If your cat sports a bloated belly, don't dismiss it. A bloated stomach can be a symptom of potentially fatal conditions -- your cat might need to see a vet immediately. In some cases, a bloated belly is relatively harmless, though, so look for other symptoms to be sure.
Though it's more common in dogs, bloat is a serious condition that can affect and quickly kill a cat. Generally, it happens when gas becomes trapped in your cat's stomach, which can happen after a big, hastily eaten meal. If your cat has a distended abdomen, check for other symptoms. If she's showing signs of nausea or vomiting, weakness or collapse, you could have a severe case of bloat on your hands. It can be fatal in 30 minutes, so get your cat to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
A problem as simple as flatulence could be at work in your cat's bloated tummy. Flatulence is usually cause by something your cat eats or how frequently the cat eats and exercises. It could also be a sign of a virus, cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, though. Other signs of such issues include stomach rumbling, puking, diarrhea, drooling and decreased appetite. If your cat shows any combination of these signs, take her to a vet, who can check for serious health issues as well as offer nutritional advice.
A cat's swelling abdomen could indicate a type of intestinal blockage. Intestinal blockages are exactly what they sound like: Food and waste can't properly move through your cat's system and can get backed up with fatal results. The blockage may be caused by a number of things -- tumors, hernias or even impacted feces, for instance -- so a veterinarian's diagnosis of the cause and recommendation a course of action is crucial.
Not every reason for bloated tummies is cause for concern. In fact, it could just mean that your family is getting bigger. A pregnant cat can start showing as soon as 20 days into the pregnancy, giving the belly a bloated, lumpy appearance. If you suspect pregnancy, take your cat to the vet instead of feeling around the tummy yourself, as an inexperienced touch can inadvertently damage unborn kittens.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.