Cats are naturally stoic and independent creatures, which means they tend to hide pain when they experience it. It is important for cat owners to be able to recognize discomfort in their kitties so they can get it treated. Our Jackson vets share signs of pain in cats and how you can help them.
How To Tell If a Cat is in Pain
Your cat may display signs of pain differently from other cats. How they act can vary depending on their breed, age, and a few other factors.
If your cat is in acute pain due to an immediate injury, such as a cut on the paw, they will usually let you know by limping on that paw or yowling when they walk. Chronic pain, such as gum disease or spine pain, is more difficult to manage; if they have this type of pain, they may hide from you in your home because they don't know what to do about it or how to communicate how they're feeling.
This is why it is important for pet owners to keep a keen eye on their kitty for changes in behavior, energy, or appetite.
Signs That a Cat is in Pain
There are a wide range of symptoms a cat in pain can display. Some of these signs and symptoms of a cat in pain include:
- Frequent or ongoing meowing or howling
- Litter box accidents, urinating outside of their litter box
- Tail flicking
- Won't eat or reduced appetite
- Poor grooming, scruffy looking
- Reduced energy, lethargy or lack of interest in play or going outside
- Hiding, no interest in spending time with you or other family members
- Avoiding being handled, picked up or petted
- Behavioral changes such as refusing to jump onto a bed or furniture that they typically love to be on
- Irritable mood, short-tempered with people or other pets including
- Uncharacteristic hissing, growling or spitting
- Unusual vocalizations (meowing more than usual, crying)
- Excessive grooming
- Patchy fur
Ways That Your Cat's Posture & Body Language May Change if They Are in Pain
When cats are in pain, their body language changes. Our veterinarians recommend that you keep an eye on your cat's overall demeanor, stance, and walking style so that any deviations from normal can be identified. Changes can be subtle or obvious.
Body language changes related to pain in cats include:
- Tensed body
- Crouching or being hunched over
- Lowering head
How Pain Could Be Expressed in Your Cat's Face
While many cats show little or no change in their facial expression while experiencing pain, some cats are very expressive. If your cat is in pain they might:
- Squint or close their eyes tightly
- Flatten their ears so that they are pressed to the sides or back of their head
- Project an overall facial appearance of tension with a tight mouth
When To Seek Veterinary Care For a Cat In Pain
Often signs of pain in cats are missed until the cat's condition is advanced. When it comes to your cat's long-term health it's always best to err on this side of caution.
If your feline pal is showing signs of pain, contact your veterinarian right away to schedule an examination, or go to an after-hours animal hospital. Pain management and early treatment of painful conditions are essential for preserving your cat's good quality of life.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.