Hernias in Cats

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/20/20242-4 minutes
Gray cat is lying down

Hernias in cats are uncommon but they can still occur, causing painful symptoms for your feline companion. Fortunately, if hernias are detected early, they can be treated, saving your cat from discomfort. If left untreated, however, they can become fatal.

Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms, types, causes and treatment options for cat hernias.

What Are Hernias in Cats?

Hernias in cats occur when some combination of intestines and fat (and occasionally other organs) protrude through your pet’s abdominal cavity.

They can result from trauma or injury, but most often they’re congenital (meaning your pet is predisposed to developing them due to genetics).

A hernia is often caused by a muscle defect or damage.

Symptoms of Hernias in Cats

  • A squishy protrusion on your cat’s body
  • Sickness and vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Blood in the urine
  • Lethargy
  • Depression

Types of Cat Hernias

There are three common hernias that occur in cats and kittens, and they are categorized by the part of the body in which they appear.

Uncomplicated hernias don’t require surgery and can usually be pushed back into place. More complicated hernias, however, can only be treated through surgery.

Here are the three different types of cat hernias.

1. Inguinal Hernia

This type appears in the groin when the intestines push through the inguinal canal. Generally, this is the most uncomplicated type and, in many cases, will not result in surgery as most often it can simply be pushed back in.

In some more severe cases, the intestines may become trapped in the muscle wall, which can be life-threatening as blood flow is cut off to the tissue, resulting in tissue death. This is typically one of the more uncommon types of cat hernias and is usually found in pregnant females.

2. Umbilical Hernia

Umbilical hernias are located near the belly button and appear as a squishy protrusion or bulge, which is due to a hole in the muscle wall that allows internal organs to pass through.

They’re generally only seen in kittens because they occur as a result of the umbilical ring not closing properly after birth.

This type of kitten hernia will likely close without treatment before they reach three or four months of age. It’s most clearly seen when they’re standing or meowing.

3. Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia appears in the diaphragm and allows the stomach and other organs to slip through a hole and enter the chest cavity. They can be the result of genetics but are usually caused by an injury.

This is a rare type of cat hernia. When caused by a birth defect, it may occur irregularly, which is known as a sliding hernia.

Common Causes of Cat Hernias

Diagnosis of a Cat Hernia

If you suspect that your cat has a hernia, take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible for diagnosis. Your vet can perform a thorough examination, check the size of your cat’s hernia, and determine whether it’s soft or hard.

If it’s swollen and hard, it could be a sign of something more serious such as a strangulated hernia.

This happens when part of the tissue becomes trapped and cuts off the blood supply, thus killing the tissue. If this is the case, your cat will require surgery as soon as possible to correct the problem. In some cases, an X-ray may be required to confirm the diagnosis.

Cat Hernia Treatment

Remember, if your cat or kitten’s hernia is uncomplicated, in most cases surgery won’t be needed. If it’s more serious or if your cat’s internal organs have managed to get tangled up, then surgery will be required to push them back through the muscle wall.

Once the organs have been returned to their normal position, your veterinarian will stitch the muscles together. They may also attach medical mesh to strengthen the weak muscles and to prevent the hernia from reoccurring.

Because hernias most commonly appear in kittens or adolescent cats, your veterinarian will often correct the problem when they neuter or spay your cat, in order to reduce the amount of surgeries.

The good news is that when treated early, cat hernias tend to have very few complications and are unlikely to reoccur.

If you have a cat with a hernia, breeding them is not recommended, as it’s likely their kittens will also develop hernias.

Want more cat care tips? Check out our cat health articles for advice from our experts.

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