Painful Abdomen in Cats


The abdomen is located between the chest and the pelvis and contains many internal organs including the liver, spleen, gallbladder, pancreas and kidneys. Abdominal pain can have many causes, all of which should be investigated by a veterinarian.



Symptoms of abdominal pain may not always be apparent, a hunched over appearance and/or pain when being touched in the abdominal and loss of appetite are common.

Other symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause.

  • A cat with giardia will have diarrhea, a cat with kidney stones may have difficulty urinating, a constipated cat may strain in the litter tray.
  • Cats with intussusception have vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhea.
  • Viral, bacterial and parasitic infections (such as giardia) commonly cause vomiting and diarrhea. Giardia can produce foul-smelling, frothy feces.
  • Symptoms of poisoning vary depending on the type of toxin ingested. Your cat may appear confused, foam at the mouth, vomit, have seizures.
  • Cancer symptoms can often be vague but may include loss of appetite, blood in feces, loss of appetite, change in toileting habits (constipation, diarrhea), loss of appetite.


The veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you. He will want to know how long your cat has had a painful abdomen, have you noticed other symptoms, what food is he eating, has he possibly eaten something he shouldn’t have?

Diagnostic workup:

  • Abdominal ultrasound and/or x-ray to check the organs for tumours, kidney stones, rupture, inflammation.
  • Barium x-ray may be necessary. Barium, which is a contrast material that coats the inside of the intestines, is mixed with food or water which is swallowed by your cat. Your veterinarian will then take several x-rays over the next few hours to see your cat’s intestines which can be a helpful diagnostic tool for intestinal blockages.
  • Biochemical profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis to check organ function, for signs of infection and/or inflammation.
  • Fecal tests to check for parasites.
  • Biopsy.
  • Peritoneal fluid analysis – To determine the type of fluid within the abdomen (if present).


The goal of treatment is to find and address the underlying cause and relieve symptoms associated with fluid build-up.

Emergency care:

  • Removal of the fluid from the abdominal cavity (abdominocentesis) and diuretics to treat ascites.
  • Supportive care can include fluids to treat dehydration and correct electrolyte imbalances, pain relief, and anti-nausea medication.

Treat the underlying cause:

  • Bacterial infections: Antibiotic therapy.
  • Pyometra: Spay the cat and antibiotics.
  • Cancer: Surgery to remove the tumour. Chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy may be necessary as a follow-up.
  • Giardia: Antibiotics and supportive such as fluids to treat dehydration.
  • Poisoning: Where possible gastric decontamination. Activated charcoal to bind to any toxins remaining in the system. Supportive care such as medication to control seizures, fluid therapy, antidote, where available.
  • Viral infections: Supportive care where possible, unfortunately, the mortality rate for FIP is very high.
  • Ruptured bladder: Surgical repair.
  • Intussusception: Surgery.
  • Plication: Surgery to remove the linear foreign object, as well as repair necrotic tissue and re-attach to healthy tissue.
  • Pancreatitis: Address the underlying cause and supportive care such as pain relief, anti-nausea medication, fluids and nutritional support.
  • Constipation: Stool softeners, increase fibre and water in the diet.
  • Kidney stones: Medications to dissolve the stones or surgery to remove them.
  • Urinary obstruction: Unblock the cat by catheterisation and fluids to correct electrolyte imbalances.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio