How Is a Cat's Stomach Supposed to Feel?

Acute abdominal discomfort in a cat can be an emergency situation.
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If your cat likes a good belly rub, then you know when she's happy her stomach is soft, palpable and comfortable to your touch. However, if you notice her stomach is starting to look distended, feels firm or she acts painful, these are signs something could be wrong.


If your cat is at least 6 months of age, unspayed and sneaks out on occasion, there’s a good chance she’s pregnant. An experienced veterinarian can palpate gestational sacs between three and four weeks, and heartbeats can be picked up on ultrasound after 20 days. If you suspect she might be pregnant, never try to feel for the kittens yourself. The fetuses can be damaged, causing her to miscarry or the kittens to be stillborn.

Urethral Obstruction

Because of the small size of their urethra, male cats are prone to urinary blockages. This happens when a urinary tract infection forms tiny crystals that plug. Although females can become blocked, it is rare. Since their urethra is larger, the crystals usually pass. If your cat is blocked, or even partially blocked, the back of her stomach will feel hard due to an engorged bladder. This is a life-threatening situation. Not only can a bladder rupture, but toxins normally released through urination are backing up into the kidneys and bloodstream.


Constipation will make your cat’s stomach feel more firm and cause abdominal discomfort. The most common causes of constipation in younger cats are hairballs, diets low in fiber or lacking enough moisture. Since cats come from a desert ancestry, they tend not to be big water drinkers. In fact, increased water consumption is usually the sign of a problem. A good quality canned food will help increase moisture in her diet, and regular hairball remedies will keep the intestines moving. If her constipation goes unresolved, she can become impacted. This can stretch the colon to the point of losing normal function.


Peritonitis is an indicator of a potentially serious problem, and typically is treated with hospitalization. Peritonitis is an inflammation of tissue that causes fluid in the abdominal cavity. It can be brought on by a list of reasons, such as viruses, parasites, bacterial infections or abscesses. It also can be a result of trauma, poison, benign or malignant tumors. If your cat shows signs of abdominal discomfort, it is important she see a vet for a diagnoses and treatment.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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