Pain isn’t always obvious to others when you’re experiencing it. Except if it’s a broken leg twisted at a 90-degree angle or a big bruise on your arm. Pain is an actual condition with no plain external manifestations.
For sure, some people can be extra and go around making sure everyone knows they’ve stubbed a toe or pulled a groin muscle, but others you’d never know anything was wrong with them, just like cats.
Cats are well-known for their capacity to mask pain and discomfort. This is actually a great advantage when out in the wild around a predator, but it’s a big issue in a home when pet owners are unaware that their pet suffers from something.
Cat Pain: What We Know
It’s hard to define pain in cats, therefore, vets have come a long way in understanding and illustrating pain in pets. With that, we understand that we are very likely undertreating pets for pain they are commonly experiencing.
Few of the common feline medical conditions that are known to be painful are: Arthritis, dental disease, urinary tract disease, bone disease, and cancer. Pain management specialists have a mantra they often repeat: “Assume pain.” Therefore, if you’re pinpointing a painful medical condition, make sure that pain management is a part of the treatment, every time.
Cats do not speak, but they may show their pain in their own methods. Cats do exhibit behavioral changes that can indicate they are experiencing pain although they can’t come up to us and say, “I’m in pain.”
However, the American Animal Hospital Association has pain management guidelines that can help owners and veterinarians define and manage their cats’ pain.
How to Recognize the Signs of Cat Pain
The following are some of the most widespread behavioral signs that show your cat may be in pain:
Change in Activity Level
If you see a change in your cat’s activity level, it can indicate discomfort. Your cat might become less active and sleep more hours than it used to. Moreover, arthritic cats may be unenthusiastic to change positions, or no longer jump onto high surfaces.
On the contrary, cats may become more active: restless, repetitively getting up and down, and seeming to have difficulty getting comfortable.
Many people equate biting and licking with allergies. But in reality, pets in pain often repetitively lick and bite at painful areas.
If cats keep doing it so often, that will cause secondary trauma to their body that may be in the form of skin infections and hair loss.
Most of us know that if a cat is unhappy, it will be hissing or growling, but this also means when a cat meows and purrs, it can accompany pain as well.
Therefore, it does not always indicate contentment, some cats purr when they are frightened or hurt as well. This is commonly true for cats with an easygoing or gentle personality.
Change in Daily Routine
If a cat’s appetite suddenly drops, it may be feeling too much pain to eat, or it may be experiencing nausea from a disease process.
Also, cats who have an abrupt onset of soiling in the house after years of using the litterbox may be too painful to get in and out of a box with sides that are high, or too sore to get to the box.
If a lap cat who suddenly can’t stand being held, it may be experiencing pain especially when they are touched or pet. All of these changes in their normal and usual personality and preferences may be a sign of sickness.
When they are stiff, cats do a version of the “little old person shuffle”, they walk very gingerly and avoid the usual athletic leaps we are accustomed to seeing. Cats who suffer from abdominal pain may have a hunched back, tucking in their abdomen in a protective posture.
However, you may also observe when a cat is protective of a certain area of their body, not wanting to be touched or scratched, they may also limp or hesitate to put weight on a sore limb.
It’s very difficult to gauge facial expressions in a cat, but certain attitudes can indicate pain or discomfort. It’s common if your cat is vacantly staring at nothing in particular, or is having “glazed” expression
Usually cats in distress can also have dilated pupils which is part of the stress response in the body. Unlike in dogs, cats do not normally pant. You should get your cat evaluated as soon as possible if you notice it panting, especially when it is at rest.
There are some cats that are naturally grouchy for their whole lives. So, it can be hard to define if they are escalating their level of aggression.
However, if a friendly cat who is suddenly hissing, swatting, and biting, may be suffering from pain. Out-of-character meanness is a cat’s way of asking to be left alone.
Poor Coat Condition
Cats can spend up to five hours a day on maintaining their silky coats. They’re expert groomers.
However, if the pain is from arthritis, it can make it difficult to contort themselves into their normal grooming status, and pain in general can make a cat too annoyed or worn out to maintain their normal routine.
If a cat stops grooming and starts to look messy, it may be in pain and needs to be checked out.
Controlling Pain in Cats
Historically, a lot of people have had very bounded options to control pain in cats, but luckily this is changing.
Owners must never treat their cat with pain medications meant for people, as they metabolize medication differently and can die from something as benign to humans as Tylenol.
If you notice any of the signs we’ve mentioned above, your cat might be in pain, therefore, you have to get her evaluated by your vet to discuss the best treatment options.