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Kitten with BIG belly

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hello, I'm new here. Hoping to get some ideas and suggestions to follow up on with my vet.

On May 8 my neighbors found and brought me a 4-week-old kitten who was undersized and potbellied, just basically a bundle of bones with skin loosely draped over them, and this big bulging belly. We suspect his mother dropped him off because he wasn't thriving.

He had a two-dose course of standard kitten dewormer, plus two weeks of Albon even though he tested negative for coccidia and giardia. He was tested for FIV and FeLV at 7 weeks and again at 13 weeks, testing negative both times.

He also had 3 emergency clinic visits, one hospitalization, and a total of 9 veterinary contacts in the first 8 weeks I had him. Nothing specific was ever diagnosed, just "fading kitten syndrome."

Now, at 15-16 weeks old, he is still small for his age (about 2 1/2 pounds) but finally seems stable. He's eating, growing, filling out with muscles, having reasonably normal stools (a bit soft, but not runny, and no blood or mucus), and doing typical kitten zooming and pouncing and playing. He's on metronidazole twice a day, and simethicone infant anti-gas drops 3 times a day.

But he still has a disproportionately distended swollen belly. Sometimes it's more distended and sometimes less, but it's never un-swollen.

If he doesn't have parasites and isn't constipated, what else could cause this?
post #2 of 18
A few things I've found:


This is the absence of an anus. It may just be the anus that is occluded (obstructed or does not have an external opening) or the entire rectum may be missing. Sometimes the anus is present, but does not connect to the end of the bowel. Imperforate anus means the kitten cannot defecate, or cannot defecate normally since the lower bowel may open into another orifice. Symptoms akin to constipation occur and visual inspection may show lack of an anus. If the kitten is being reared by its mother, it may be several weeks before its condition is noticed. If it is being hand-reared, you will soon notice a problem. This condition can create a swollen stomach, or pot-belly appearance. Sometimes a Partial Blockage occurs, where some stool is released but some is retained within the body cavity.

As soon as the condition is discovered, seek veterinary help. If the anus is just blocked or doesn't connect to the bowel, it may be possible to correct this surgically. Surgery must be performed immediately to prevent or relieve constipation. If a larger portion of the bowel is missing, euthanasia is recommended. If the kitten survives surgery (surgery on tiny kittens is risky), the prognosis is good though it may be some time before it gains proper control over its bowel motions and it may need to be manually expressed for a while.


This is generalised infection i.e. the kitten’s system is filled with harmful bacteria. It may have picked up these bacteria in the womb, during birth or after birth through a skin lesion or umbilical cord. Kittens with septicaemia have a raised temperature and their gums and tongue are fiery red. They are distressed, restless and often keep rolling over where they lie. They cry with a pathetic ‘mew". Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential if the kitten is to survive. The vet will prescribe appropriate antibiotics. Such kittens are critically ill and require tube-feeding and attention to the environmental temperature. Many will not survive despite best efforts of vets.


Intestinal parasites (roundworms, tapeworms) are common in kittens unless the mother was wormed before pregnancy began. With abandoned kittens it is impossible to know whether the mother was wormed or not. Feral kittens almost always harbour worms.

Healthy kittens should be wormed with a preparation recommended by your vet when they reach 5 weeks old. Thereafter they should be wormed as advised by your vet until they reach 6 months old and are wormed routinely as adults.

Sick kittens or kittens under 3 weeks old should only be wormed under veterinary supervision e.g. if they have a severe worm burden which is compromising their health and growth.

Before each dosing the kittens should be accurately weighed, since too little wormer will be ineffective and too much may cause illness. In many kittens the worms cause no clinical signs. In others they can result in poor body condition, soft or bloody stools, loss of appetite, pot-belly and weight loss.

Some worms can be transmitted through the stools of infected cats, while others are carried by fleas. As well as worming, good hygiene and flea control are essential.


A general term for abdominal pain. Classic colic in infants is usually caused by an accumulation of gas in the stomach which causes the abdomen to swell. Gas trapped further along is "trapped wind" and causes similar pain. The abdomen becomes hard and bloated and the kitten shows signs of distress which may agitate the mother. Colic may be caused by overfeeding, bacterial infection, incorrect milk mixture, feeding too fast.

