While a roly-poly kitten is undeniably cute, there's a difference between a chubby little kitten and one with a distended belly. Parasites, gas and gastrointestinal obstruction are all potential causes of fat bellies in kittens.
A nursing queen's milk is filled with vital nutrients to help her kittens grow. Unfortunately, sometimes her milk also contains roundworm larvae, which are passed on to nursing kittens. Signs of intestinal worms in a kitten include a swollen belly, diarrhea, weight loss, constipation, bloody stool and coughing. Occasionally a kitten will throw up worms, or you may see a hint of worms in your kitten's feces. Roundworm infection is particularly common in kittens and is easy to treat. Medication such as fenbendazole and pyrantel pamoate is effective at eradicating roundworms.
Flatulence or Swallowed Air
If you've ever suffered from a bout of gas, you know it can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. Kittens can get gas, too, resulting in a round, distended belly. According to PetMD, most gas in cats comes from swallowed air. If she has a condition causing flatulence, your kitten may experience a drop in weight and appetite, as well as vomiting or diarrhea. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals states that 99 percent of gas is odorless, meaning if your kitten is suffering a gas attack, you may not smell the signs.
If your kitten experiences any of the symptoms of gas, or she indicates pain when you touch her belly, take her to the vet. Though most gas is harmless, occasionally it can indicate a more serious medical condition, such as dietary sensitivities, parasite infection or intestinal obstruction.
Kittens are playful and often paw, claw and chew anything they can get their paws around which can result in a gastrointestinal obstruction, blocking the flow of ingested solids and liquids in a cat's stomach or intestines. A kitten who has swallowed something that's obstructing her intestinal tract often will vomit after eating. She may experience diarrhea, weakness, decreased appetite and weight loss -- all symptoms requiring veterinary attention. If the vet confirms an obstruction, usually with the help of an endoscopy, the kitten likely will need surgery to relieve the blockage.
When there's a kitten in the house, keep small items and strings, cords and rubber bands out of her grasp. Provide her with toys that are too large for her to swallow.
If your kitten's belly looks like it may be a little bit more than a little kitten jelly belly, you should take her to the vet to determine if she has parasites. A healthy kitten should have bright, clear eyes, free of discharge or tearing. Her ears should be clean, odor-free and have no signs of mites, which tend to look like coffee grounds. She should breathe easily, without any sneezing, wheezing or signs of labored breathing. Though you don't want a distended belly, she shouldn't be too thin and her coat should be clean and soft. A healthy kitten should move easily, with no difficulty walking or playing and should have a hardy appetite.