What Causes a Swollen Belly in Your Cat?

Perhaps there’s no other ailment that’s easier to identify in cats apart from swollen belly. The symptom of the ailment is as its name implies—a bloated and larger-than-normal belly. In medical terms, this is referred to as abdominal distention and it’s something that could suddenly develop in your cat.

The build up of fluid itself is not life threatening, but the underlying issues that are indicated by the bloated belly could indeed be fatal for your feline friend. The type of fluid causing the abdominal distention could further indicate just exactly what the underlying issue could be.

The fluid build up could either be overproduced peritoneal fluid that’s secreted by the lining of the abdomen and the internal organs (peritoneum), internal bleeding, urine, or a combination of any of the three.

Any swelling that’s caused by internal fluid build up is referred to medically as edema, and an edema in the stomach or abdomen area is known as ascites. Ascites is just another symptom of a larger problem.

Some of the diseases and ailments that could cause ascites include organ failure, physical trauma, heart failure, cancer, and feline infectious peritonitis among others. Here is a quick break down of the major causes of fluid buildup or ascites that may cause the swollen belly syndrome in your cat.

Organ Failure

Damage to any of the organs in your cat’s abdominal area could lead to ascites. The same goes for any failure of the same vital organs such as the kidneys, bladder, and liver.

These organs are responsible for filtering out and removing waste in the body. If these organs fail to function or are ruptured somehow, they can release the toxic fluids they normally hold into the abdomen and abdominal cavity. This will cause swollen belly in your cat, but it’s the least of your worries at this point. If your cat experiences abdominal organ failure, it’s likely to go septic, which is highly lethal.

Physical Trauma

Speaking of damage, physical trauma could happen at any given moment to any cat. An accident, abuse, or any other type of injury could cause physical trauma. Once this happens and damage to internal organs has happened, internal hemorrhaging of fluids is likely to occur.

Leakage to the abdomen is likely to ensue, which then causes the peritoneum to be irritated. The excess fluid is then held in the abdominal cavity causing a swollen belly and a lot of discomfort for your cat.

Heart Failure

Most particularly, congestive heart failure on the right side of your cat’s heart is the culprit. The right side is important for pumping blood, and any struggle in the distribution of fresh blood can cause problems and fluid build up in all parts of the body including the abdomen.

Congestive heart failure in cats is likely to be genetic, but it can also be caused by a few other factors. Some of these factors include other heart diseases such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, and even the presence of heartworms.


Fluid buildup in the abdomen can also be caused by the existence of tumors or other masses in the abdominal cavity as indicated by a cancer diagnosis. These tumors and masses can become a blockage in the abdominal cavity, which can interrupt the normal functioning of the organs. The fluids that are normally processed by the organs could then leak out into the abdomen or get backed up, which will eventually cause a rupture.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

This disease is caused by a virus that thrives in white blood cells, which ultimately impairs your cat’s immune system. It affects the kidneys and the peritoneum, inflaming them and causing them to malfunction and start to swell.

This will eventually result to organ damage that will cause a leakage into the abdominal cavity, causing swollen belly in the process.

The most important thing to do if your cat has suddenly developed swollen belly is to take it to the animal hospital immediately to be seen by a vet and be treated. Remember that swollen belly is only a symptom of a larger, more serious underlying problem. The sooner that underlying problem is addressed, the better the prognosis will be for your cat.

You can also read:

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.