Because the mother becomes distressed, remove the kitten from the nest to treat it. Abdominal pain will be eased by releasing the gas build-up. Gently stroke the abdomen with warm damp cotton wool until the gas is released from one or other end of the kitten. If the gas is not released, seek veterinary help. The kitten should be fed little and often once it recovers. If it is prone to colic it may need preventative measures e.g. 0.5 ml Asalone (from chemists) 30 mins before feeding.

If all kittens in a litter are colicky, there is a problem with the mother's milk. Some mothers produce too strong milk. Antibiotics given to the mother can cause colic in the kittens. In these cases, hand-rearing is necessary.


Gastro-Enteritis is a serious inflammation of the stomach and intestine which causes abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and often vomiting. It quickly causes dehydration and electrolyte loss due to excessive fluid loss. The kitten may cry in pain if it has the strength to do so. Seek immediate veterinary help. Antibiotics may be required to combat infection. If and when the condition stabilises, the kitten may be too weak to suckle and may require tube-feeding.

Feline Infectious Enteritis is a major killer of feral and stray kittens and a hazard in cat rescue/shelter situations. Care must be taken to avoid cross-infection.


I think that Colic is the most likely culprit here. It can be caused by formula that is too rich for the kitten, so it sometimes happens with hand-reared kittens. Try feeding less food, but more often.

I found this information here:
post #3 of 18
Originally Posted by SamhainBorn View Post
A few things I've found:

I've seen one case, unfortunately it didn't end well. The kitten was also missing her tail which gave a good clue that more could be wrong with her back end. She was pts at the age of 7 weeks.

Could it be fluid building up? I'm paranoid about this now that one of my cats had it happen and it turned out to be pancreatic cancer...
post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hmm, mine doesn't have a tail either.


He's going on 16 weeks old now. I've had him for 12 weeks as of tomorrow. He's had the big belly all that time. If he had anything that would be fatal in less than 12 weeks, he'd be dead already.

He's been treated for intestinal parasites, and has had negative fecal exams on two different occasions with two different vets using two different methods (one flotation, one centrifugation).

He's had his temperature taken rectally many times (because there were times when it dropped too low), and during his first vet visit shortly after being found, the vet gave him a warm-water enema in an attempt to raise his temperature. He definitely has an anus.

He does poop, and has control over where he poops (uses the litter box). He's not incontinent.

Earlier in his life he had days when he would be listless and miserable have no appetite and look like he was dying, then eventually pass a large amount of mushy sloppy stools, after which he clearly felt better and resumed playing and purring and happy-kitten behavior as well as enthusiastic eating. (But his belly was still big even so.) We went through a lot of diets trying to find one he wasn't reactive to. So it's very likely the belly issues are something to do with his bowel, as opposed to liver or pancreas, because we already know he has this history.

But he has not had that kind of incident for at least three weeks. No diarrhea, no constipation, no miserable moping with a belly ache, consistently good appetite. His big distended belly does not seem to be hurting him. He doesn't act like he's in pain or even the least bit uncomfortable.
post #5 of 18
At least his earlier symptoms sound a lot like Colic. Or maybe a food allergy? I imagine that if he has a sensitivity to something, it could be causing gas build up and inflammation, which would make his tummy swollen.

Has he had any ultrasounds? I know pot bellies in human infants can be a case of parasitic twins. If he's had an ultrasound, though, they should have been able to identify the mass of bones and internal organs from another kitten that got absorbed into the abdomen of your kitty.

It's off the wall, but you never know. I'll continue looking.
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
No, he hasn't had an ultrasound yet. I'm thinking that might be the next step, but my vet didn't mention it when she saw him last week. I'm a disabled person on SSI, this kitten's veterinary costs have already added several months' gross income to my credit card debt, and we had to prioritize what to spend money on first. Given his obvious symptoms of malabsorption and of reacting very badly to certain foods (even after I switched him to a wheat-free food, he had a relapse when I unthinkingly put S'Wheat Scoop cat litter in his box), we went with a nutrition consult from Cornell University first. In retrospect, I think it would have been better to spend that money on an ultrasound and defer the nutrition consult, because the nutrition vet didn't tell me anything I didn't already know.

