat as a result of a pregnancy

Cats that have not yet been spayed can get a bloated belly as a result of a pregnancy. Even if you have them on the cat pill! Cats sometimes throw up this pill and get pregnant. In general, in this case it always concerns young cats under 5 years old. Not that older cats can’t get pregnant if they weren’t spayed, but at that point an owner already knows what that looks like. Is it the first time for you that you find that your young cat is starting to get a round belly and hasn’t she been sterilized yet? And doesn’t she seem overweight in the rest of her body? Then there is a good chance that your cat is pregnant. It is best to go for a consultation with your vet so that he or she can feel whether your cat has kittens in her belly. 

A cat with a bloated belly due to pregnancy. Her nipples are also enlarged.
At the end of the pregnancy, a cat has a bloated belly and swollen nipples.

A bloated belly in your cat as a result of worms

Cats and especially kittens can get a fair amount of worms in their intestines, causing the intestines to swell up enormously. The intestines can grow up to twice as large as normal. And in this case the belly will also be almost twice as big as normal in a cat or kitten. Due to our high-quality medical care for our pets, most owners regularly deworm their cats and kittens. So it doesn’t happen very often anymore that worms cause such a round belly in your cat or kitten. If you still think that this might be the case with your cat or kitten, it is sufficient to give it a deworming and to repeat this no later than 3 weeks after the first treatment. That way your cat or kitten gets rid of all his worms.

Fluid in the abdominal cavity, which creates a bloated belly in your cat

If your cat is not obese and is not pregnant, it is possible that your cat has fluid in his belly. This can have several causes. For example, as a result of heart failure, fluid can accumulate in the abdominal cavity (and chest cavity). But also as a result of the FIP virus, it is possible that there is an accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. Also, as a result of a protein deficiency in the blood, fluid can accumulate in the abdominal cavity. And tumors or cancer in the abdominal cavity can also cause fluid to fill in the abdominal cavity. Unfortunately, these are all serious problems and the best thing to do is to see your vet for further investigation.

A cat with a bloated belly due to a liver tumor and fluid in his belly.
A cat with a bloated belly due to a liver tumor and fluid in his belly due to the tumor.

Enlargement of organs in the abdominal cavity

In principle, every organ in your cat’s abdominal cavity can grow to such an extent that your cat’s abdominal cavity becomes larger and thus creates a bloated belly in your cat. However, it is almost only the liver that can become so large that you will see a round belly in your cat. With all other tumors or cancers you see other complaints than a bloated belly much sooner than with a liver enlargement. In almost all cases, a liver enlargement is caused by a liver tumour. Also in this case it is wise to contact your vet. A liver tumor is a serious problem and if that is the case, treatment is difficult, expensive and intense. If you also hear a lot of gurgling sounds form the belly of your cat, it is possible that the intestines are enlarged due to gas formation

Good luck!

We hope your cat just is pregnant or has worms. Those are the best forms of a bloated belly in a cat. We wish you good luck in cases that it is not a pregnancy or worms.