by Amber Drake

7 Reasons Why Your Cat is Bloated (and How to Help)

7 Reasons Why Your Cat is Bloated (and How to Help)

Have you ever dined out and realized you ate more than you should have? Suddenly, your stomach starts to swell, you're engulfed in discomfort, and you jokingly say you're carrying a "food baby," as if your stomach is about to burst? 

This sensation of bloating is something our pets can experience too, but there's a significant distinction between human bloating and when it happens in our dogs and cats. Our bloating episodes typically subside on their own but, for our furry friends, bloating can pose a serious, or even life-threatening risk.

What Does Bloat in Cats Look Like?

Your cat’s bloat looks similar to your own. You might notice their stomach appearing to be more swollen and it may look different than their normal. 

If you touch their tummy, it may also be harder to touch. But don’t touch too hard; that could be super uncomfortable for them. As long as you’re gentle, they shouldn’t really mind (unless you have a kitty that never likes their belly rubbed). 

There may also be more signs, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sudden lethargy
  • Drooling

Cat’s are masters at hiding injury or illness. The clues will be there, but you will definitely need to be paying attention. 

This means, if you’re able to notice signs, the discomfort your cat is feeling is too much to hide. Like our dogs, cats instinctively try their hardest to hide their ailments so they don’t look “weak.”

Why Cats Get Bloat and What to Do

There’s a list of reasons why bloating in cats can occur. We’ll go through each one, but if you suspect your kitty is bloated, it’s important you visit the vet. There’s no way to know what’s happening for sure without running diagnostic tests. 

1) Check For Parasites If Your Cat Has a Swollen Belly

Kittens and young cats, especially the adventurous outdoor types, often run into trouble with pesky parasites like roundworms and tapeworms. These unwelcome guests can make your cat's belly swell up, giving them a pudgy look. Keeping up with regular deworming and vet visits is key to kicking these parasites to the curb and keeping your cat feeling spry.

2) Constipation From Too Much Fur or Not Enough Water

Constipation can cause your cat to bloat. It can happen for all sorts of reasons – from swallowing too much hair while grooming themselves into a hairball mess, to not getting enough water with their dry food. A balanced diet and making sure they’re drinking plenty of water can keep things moving smoothly.

3) Food Reactions From Eating Off the “No” List

Sometimes cats can get into stuff they shouldn’t. They may have stolen a piece of food from the counter while you were doing your food prep or grabbed something out of the garbage that caused a negative reaction. These dietary ‘no-nos’ can mess with their stomachs big time. Keeping an eye on what your cat's getting into can save both of you from some unnecessary stress.

4) Liver Disease Can Cause Fluid Retention

When a cat has liver disease, it can cause their belly to swell up with fluid, a condition called ascites. Basically, liver trouble messes with how the liver normally works, like making the proteins that help blood clot and keeping fluids in check. 

As the liver starts to lag, fluid sneaks out of the blood and fills up the belly space, making it look bloated. This isn’t just about looking puffy, though; that extra fluid can squish other organs and make your cat pretty uncomfortable.

5) Infection Can Cause Bloating… And Outdoor Kitties Are At Risk

One of the main culprits behind bloating is feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) - it's more of a headache for the adventurous outdoor kitties than the couch potato indoor ones. FIP gets going when a common cat virus decides to go rogue, turning into something nastier, and it comes in two types: the 'wet' version fills their belly with fluid, causing a noticeable bulge, while the 'dry' version doesn’t. 

Indoor furballs usually dodge this bullet since they're not out there getting into who knows what. That's why keeping up with your vet visits and making sure your outdoor explorer is well-looked after can really make a difference. Catching these sneaky infections early means less trouble down the line, keeping your whiskered companion as happy and healthy as can be.

6) A Twisted Stomach is Life-Threatening

Cats' stomachs can twist, like our dogs’. Eating or drinking too fast is a major reason why cats might get bloated, especially for those who gulp down their food too quickly or are used to eating one big meal a day. This rush to eat can lead to swallowing a lot of air, which directly plays into the stomach swelling up and twisting.

If this is the case, if you don’t get immediate treatment for your kitty, they may not make it. A twisted stomach is a serious, life-threatening problem that requires immediate attention. 

7) Your Kitty Could Be Dehydrated

It may sound contradictory, but if your cat is dehydrated, their belly could look bloated. When cats don't get enough water, their bodies can react in unexpected ways. Dehydration can cause their organs to hold onto fluids to try and maintain normal bodily functions, which sometimes results in fluid accumulation in areas like the abdominal cavity. 

This fluid buildup can make their belly look swollen or bloated, even though they're lacking fluid overall. It's a deceptive sign that might make you think they're well-hydrated or even overfed, but in reality, it's a serious indication that they need more fluids.

Changing Your Cat’s Diet Can Help

Cats are basically little lions at heart, meant to chow down on meat rather than munch on grains and fillers found in a lot of dry kibble. Feeding them just dry food packed with carbs doesn't really hit the mark when it comes to what their bodies are built to digest. 

Sure, they'll eat it and get some nutrients out of it, but it's not the ideal fit for their carnivorous needs. The thing is, loading up on carbs can puff them up just like it can with us, leading to a bit of a belly. And it's not just about looking a bit rounder – a carb-heavy diet can mess with their health, leading to issues like obesity and even diabetes.

To keep them in tip-top shape, it's a good move to offer them meals that are more their style – think high protein, some fat, and not so much on the carbs, kind of like their ancestors would have hunted down in the wild.

Probiotics Help Prevent Bloated Belly in Cats

Implementing probiotics, like S. boulardii from Daily Cat, can help support your cat’s gut health by nourishing the good bacteria in the digestive tract. By keeping the gut bacteria balanced, probiotics help tone down stomach issues like bloating, diarrhea, and throwing up – stuff that can really mess with a cat's quality of life. 

Probiotics do more than just smooth out digestive hiccups; they also give the immune system a boost. This means better protection against nasty germs and a stronger defense against illness.

Plus, after a round of antibiotics, which knocks out both the bad and good bacteria, probiotics come in handy to get that good gut balance back on track. Certain types of probiotics, like S. boulardii, are super effective at keeping cats' tummies happy and their immune systems ready to tackle whatever comes their way. 

S. boulardii is also antibiotic-resistant, so if your cat needs antibiotics, you can feed it simultaneously to protect the microbiome’s balance. 

Targeted probiotics, like Daily Cat, are great for quickly bouncing back from tummy troubles and for keeping cats feeling good in the long run by making sure they're getting all the nutrients they need and keeping illnesses at bay.

Lean On the Safe Side When Suspicious

Even though breeds like Siamese and Maine Coons with their big chests are more likely to get bloated, it's really something any cat can get, no matter their breed. 

Bloat happens fast and gets serious quickly, so it's super important for cat owners to get their furry friend to the vet ASAP to avoid problems with blood getting to the stomach and other organ damage.

As usual, our advice is to stay in tune with your pet and trust yourself if something seems ‘off.’ For daily prevention and health maintenance, probiotics are your best investment. 

Read More:

Cats and Carbohydrates: The Carnivore Fantasy?

Gastrointestinal Parasites of Cats

Disorders of the Stomach and Intestines of Cats

The Cat With Abdominal Distention or Abdominal Fluid

Photo by svklimkin on Unsplash

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