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A Guide to Cat Bloat

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Although cat bloat is not an overly common health problem, practically any feline can be affected by this condition. With various causes and treatment plans, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the signs of bloat, particularly since it can become a serious issue. One of the best ways to protect your pal from bloat is to learn some preventive measures.

What Is Bloat in Cats?

Bloat in cats occurs when an excess amount of gas becomes trapped in a cat’s stomach, causing it to expand to a larger than normal size. An extended stomach can put added pressure on the other organs, it can cause your cat’s stomach to appear larger than usual, and it can be rather uncomfortable for the cat. There are many reasons why a cat can become bloated, ranging from everyday activities to serious medical issues.

Since multiple sources can bring on bloat, there is also a varying range of treatment plans and preventive measures. If you believe your feline friend may be experiencing bloat, it’s crucial that you monitor their symptoms and take them to their veterinarian or a nearby animal hospital as soon as possible. For some cats, bloat could be the indicator of a serious underlying health issue that requires immediate attention.

Dogs can also be affected by a condition called bloat. It is a serious issue that requires immediate medical attention, so learning to recognize the signs is vital.

How To Tell if a Cat Is Bloated

Cats are notorious for being able to hide when they don’t feel the best. Particularly if your best pal is already aloof, doesn’t like to be held, or spends their day napping, it may not be the easiest to catch when something is wrong.

However, with bloat, oftentimes, cats will begin showing more than one symptom. Common ones include:

Unlike other health issues, where symptoms may gradually appear, with bloat, symptoms may seem to pop up out of nowhere. The exact symptoms your cat displays can be determined by the causation of their bloat.

cat resting on a wicker basket

Why Do Cats Get Bloated?

Although bloat isn’t a relatively common condition for cats, it’s still possible for a cat or kitten of any age, gender, or breed to be affected. When it comes to kittens, in many instances, bloat can be brought on by an issue with the milk they are drinking. This could include anything from something being wrong with the mother the kitten is feeding from, an incorrect milk replacement, or spoiled milk. Kittens may also be affected if their dry food has too many carbohydrates.

With adult cats, typical causes include:

  • Overeating
  • Eating too quickly
  • Indigestion
  • Fluid retention
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease

Cats may also experience gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) whenever their stomach expands due to it being filled with excess air. With the stomach being bloated, it has a higher chance of twisting, which in turn causes the gases to stay trapped in the stomach while simultaneously blocking the flow of necessary blood supply. GDV is a severe health issue that needs immediate treatment. Otherwise, there will be serious consequences.

Do Cats Bloat After Eating?

There can be a few possibilities as to why your cat is bloating after they eat. First, your cat may just be overeating. If you fill your cat’s bowl with a large amount of food and allow them to graze all day, your pal may instead take advantage and eat all the food as one big meal. This can be resolved by measuring your cat’s food and placing smaller meals out a few times per day.

Some cats may also be eating too quickly. Some heavy food-motivated cats may also be eager for a bite to eat the second it’s in the bowl, while others with fellow feline or canine siblings may feel pressured to devour their food so that no one else can take it. If this is the case, try separating your pets into different areas when they are fed or purchase a slow feeder bowl.

If your cat doesn’t have an issue with eating too much or too quickly but still seems to experience bloating post meals, it may be due to something in the food. Your pal could have an intolerance to a certain ingredient (just like people do), and you may need to speak with your veterinarian about switching to a different type of food.

Do Cats Bloat When in Heat?

Bloating is not known to be a common symptom for female cats in heat. To help avoid the other symptoms that are common when a cat is in heat, spaying your cat is highly recommended if they aren’t already by the time you adopt them.

Can Catnip Make Cats Bloated?

Catnip can be a fun little treat for your pal. Though it is safe for cats to consume, it’s essential that you don’t give them too much. An excess amount of catnip may cause some digestive issues, though it won’t necessarily lead to bloat.

Can Hairballs Cause Gas and Bloating in Cats?

On occasion, hairballs could lead to a blockage in your cat’s intestines, which could result in a swollen abdomen and other similar symptoms of bloat, such as going through the motions of getting sick without actually doing so.

In most instances, whenever a cat has a hairball (which is caused by hair being swallowed whenever they are grooming themselves), everything is resolved on its own in a fairly short amount of time, though it does result in you having to clean up a little mess. However, on occasion, when a hairball causes a blockage, you may need to visit your veterinarian to receive further instruction on the best route for treatment. In extreme cases, some cats may require surgery in order to remove the hairball.

If you are concerned that your cat may experience this issue, or they already have, some preventive measures can include brushing your cat more frequently, making a change in their diet, and providing supplements.

How To Relieve Bloating in Cats

After observing your cat’s condition, if you believe they are experiencing bloat, the best route may be to take them to their veterinarian. In order to officially diagnose them, your veterinarian will most likely want to do a full examination. They may also recommend an X-ray, urinalysis or stool sample, and some blood work. The purpose of these tests and scans is to help rule out other possible illnesses while also searching for the most accurate diagnosis.

Depending on what the underlying issue is, it’s entirely possible that your veterinarian will need to continue running tests. Once definite causation is found, the next step will be treatment.

In particular instances, such as GDV, one of the only solutions is to perform emergency surgery. During which, the cat’s stomach will be untwisted, inspected for any other possible issues, and often sutured to the abdominal wall in order to decrease the chances of it twisting again.

Thankfully, GDV is a more extreme case, and with other instances of bloat, treatment isn’t quite as intense. For example, bloating caused by parasites can typically be solved with a deworming medication.

As long as your cat receives proper treatment within a reasonable amount of time, the prognosis is typically good. Most cats are able to go back to living their everyday lives—happy and healthy as could be.

As a cat parent, it’s necessary to keep in mind that cat bloat is a little more serious of an issue than human bloat. If you suspect your cat is experiencing this issue, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian and discuss your concerns and observations. Since your role is to be your cat’s advocate and voice, it never hurts to be safe rather than sorry.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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