Cat Hernia Symptoms & Surgery Cost

Four Minutes
May 31, 2023

Hernias are lumps of tissue or organs that pass abnormally through muscle walls and can either remain internal or stick out from a part of the body.1 Hernias can be harmless, but some may be life-threatening and require surgery that can exceed $1,000.2 So when should pet parents call the vet?

Let’s walk through what cat hernias are, how they’re treated, and the costs involved in cat hernia surgery.

What Causes a Hernia in Cats?

Many hernias in cats are birth defects, but this isn’t always the case. Hernias can occur due to abdominal injuries, trauma, weak muscles, or other internal damage. Developing a cat hernia after a spay or neuter procedure is also possible, but it could just be swelling due to the incision closure, sutures, or improper healing.2

Cat Hernia Symptoms

You may be wondering, “Are cat hernias painful?” Some cats may experience no pain and show no symptoms when they have a hernia. However, others may experience pain if a hernia is left untreated because it could be preventing blood flow to critical organs.2 It all depends on the severity of the hernia and any internal organs involved.1

Cat hernia symptoms can include:1,3

  • Visible swelling or a lump that may be hot to the touch
  • Pain or discomfort, especially when touched
  • Vomiting or drooling
  • Bloody urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy or weakness

If you suspect your cat has a hernia, it’s important to get them to a vet for a thorough exam.

Types of Hernias in Cats

Cat hernias are named based on where they’re found in the body. Here are three hernia types you may come across as a cat owner.

Umbilical hernias

An umbilical hernia develops if the abdomen fails to heal properly after the umbilical cord falls off. Usually found in kittens, these hernias are most visible when the cats cry, stand, or strain to use the litter box and tend to appear as a subtle swelling beneath the skin.4

Hiatal hernias

Sometimes called a “sliding hernia” or diaphragmatic hernia, hiatal hernias can be present at birth or may form due to blunt force trauma. They’re typically caused by parts of the cat’s digestive tract pushing through the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. You probably won’t see a lump because these hernias are internal. Hiatal hernias may cause respiratory and heart issues due to their location.5

Inguinal hernias

Although fairly uncommon in cats, inguinal hernias are typically found near the groin area in pregnant felines, specifically where abdominal tissues or organs have pushed through the inguinal ring. You might feel a soft lump, or it could be firm and bruised. You may be able to reduce the hernia — aka push it back in place — if it’s soft, but if it’s firm, surgery is likely required to fix it.6

Hernias Can Be Scary. Vet Bills Don’t Have To Be.

Find Out More

Diagnosis and Treatment of Cat Hernias

Diagnosing hernias is pretty straightforward. Your vet will perform a physical exam, then follow up with an X-ray to see how severe the hernia is and look for any other damage.1

Treatment for hernias can depend on the type and severity of the hernia, any damage done due to the hernia, and any discomfort your cat may be experiencing. If the hole in the muscle wall that the tissues are pushing through is small enough and there’s no discomfort, your vet may be able to reduce the hernia without surgery and let it heal on its own.2

For some, your vet may decide that surgery to reduce the hernia internally and close the hole in the muscle wall is the best option. In more serious cases where blood flow has been cut off to the organs and tissues in the hernia, surgery is required to correct the damage.2

How long can a cat live with a hernia?

It depends on the situation. Some hernias may never cause problems for your cat, and they can live a normal life. However, it’s not advisable to ignore a hernia because some can become life-threatening. For example, a hiatal hernia can obstruct your cat’s airway and put pressure on the lungs, which can make it difficult to breathe and potentially lead to respiratory failure.5

Having a proper diagnosis can give you peace of mind, even if the hernia isn’t endangering your cat. After fixing a hernia, they can usually go back to their normal life without issues. While uncommon, cats who had a hernia once may experience a recurrence of it in the future.4

Cat Hernia Surgery Cost

Cat hernia surgery costs can run anywhere between $250 and $1,100.2 Every hernia is different, and what you’ll pay depends on your cat’s condition and the type of hernia.

Talk with your vet to get a better picture of what your vet visit may cost. You might ask them if your pet will need anesthesia, lab tests, prescriptions, or a follow-up visit. These services will add to the surgery's final bill.

Consider using a different vet to save money. For example, if you make up to a certain income annually, you may be able to get discounted hernia procedures at animal humane societies.7 Another option is to have cat insurance, which can reimburse you for covered vet expenses.

What to expect if your cat needs surgery

Before the surgery, your cat will need to fast from food and be given limited fluids. The anesthesiologist will insert a tracheal tube, to help your cat breathe while they’re in a deep sleep, and closely monitor your pet throughout the procedure.2

During surgery, the vet will push the hernia back into its proper place and repair any damaged tissues and organs. Then, they’ll close the gap in the muscle walls using surgical mesh, sutures, or stitches.2

The good news is your cat is unlikely to need a long hospital stay to recover.2 Prepare a cage or cat carrier at home, so your pet can rest comfortably while they recover. You may have to give your kitty antibiotics to treat or prevent infections, and they may have to wear a collar to prevent licking or biting the incision.

MetLife Pet Insurance May Help You Save on Surgery Costs

Luckily, hernia surgery is a common procedure, and complications are unlikely. Keeping up with regular wellness checkups is a great way to avoid costly surgeries, but even routine costs can add up.

Investing in a pet insurance policy could help make both routine and unexpected vet expenses more affordable. MetLife Pet Insurance offers customizable coverage on expenses like exams, medications, and surgeries, with optional wellness coverage that can help with spaying and neutering costs. Take a moment to invest in your pet’s health by getting a personalized quote, so you can get back to what matters: time with your kitty.

When In Doubt, Get Your Cat, Checked Out


** As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Congenital and Inherited Disorders of the Digestive System of Dogs,” Merck Veterinary Manual

“Cat Hernia Surgery: What to Know,” Paws + Claws Veterinary Hospital

3 “Cat Hernia 101: Types, Diagnosis & Treatment,” Hill’s

4 “Umbilical Hernia in Cats,” VCA Animal Hospitals

“Diaphragmatic Hernia in Cats,” VCA Animal Hospitals

“Inguinal Hernias,” VCA Animal Hospitals

7 “Veterinary Center Standard Pricing,” American Humane Society

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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