How to Tell If Your Cat Is in Pain
It can be extremely upsetting to see your cat in pain, but when you notice this discomfort, you obviously want to do something about it as early as possible. What is often worse is that you don’t notice their pain and potentially allow any injuries or illnesses that they are suffering from to get worse. Simply noticing and observing your pet for any signs of behavior which are away from the norm can go a long way. So, knowing what is normal behavior for your cat is a great start. Why not take this opportunity to watch your cat a little closer today? How much energy do they have? How is their appetite? And their sleep patterns? These are just a few of the things to notice, so you can observe any behavior changes.
Often, cats try to hide their pain, which can make your job even more difficult. So, in this blog post, we are aiming to provide a useful guide which gives you some indicators that your cat may be in pain. Once you have identified the discomfort, you can deal with the problem early with the help of a trained veterinary professional.
Anyone who is in pain can get irritable, and the same is true of your furry friend as well. Obviously, they are not able to yell at you, but you may find that they are biting and scratching more than usual. Growling and hissing are another couple of signs that they want you to stay away. Your cat may be reluctant to be held or unhappy when brushed or combed. Of course, some cats behave this way with new people, but it may be an indication that there is a problem if you and your household members are suddenly the subject of unprovoked attacks. If you touch the area which is causing pain, this is what could trigger their aggressive behavior. Otherwise, it could simply be the anticipation that you are going to touch it.
General Behavioral Changes
Even if you don’t notice any increased irritability, you may find that other behavorial changes occur if your cat is in pain. Perhaps your kitty has started to become more withdrawn and less social with the household. They may even start hiding whenever someone comes into the room. Perhaps your cat would normally come in to sleep with you or greet you at the door, but this is no longer happening. Ultimately, the better you know your cat, the more likely it is that you are going to sit up and notice these behavioral switches as and when they occur.
Changes in Breathing and/or Purring
You may never have thought about your cat’s breathing in that much detail before, but now is the time to consider it. Often, cats who are suffering from pain can breathe in a faster and more shallow manner. You may also notice panting, even when they have not done any physical activity recently. Look for differences in the way that their chest or abdominal muscles move. These sets of muscles are closely linked to the process of breathing. Another sign could be purring, which you may always associate with happiness and satisfaction, but could actually be an indication of pain. If your cat is regularly purring with no other stimulus, this may be a sign that all is not right.
Cats are usually fastidious groomers who care about keeping themselves clean. However, if your cat has suddenly started to let their grooming habits slip, it may be because they are feeling unwell or they are in pain. Grooming the problem area as this could cause them even more discomfort, but some cats with wounds may end up grooming an area excessively. You can usually tell if a cat is not grooming themselves properly as they will start to look unkempt and not their usual selves.
Low Energy and Activity Levels
We all know that cats love their sleep, but most of them also enjoy running around and playing from time to time. But if your cat is lethargic and not interested in engaging in any type of physical exercise, this could be an indication that they are avoiding this due to the pain that it is causing them. Otherwise, there could be particular triggers which show that something is wrong. Perhaps they are avoiding going up and downstairs. Maybe they are struggling to get up from a lying down position. Alternatively, they could be restless and struggling to get comfortable when this usually wouldn’t be a problem. Going back to changes in sleeping patterns, you may start to notice that your cat is sleeping more or less than usual. And they could also start to sleep in places which you would describe as strange or unusual.
Differences in Appetite or Water Intake
Eating and drinking are obviously central parts of your cat maintaining their good health, so you should watch out for any signs that something has changed. Usually, cats who are suffering from some sort of pain will eat and drink less. The pain may be localized to their teeth or mouth area, and this is especially apparent if they are eating a lot slower than normal or are dropping food or water out of their mouth without explanation. As well as being a sign of pain, sudden changes in appetite can indicate a host of serious medical conditions, so make sure to get in touch with your vet at the earliest possible opportunity.
Changes in Posture
When you are in pain, you will probably make a special effort to bend into any positions which aggravate the issue. The same goes for your cat as well. Curling into a ball is likely to be an action which causes particular discomfort. Otherwise, you may find that they are crouched over more than usual. Another unusual posture change could be that your cat keeps its legs tucked under itself when lying down rather than stretching them out. Maybe your kitty is suddenly avoiding using their scratching post as this stretch is the one that is causing the issue.
We have already talked about cats suffering from pain becoming more lethargic and less likely to want to move around. But you may find them still moving around but in a way that is different to before. A limp is an obvious indication that there is a problem, but you may simply find that they are moving around slower than usual. Cats usually love to get up to higher ground whenever they get half a chance, so a reluctance to jump up or climb could also indicate that they are suffering from pain somewhere.
Look into your cat’s eyes from time to time. What do you see? You can notice direct pain around their eye areas through them squinting, struggling to open them properly or a bloodshot appearance. But they can also be an indication that something is wrong elsewhere around the body. If their pupils are larger and more dilated, this could be a sign that something is wrong in another place around their body.
Litter Box Trouble
If you have a cat who uses a litter box, you can identify them suffering from pain if there are any noticeable changes in the way that they are using it. Many cats suddenly start missing the box when there was no problem before. Others have difficulty getting into a squatting position. This can be especially challenging for those cats who have bad hips or knees. If your cat suddenly starts doing their business in places other than the litter box, this could also be a sign that there is a wider problem here. Ultimately, this is something which is not to be ignored.
No one wants their cat to be in pain, but the earlier you spot it, the better the chance that your vet will be able to deal with it quickly. After all, there is no point letting your cat carry on in agony when something could be done about it. The pain may be dealt with right there and then, or some sort of pain management regime may need to be put in place. Sometimes, the solution is as simple as providing painkillers or offering some physical therapy to the affected area.
Pain could also be a sign that there is some other wider medical problem, which you need to get treated at the earliest possible opportunity. Noticing pain in cats can be trickier than other animals like dogs, but you will have a much better chance of recognizing that something is wrong if you know what their normal behavior is like, so you can identify if there are any differences. Take all the above signifiers into account and take action if you notice one or more of these problems have started to become an issue.