I would like to try getting an ultrasound before he gets neutered, in case there turns out to be something in there requiring surgery. That way he could have whatever surgery he needs on his belly, and also be neutered, at the same time instead of neeing to be put under anesthesia twice.
post #7 of 18
That sounds like a good idea -- try to get everything done at once.

So, have you tried contacting the humane society in your region? If you can show them the vet bills you've already incurred, as well as your proof of income, they may decide to help you out with at least a few additional tests. It's a thought, but I hope it helps.

Also, you could see about giving us the address of your vet and we could contribute a little here and there as we have it. I know that I personally couldn't contribute more than 5 or 10 bucks right now, but that's better than nothing. I've seen other posters use this same donation technique, and it has helped some.

I know vet care is expensive (i have 4 cats -- yeah, I'm drowning in debt over here!) but I really hope this boy can get patched up soon.
post #8 of 18
FIP can cause extended bellies in kittens but since yours is doing better that's unlikely to be the case. Since he's had issues with his stool it's most likely something intestinal, perhaps inflammatory bowel disease. I would recommend that you keep him on a hypeallergenic diet like Hills Z/D prescription diet. Probiotics can also work wonders for cats with bowel issues. Although I know that many people don't trust Purina products I have had success with FortiFlora and the cats also like it. You can buy it online for about $20. Don't get it from your vet, they will charge you half a fortune.

I agree with the others that an ultrasound would probably be a good next step. It's highly unlikely that it's something like a parasitic twin though. That is extremely, extremely rare in humans and I'm sure not more common in cats. But a US will give you an idea of what the intestines look like. As a cheaper alternative an X-ray could also allow the vet to see if there is fluid in the belly or anything else that shouldn't be there. In my area you can get an X-ray for less than $100 while an untrasound is $400-$500.

Since you are on SSI and you took in a stray kitten I really think you should look into the possibility of getting help with the vet care from a foundation. Different organizations help different types of pet owners in different types of situations, many only help if it's life threatening, but it doesn't hurt to check them out. Check these places:

Good luck
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
I took him out on my front porch today (not enough light to take videos inside my house), and took four photos and a video which I uploaded to

Is that a normal "kitten belly," or should I be worried?
post #10 of 18
He honestly looks pretty normal to me -- And he's absolutely adorable! It looks like he's got a normal kitten pot-belly but it's hard to tell since I can't rub that little kitty tummy! Touch tells us so much. Did you say that it's sometimes hard and sometimes soft? Do you feel any lumps?
post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by SamhainBorn View Post
He honestly looks pretty normal to me -- And he's absolutely adorable! It looks like he's got a normal kitten pot-belly but it's hard to tell since I can't rub that little kitty tummy! Touch tells us so much. Did you say that it's sometimes hard and sometimes soft? Do you feel any lumps?
Sometimes his belly is bigger and sometimes it's smaller. Hard, not so much, at least not recently. But he does have a history, during the first month or so that I had him, of alternating good days (ate, played, was happy) and bad days (moped around, didn't eat, was miserable), with hugely distended belly on the bad days, and only somewhat puffy belly (like it is now) on the good days. So part of my worry is that those bad days could come back, since we still don't really know what caused them.

I don't feel any lumps right now, but in the past, during those "bad days" when his belly looked like a balloon about to pop, and he was too miserable to move, I would sometimes feel what felt like a little snaky shape in there. Maybe a length of distended bowel?

So that's really a normal kitten belly? I don't have a lot of experience with kittens, but I have raised a few before, and I don't recall them being that way. And I've been looking hard at kittens we see in the waiting room at my vet's office. I haven't seen any that are anywhere near this pear-shaped. The ones I've seen that are close to his age look a lot more sleek and streamlined and not pot-bellied at all.
post #12 of 18
Is he actually a Manx or did he just lose a tail in an accident? His back legs look longer than his front legs which is a strong indication that he is Manx.

