What Is A Hernia In Cats?

Disclaimer: The information presented below is for general informational & educational purposes only. Always consult with animal professionals in case of specific concerns.

In this post, we will take a closer look at what a hernia is in cats, common signs and symptoms to watch for, potential causes, and treatment options to discuss with your veterinarian.

As a cat owner, you want to keep your furry friend happy and healthy. However, you may notice subtle signs that cause concern, such as lumps under your cat’s skin or unusual discomfort. These could be indicators of an underlying health issue such as a hernia in cats. Hernias are common in both humans and cats, but many cat owners are unfamiliar with this condition. In this post, we’ll explore what a hernia is, the different types that can affect cats, typical signs and symptoms, potential causes, and treatment and management options. By gaining a better understanding of feline hernias, you can feel empowered to care for your cat’s wellbeing and know when it may be time to consult your veterinarian.

What Is A Hernia In Cats?

A hernia in cats refers to the abnormal protrusion of organs or tissues through an opening or weakness in the surrounding muscles or connective tissue. This can occur in various areas of the body, and the specific type of hernia is often named based on its location. Common types of hernias in cats include inguinal (groin), umbilical (belly button), diaphragmatic (between the chest and abdominal cavity), and perineal (near the anus) hernias.

Here’s a brief overview of some common types:

  • Inguinal Hernia: This type occurs in the inguinal canal, which is the area in the groin where blood vessels pass between the abdominal wall and the rear legs.
  • Umbilical Hernia: An umbilical hernia involves the protrusion of tissues near the belly button. It may occur in kittens and usually involves a small opening in the abdominal wall that didn’t close properly after birth.
  • Diaphragmatic Hernia: This type is less common and involves a hole or weakness in the diaphragm, allowing abdominal organs to move into the chest cavity. It can result from trauma or be congenital.
  • Perineal Hernia: Perineal hernias typically occur near the anus and involve the protrusion of abdominal organs into the space around the rectum. This type is more common in older, unneutered male cats.

Hernias in cats can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired due to injury, trauma, or weakened muscles. Some cats may be more prone to developing hernias due to genetic factors.

What Causes Hernias In Cats?

The causes of hernias in cats can vary, and generally fall into the following categories:

  • Congenital Defects: Some cats may be born with weak spots in their abdominal wall, which makes them more susceptible to hernias.
  • Trauma or Injury: A severe blow or physical injury can cause an organ or tissue to push through the muscle wall, creating a hernia.
  • Surgery Complications: Sometimes, hernias can occur as a complication of abdominal surgery.
  • Straining: Persistent straining due to constipation, urinary obstruction, or childbirth can also lead to hernias in cats.
  • Aging: As cats age, their muscle tone can weaken, increasing the likelihood of a hernia.

Umbilical hernia | The little black kitten (I haven't gotten… | Flickr

What Are The Symptoms Of Hernia In Cats?

The symptoms of a hernia in cats can vary depending on the type and location of the hernia. However, some common signs to look out for include:

Swelling or Lump: One of the most noticeable signs is a swelling or lump in the abdominal region or groin area.

Pain or Discomfort: The cat may appear uncomfortable or in pain, especially when the affected area is touched.

Changes in Behavior: The cat may become less active, show signs of depression, or lose interest in play and other activities.

Changes in Appetite or Weight: The cat may only eating a little bit or lose weight.

Difficulty Urinating or Defecating: The cat may have trouble using the litter box.

Vomiting or Diarrhea: If the hernia is affecting the digestive system, the cat may exhibit symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea.

Lethargy: The cat may seem unusually tired or weak.

How Is A Hernia In Cats Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of a hernia in cats typically involves the following steps:

Veterinary Examination: The vet will conduct a thorough physical examination of the cat, paying particular attention to the areas where the cat seems uncomfortable or where there may be visible swelling or lumps.

Medical History: The vet will gather a detailed medical history of the cat, including any recent injuries, surgeries, or unusual behavior.

Palpation: By gently feeling the suspected area, the vet can often detect the presence of a hernia. In some cases, they may be able to push the protruding tissue back into place temporarily (this is called ‘reducing’ the hernia).

Imaging Tests: If the hernia is not clearly palpable, imaging tests such as cat X-rays or ultrasounds may be used to visualize the internal structures and confirm the diagnosis.

