Do Cats Get Headaches?
Headaches, like other kinds of pain or discomfort, are very subjective experiences. Only the person experiencing it can tell you if it is painful or if there are aches. Because of its subjective nature, it is difficult to find a definitive answer to the question, ‘do house cats get headaches?’ Nevertheless, there are cat signs that pet owners can ‘consider’ as a manifestation of feline headaches.
Cats and Pain
The only time people will know that someone has a headache is when that person tells them he has one. Unfortunately, cats cannot tell us if they are also having a headache or not. The same is true for other types of pain. Pets do not have the faculty of speech communication to describe what they are experiencing.
There are also the uncanny characteristics of felines that make pain determination very challenging. In general, cats have a knack for hiding their pain and discomfort. Only when the pain is so severe will they begin showing ‘signs’ of discomfort or pain. In such cases, expect the cat to be very agitated and irritable. Handling the cat during this time can result in bites or scratches.
Observing the cat for very subtle cues can help establish the ‘possible’ presence of headache. These cues should always be analyzed together with the presence of any medical condition. Diseases have a way of causing pain, especially if it involves inflammation.
Headache Manifestations to Look for in Cats
As mentioned, it is difficult to determine whether a cat has a headache or not. The manifestations that we are going to present here can all be signs and symptoms of other health problems. That is why it is best to seek the advice of a veterinarian whenever you see any of these so-called ‘headache manifestations’ in cats.
- Does not want to eat
A cat with a headache may not want to eat. Yet, other health problems can also cause a cat to lose its appetite. Cats experiencing pain are more concerned about the discomfort than what their tummy is telling them.
- Prefers to stay hidden
Cats that are experiencing headache or any type of pain will stay hidden. Distractions can make them very anxious. This can also worsen the pain that they are already experiencing. Again, seclusion can also be a sign of other problems. Your cat may have had a terrible encounter that it is now afraid to come out.
- Unusual breathing and heart rate patterns
Pain activates the sympathetic nervous system. This causes an increase in both the heart rate and the respiratory rate. The cat’s breathing can become faster and shallower. Some can also pant. At the same time, its heart beat can go faster than normal. However, these manifestations can also be due to anxiety and other conditions that can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. This makes determining the answer to the question, ‘do house cats get headaches?’ especially difficult.
- Eye changes
If there is pain in the eyes, you may see changes in the size of the cat’s pupils. In other cases, you can also see squinting. Bloodshot eyes can also indicate pain. Unfortunately, other health conditions can also produce these eye changes.
- Increased vocalizations
This can be a sign of almost anything, including feline headaches. Intact tomcats tend to vocalize a lot, especially when looking for a mate. Vocalizations in otherwise ‘silent’ cats can indicate discomfort, anxiety, or even fear.
- Scratching and biting
These are often interpreted as defensive behaviors by a cat that is in pain. They do not like being handled. They can be very sensitive. If someone attempts to touch them, there is a chance that the cat will scratch and/or bite. As always, there are other conditions that can make a cat scratch and bite.
Possible Causes of Feline Headaches
Determining if a cat has a headache or not is difficult. You cannot base your ‘assumptions’ on the manifestations that you see in your cat. These can mean anything; that is why it is imperative that a veterinarian will be able to examine your cat a lot closer. This is to help identify the possible reasons as to why your cat is having these symptoms, including headaches.
- Injury to the head and neck
This is one of the most common causes of feline headaches. Injury to the tissues of the head and neck region can irritate the nerves, causing pain.
- Tumors and other health conditions of the head and neck
The presence of tumors in the cat’s brain can compress the brain tissues against the skull. This can lead to severe pain. If the tumor is large enough, it can also cause changes in the cat’s level of consciousness. Other head and neck conditions that can produce headache include seizures and abnormalities of the blood vessels in the brain.
- Infection of the upper respiratory tract
Feline herpesvirus 1, feline calicivirus, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Chlamydia felis, and Mycoplasma species are some of the more common causes of upper respiratory tract infections in cats. There is inflammation in the upper airways. This increases the pressure within the airway which causes a backpressure towards the cat’s throat and nose. This also increases the pressure in the sinuses. Headache can result.
- Dental problems
Tooth decay, gum inflammation, and tooth resorption can also lead to feline headaches. The proximity of the gums and teeth to the brain can make the headache feel worse. These dental problems can also cause other manifestations like loss of appetite and irritability in cats.
- Chemical exposure
No one knows for sure if chemical exposure can also cause feline headaches. People who inhale toxic fumes tend to experience headaches. As such, it is also possible that feline pets that inhale or ingest such substances can also develop headaches. These can include carbon monoxide, monosodium glutamate, nitrites, and pesticides, among others.
Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system. This causes constriction of the blood vessels. It can lead to a throbbing headache if the blood vessels of the brain are also affected.
Do house cats get headaches? We can never be certain. What is certain is that headache or any form of pain warrants a more thorough veterinary examination.