Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in cats: if your cat has a lot of tummy rumbling, it’s probably a problem

Hangai Lilla

2023. March 7 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

The inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is actually a group of gastrointestinal (GI) diseases whose causes are still unknown. It results in inflammation of the stomach, small intestine and/or large intestine; diagnosis and treatment can be both complicated, but it is comforting to know that with the right tools, the quality of life of cats can be greatly improved and they can live for a long time.


We’ll show you what you need to know about symptoms and treatment.

Possible causes and symptoms

Although the causes are still not completely clear, if your cat experiences one or a combination of the following, there may be a problem: hypersensitivity to bacteria, food allergy (meat proteins, food additives, artificial colours, preservatives, milk proteins, gluten), genetic factors.

Inflammatory bowel disease symptoms in cats are usually chronic and increase in frequency over time (daily, weekly or monthly). Here are some typical symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic intermittent vomiting
  • Gas (bloating)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Growling noises from the belly
  • Bright red blood in the excrement
  • Shaggy, matte fur


The appearance of the symptoms listed above may indicate that something is wrong with the kitty, but if you experience more than one at the same time, make sure to make an appointment with the veterinarian. It is an extremely unpleasant and painful disease, which greatly worsens the quality of life both in the short and long term.

The veterinarian takes a detailed history of the cat’s lifestyle and asks questions about the duration and frequency of the symptoms. After that performs a complete physical examination, which consists of the following: complete blood work, biochemistry profile, urinalysis, fecal analysis.

While these tests do not definitively diagnose IBD, they do help rule out other conditions where the symptoms may be similar to IBD. The results of routine laboratory tests are often normal. Anemia and abnormally high white blood cell counts may occur in some patients. Cats with IBD may also have abnormal levels of proteins and liver enzymes. After this, the vet can perform tests to check the function of the cat’s small intestine, such as an abdominal ultrasound or a stomach biopsy.

Treatment and prognosis

In most cases, IBD cannot be cured, but it can be successfully treated. However, it is worth bearing in mind that relapses are common even after complete recovery. The three main goals of the treatment are to stabilize the cat’s weight, relieve symptoms, and reduce the immune system’s response. A diet plan, immunosuppressive drugs (steroids) and antibiotics are key to cure.

The new food, which is based on a hypoallergenic or other type of protein, has its effect within 2-4 weeks. During this time, it becomes clear whether the cat’s body reacts to it. It is common that several diets are tried before you find the right one. It is forbidden to give the kitty treats, other food and even safe human food during this period. A useful tip is to keep a diary of the onset and duration of symptoms when you start a new diet.

In some cases, changing the diet alone is not enough, medicines are also needed. Steroids and antibiotics are most often used for the treatment. In many cases, a combination of several drugs will be effective. Although they always try to adjust the dosage so that the smallest possible dose is given to the kitty, it is possible that he will need life-long medication.

Despite IBD, in most cases your cat will likely live a long and happy life. The sooner the diagnosis is made and the treatment started, the better the chance of recovery. However, the process will require a lot of patience and of course you must strictly follow the doctor’s instructions!

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