Blood Tests: These can help to assess the cat’s overall health and identify any underlying conditions that may have contributed to the hernia.

Urine Test: This can help detect any urinary tract issues that may be causing the cat to strain, leading to a hernia.

Remember, if you suspect your cat has a hernia, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

Related: How Much Does A Cat Urinalysis Cost?

Can Hernias In Cats Be Treated?

Yes, hernias in cats can usually be treated successfully, depending on the type, location, and severity of the hernia. Here are some of the treatments often used:

  • Observation: In some cases, especially with very small or asymptomatic hernias, the vet may recommend careful observation rather than immediate surgery.
  • Manual Reduction: For certain types of hernias, the vet might be able to manually push the protruding tissues back into place. However, this is usually a temporary fix and surgery may still be required to prevent recurrence.
  • Surgery: This is the most common treatment for hernias. The procedure typically involves pushing the displaced tissues back into place and repairing the hole or weak spot in the muscle wall. 
  • Supportive Care: Depending on the cat’s condition, additional treatments such as pain relief medications, antibiotics, or special diets may be recommended to support the cat’s recovery.
  • Physical Therapy: After surgery, some cats may benefit from physical therapy to help restore muscle strength and prevent recurrence of the hernia.

Remember, the specific treatment plan will depend on the individual cat’s condition and should be discussed in detail with the vet.

What Is The Recovery Process For A Cat With A Hernia?

The recovery process for a cat with a hernia involves several measures and may vary depending on the type and severity of the hernia, as well as the overall health of the cat. Here are some general steps typically followed:

After-Surgery Care: Post-surgery, the vet may prescribe pain medication and antibiotics to prevent infection. It’s crucial to administer these as directed.

Rest and Limited Activity: To aid in healing, it’s recommended to limit your cat’s activity level. This may involve restricting them to a small, comfortable area.

Wound Care: Regularly check the surgical site for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge. Follow the vet’s instructions for cleaning the wound.

Dietary Adjustments: Ensure your cat is receiving proper nutrition to aid in recovery. The vet may recommend a specific diet or supplements.

Follow-Up Vet Visits: Regular check-ups are essential to monitor your cat’s healing and make necessary adjustments to their treatment plan.

Patience and Comfort: Recovery takes time. Provide a quiet, comfortable space for your cat, and give them lots of love and patience.

Physical Therapy: Depending on the case, physical therapy may be recommended to restore muscle strength and prevent recurrence of the hernia.

Are There Any Long-Term Effects Of A Hernia In Cats?

In general, cats that have undergone successful hernia repair can live healthy, normal lives without any long-term effects. However, each case is unique, and some cats might experience certain complications. If the hernia was large or involved vital organs, there could be residual effects or a requirement for ongoing management. In cases where the hernia reoccurs, additional surgeries might be needed. Additionally, if the hernia was associated with an underlying health condition, that condition would need ongoing treatment and management. 

How Can I Prevent My Cat From Getting Hernia?

While not all hernias in cats can be prevented due to genetic or developmental causes, there are several measures you can take to reduce the risk:

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Overweight cats are more prone to hernias. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help your cat maintain a healthy weight.
  • Prevent Injuries: Injuries from fights or accidents can lead to hernias. Try to provide a safe environment for your cat and minimize any potential hazards.
  • Regular Vet Check-ups: Regular veterinary visits can help to spot potential health issues early and provide appropriate treatment.
  • Proper Care During Pregnancy and Birth: If you have a female cat that is pregnant, proper prenatal and birth care can help to prevent hernias.
  • Consider Spaying/Neutering: Cat spaying and neutering can help to prevent hernias that might form due to complications in pregnancy or during delivery.
  • Monitor for Straining: If your cat frequently strains while using the litter box, consult your vet, as this could indicate a urinary tract issue that could potentially lead to a hernia.

Read more: What Are The Symptoms Of Cat Ears Cold?


In conclusion, understanding the basics of hernia in cats is crucial for all cat owners. We have delved into the different types of hernias that can affect our feline friends, as well as their causes and potential treatment options. Remember to always keep a close eye on your cat’s health and behavior, and seek immediate veterinary care if you suspect any signs of a hernia. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian can also help catch any hernias early on and prevent potential complications. As responsible pet owners, it is our duty to provide the best care for our beloved cats. With this knowledge, we can be better equipped to identify and handle any potential cases of hernias in our furry companions.