Is Your Cat’s Abdomen Distended?

If your cat’s abdomen is distended, the advice, as always, is to see a good veterinarian as soon as possible. You can read this page before you go so that you can discuss your cat’s health in a more enlightened fashion. I believe that it helps the vet, you and above all your cat if you have some cat health knowledge. But don’t overuse it and self-diagnose. An enlightened cat owner is better positioned to resolve cat health problems in collaboration with their vet compared to one who cannot provide any sort of useful information to assist in diagnosis.

Cat with FIP

Cat with FIP. This photo comes from a British veterinary surgery. Downs Veterinary Practice. See address and link below this image.

Image by Downs Veterinary Practice, 59 Great Brockeridge, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, BS9 3UA, Tel: 0117 962 2828, Fax: 0117 962 2727. Go to their website.

Any changes to the shape of a cat’s abdomen needs to be checked out. “Distension” means the stomach bulges when the cat is viewed from above. The cat is “pot bellied”.

The information is presented in a table for speed reading/skimming. If you want to search this table for certain words use Ctrl F command. Depress the Ctrl key and the “F” at the same time and a little box comes up on your screen bottom left or top right. Enter the word and it will be highlighted. Click on the next button to see more.

SymptomPossible Condition
Long term abdominal distension. Cat feels OK. No other signs.Cat is obese.
Long term abdominal distension. No bowel movement. Cat becomes anorexic, dehydrated and vomits (brown fecal-smelling material)Colon contains dense feces
Abdomen of intact (not spayed) female cat becomes gradually distended over 2 months. Mammary glands are enlarged.Pregnant cat
Intact female cat not feeling well with distended abdomen and possible vaginal discharge.Infection of uterus (pyometra). Common in old, intact female cats.
Gradual distension of the abdomen with one side being more distended than the other (possibly) and cat feeling ill and poor appetite with weight loss, possible diarrhea and vomiting and jaundice.Abdominal mass in liver, spleen, intestine or kidney
Progressive abdominal distension with soft abdomen equal both sides due to fluid accumulation in abdomen. Cat lethargic, poor appetite and possible fever.Heart disease causing fluid in abdomen. FIP
(feline infectious peritonitis), peritonitis, cancer, liver failure.
Acute abdominal distension accompanying an accident (trauma). Cat is depressed, fever, pale lips.Ruptured bladder. Pale lips (mucous membrane) indicates bleeding. Fever indicates peritonitis.
Acute abdominal distension with difficulty breathing and depressed appearance with poor appetite.Stomach enlargement because cat swallowed air.
Abdomen becomes quickly distended. Cat is weak and lethargic. Mucous membranes are pale and cat has low body temperature.Cat is anemic because of bleeding into abdomen. This may be due to rat poison, tumor or injury due to accident (trauma).
Swelling of abdomen, fever, weight loss, diarrheaPossible toxoplasmosis. Most cats show no symptoms though.
Temporary distension of abdomenEating fermented food, constipation, overeating
Abdominal distension in kittensWorm infestation, toxic milk syndrome. kitten septicemia.
Lower abdomen distended and painful to touch, straining to urinate but no urineObstruction of urethra (the tube connecting urinary bladder to the genitals).

Sources: (a) The Veterinarians’ Guide to Your Cat’s Symptoms (b) Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.

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This entry was posted in Cat Anatomy, Cat Health and tagged , by Michael Broad. Bookmark the permalink.

About Michael Broad

Michael is retired! He retired at age 57 and at Aug 2018 is approaching 70. He worked in many jobs. The last job he did was as a solicitor practicing general law. He loves animals and is passionate about animal welfare. He also loves photography and nature. He hates animal abuse. He has owned and managed this site since 2007. There are around 13k pages so please use the custom search facility!


Is Your Cat’s Abdomen Distended? — 3 Comments

  1. Thank you so much Michael, such articles are very useful for me because I have to know more and more about the cats and kittens. It will not only help me for the present but for the future cats I will treat. 🙂

    thank you again <3

    • Ahsan, I am sensitive to your needs. What you like is hard knowledge to help ensure the health and wellbeing of your cats. I think what you want is to know what you can do alone to maximise the health of your cats and see warning signs.

  2. It’s a very sad photo actually. He looks very unhappy. I assume he is most likely going to die. It’s hard – he has such a face, so much character.

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