Here's the difference between a kitten's healthy round belly and a swollen one—and how to make your furball feel better.
kitten laying on his back with a bloated belly
Credit: oxygen / Getty

A round, chubby tummy just might be a kitten's most adorable feature. Right? Unless you count those big, wide eyes and teeny tiny claws. But sometimes a kitten's bloated belly can signal a health issue. We talked with Carling Matejka, DVM, a spokesperson for pet food company Solid Gold, to find out what's normal when it comes to kitty tummies and when to be concerned.

How to Tell If Your Kitten's Belly is Normal or Bloated

Kittens generally have little round bellies, especially after eating. When held up under their front legs, their underbellies have an avocado or eggplant shape, says Hannah Shaw, founder of the non-profit Orphan Kitten Club. Healthy round bellies are soft and squishy too.

However, a potbelly shape indicates a bloated belly. It may feel hard and stick out, similar to a pregnant belly. Other signs your kitten isn't feeling right include:

If you can't tell whether your kitty has a swollen belly or it's just a cute, chunky tummy, see your veterinarian for an assessment. Your vet can identify if your kitten is normal, bloated, or overweight.

Why Is My Kitten's Belly Bloated?

Kittens develop swollen bellies for a number of reasons ranging from minor to major. Matejka says that the most common causes of bloating in bellies are intestinal parasites (worms), weight gain, or excessive gas from a poor-quality diet. More serious causes of belly enlargement in kittens include enlarged organs and a build-up of fluid in the abdomen.

Treatments for a Kitten With a Bloated Belly

Treatments for swollen bellies in kittens depend on the underlying cause. As noted above, intestinal parasites are often the culprit. And roundworms are the most common, affecting 25 to 75 percent of adult cats and even more kittens, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center. That's why veterinarians routinely perform fecal tests on kittens and prescribe deworming medications to treat and prevent worms.

It's important to see your vet regularly during kittenhood, not just for worms but also to check on weight gain and to discuss your growing kitty's nutritional needs. Feeding a high-quality, complete, and balanced kitten food ensures your furry pal is getting essential nutrients, not empty calories that can lead to excess weight, says Matejka.

If your kitten's bloated belly has a more serious cause such as organ enlargement or abdominal fluid, treatment may include:

  • Draining fluid from the abdomen
  • Medications
  • Surgery

How to Help a Kitten With a Bloated Stomach at Home

"If your kitten is simply bloated from gas with no other problems, then the bloating should subside with time," Matejka says. "Feed your kitten small meals of high-quality kitten food until the belly returns to normal."

Also, avoid feeding your kitten table scraps or giving your kitten milk. Contrary to popular myth, cats and milk don't go together. Felines are actually lactose intolerant, which means they don't have the enzymes necessary to digest the sugar in milk. Drinking it can cause digestive upset including bloating and gas.

You can also check with your vet to see if adding probiotics to your kitten's diet would be helpful for digestion, Matejka says. But if the bloating isn't going away or if you notice additional symptoms, take your kitten to the vet.

A kitten with a hard, protruding belly is likely experiencing a lot of discomfort and it could be serious. The sooner you treat the underlying cause, the sooner your tiny friend can get back to doing what kittens do best: Having fun and being super-cute!