I had a Manx one time and I called him the "wide body". Their arms and legs are set wider apart than a normal cat and their stomach's often look larger because of it. When full grown, my Manx would lay flat on my chest with his legs hanging down either side of my rib cage.

Manx's can have genetic disorders. The fact that they were bred for skeleton disformities in the first place causes some of them to have other issues, such as digestive or heart issues. If he is a Manx, I suggest you do some digging around this topic. It's been a long time since I've read up on them. I lost mine at age eight to sudden heart failure.

And yes, even though Manx's are considered a breed of cat, you can find them in shelters - I adopted mine from a shelter.
post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 
I doubt he's a Manx. He was found abandoned (probably by his own mother due to failure to thrive) in my neighborhood, where there are lots of feral and semi-feral cats. My vet says he's a DSH with a random genetic mutation. Or possibly random spina bifida, which doesn't have to be genetic, could be related to maternal malnutrition.

I'm not sure his back legs really are that much longer than his front legs. He seems to have an odd gait just because of that big belly he's dragging around.
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
OK, tonight I saw him standing in profile, but *not* bending his back legs the way he was in the picture at . Yes, there is definitely a leg length mismatch! When he isn't crouching his back legs, there's a kind of dip just behind his shoulders: low in front of the dip, beginning of a dramatic upward slope behind the dip. Also his trunk looks disproportionately long. Almost looks like two kittens of different sizes telescoped together. What a weird-looking little animal!

So, has anyone seen cats with this kind of thing? Is he at risk of any kind of orthopedic or nerve problems?
post #15 of 18
Honestly, he is a Manx cross. They stand that way, and when they run, they sort of hop and run like a rabbit. He looks fine to me- and I have had several kittens and cats with Manx in them. As long as he is pooping and peeing normally, eating good and playing you shouldn't worry. Feed a mixture of wet food and dry and provide him plenty of water. He is gorgeous- I love the Manx crosses- although they are prone to have some problems, they are worth every day spent with them.
post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by hissy View Post
I love the Manx crosses- although they are prone to have some problems, they are worth every day spent with them.
Can you be more specific about the kinds of problems they're prone to? All I've been able to gather so far is that they're prone to rear leg paralysis and incontinence (basically spina bifida), and as this kitten can move his back legs just fine, and is not incontinent, I don't know what else might be attributable to Manxness, if he is indeed a Manx or Manx cross. (Are there many feral Manxes in upstate New York??)
post #17 of 18
They can suffer from prolapsed rectums, they have a membrane that can be improperly developed and grow crossing over the rectum and make them unable to poop. This can result in torsion, over-extended belly and can only be corrected by surgery. They can develop a dimple on their tail that can fill with puss and need to expressed like an anal gland- it is very painful for them. You throw another breed into the mix (or in the case of stray cats, several breeds) and you can just increase the problems the kitten might face. Several years ago, I had a litter here that had been found in the middle of a hayfield (no mom) Adorable kittens just days old- all manx crosses. In 24 hours it was evident something was really wrong with them- rushed them to the vet only to find out their rectums hadn't developed- you could see the anus, but it was blocked on all the kittens. The sweet babies had to be put down- there was no other choice.

They are wonderful, loving cats. They love to jump and climb and are very loving. I lost my Cleo who was 18 years old when he passed last year to the pet food contamination. He was a semi-feral and lived completely outdoors. That was his preference.
post #18 of 18
Not all prolapsed rectums have to be surgically corrected(depends on the extent of damage.) Mama(possible Maine Coon mix, semi feral and thinks being inside is a form of torture) had her intestines(they were out pretty far) literally hanging out her anus, they were able to just shave her rear and put her intestines back in the way they came out and she was fine. She did prolapse again once at the vet but once they put everything back in again she was fine. They said if she did a 3rd time they were going to stitch it in place but as I said after the initial one and when she prolapsed again(not long after they fixed it the first time) she was fine and never needed stitching. She did spend a week in the hospital recovering and making sure everything stayed where it was supposed to be.

Is there anything(at all no matter how small) hanging out of her anus, it is a prolapse.

Here is something on it:

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