Why Cats Hide Their Pain
Cats have a long history of surviving in the wild prior to becoming domesticated- and they have not forgotten this. A cat in pain is seen as weak- therefore, making them prime targets for predators. In order to survive, they have adapted a deep natural instinct to hide their pain.
Your cat will not cry out in pain, for fear that they will attract the attention of a predator. If they are crying out in pain, their condition is likely intense and quite severe.
A Cat In Pain May Express Themselves In The Following Ways:
- The cat may sit hunched over with their head lowered and back curved higher than normal
- The cat may appear as if they are trying to curl up in a tight ball
- The cat may remain compressed with their legs tucked underneath themselves while lying down instead of stretching out
- The cat may make facial expressions that are out of the ordinary, such as closing their eyes, squinting, or flattening their ears, and their cheeks, nose, and mouth may appear more tense than usual
Cats are the consummate pros when it comes to hiding their pain and discomfort but, as a loving pet parent, you can become a master of detecting even the most subtle signs. Part of being a responsible cat owner is paying close attention to your pets behavior, habits, and physical condition and recognizing when something is amiss. Your feline family member cannot tell you that they are in pain or feeling unwell. Instead, it is up to you to recognize the signs listed above or anything else unusual and seek a prompt evaluation from their veterinarian. The AAHA also offers a comprehensive list of ways your cat may exhibit pain.
Add Supplements To Their Meals
Supplements can help your cat to stay strong and reduce possible inflammation in their body. These supplements usually contain vitamins, such as C and D, which are known to help common painful ailments like arthritis.
You can find supplements in a chewy tablet or you can get it in a liquid form to mix into their food. The liquid option often contains fish oil which is high in Omega-3s which help to naturally reduce inflammation throughout the body, including the heart, skin, and kidneys.
Its important to be careful though when giving your cat supplements as giving them too much could cause some health problems. For instance, if the supplements contain high levels of certain vitamins, especially D3, it could end up being toxic to your cat. Because of this, its important to read the directions of the supplements to find the right amount to give them. You also should talk your plans over with your vet to ensure that the supplements you plan to use are safe and if they have other supplement recommendations for you to use.
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How Do You Know If Your Cat Is In Pain
Assessing pain is a complicated challenge, especially in cats. Pain has two primary components: the sensory aspect and the affective aspect .Because pain assessment is somewhat subjective, veterinarians constantly try to create tools that make this process more objective. For validity, any pain measuring tool should take into consideration both characteristics: the sensory and the affective.Signs of pain in catsA British study was recently conducted in order to reach a consensus about criteria when evaluating pain in cats. A total of 91 signs, chosen from the existing literature, were assessed during four rounds of evaluation, by 19 feline medicine experts. Some worked in private practice, others in veterinary schools1.Ultimately, 25 signs were considered to be reliable and sensitive for indicating pain in cats, across a range of different clinical conditions1:
Top 5 signs
- Eyes closed
Other signs included: Lameness, difculty to jump, abnormal gait, reluctant to move, reaction to touch, withdrawing/hiding, absence of grooming, playing less, overall activity decrease, less rubbing toward people, general mood, temperament, hunched up posture, shifting of weight, licking a particular body region, lower head posture, eyelids tightly shut, change in form of feeding behavior, straining to urinate, tail flitching
Have A Sick Cat 9 Ways To Tell If Your Cat Is In Pain
Some of the most profoundly heartbreaking moments of my cat-caretaking life revolve around being unable to tell how much pain my beloved friends were suffering. Even though I know cats are very good at disguising their pain, I cant help but guilt-trip myself sometimes over this health issue, because as a person whos lived with cats almost all my life, I should be able to notice when somethings out of whack. A sick cat will show symptoms, although often theyre quite subtle. In hopes of helping you recognize signs of pain that eluded me, here are some tips that could signal a sick cat or a cat in pain.
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How Do I Know If My Cat Is In Pain
For cats, pain encompasses more than just the I hurt sensation, but also the overall distress that it can cause. As the World Small Animal Associations Global Pain Council puts it:
Pain is a complex multi-dimensional experience involving sensory and affective components. In other words, pain is not just about how it feels, but how it makes you feel, and it is those unpleasant feelings that cause the suffering we associate with pain.
As a pet parent, you want an easy way to tell if your cat is in pain. As a veterinarian, I want the same thing.
I wish I had tools to help my patients, like the facial expression scale physicians for people. But you cant just say, Okay Frisky, just put your paw on the face that best expresses how you feel today.
Instead, we have to rely on a cats behavior to evaluate pain.
Fortunately, weve received a little help in this regard with the publication of a paper entitled, Behavioural Signs of Pain in Cats: An Expert Consensus.
Lets take a look at what the experts have to say about the signs of pain in cats.
How To Keep Your Cat Happy
A happy cat is able to display its natural body language and behaviour on its own terms. As such, pay attention to the signs of happiness, stress, annoyance and calmness. By doing this, we can notice what your cat needs in its environment to be happy. For example, perhaps your cat likes a busy household and experiences separation anxiety when left alone. On the other hand, your cat might like peace and quiet. Listen to your cat’s body language and you will get to know their needs and personality like a real cat whisperer!
Do you need extra help caring for your cat? Then book a friendly cat sitter at Pawshake.
The pictures with illustrations of the frightened cat come from the website www.felinegrimacescale.com
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How To Tell If Your Cat Is In Pain
I often think the first rule of being a cat is never to let anyone know something hurts. I have seen cats with abscessed teeth eat bowls of food and cats walk on casted legs. Yet identifying pain, and the source of pain, is a key part of being able to care for your cat. How then, can you tell if your cat is in pain?
Emergency Situations And Your Cat
Certain situations may be considered urgent. You shouldn’t wait for an appointment at your vet when your cat is experiencing an emergency. Keep information about after-hours veterinarians handy in case you need to rush to one. If you see the signs of an emergency, do not delay. Go to the closest open veterinarian immediately.
- Difficulty breathing
- Gums that are blue, white, or very pale
- Collapse, unconsciousness, or unresponsiveness
- Exposure to a poisonous substance
- Severe pain
- Body temperature over 104 or under 99
- Hasn’t eaten properly in 24 hours
If you notice anything else your cat does that worries you, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can call your vet or the emergency vet if you need help deciding if something is an emergency.
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Can You Give A Cat Aspirin
So, can cats have aspirin to help with pain? Unlike many animals, cats can be given aspirin. However, this needs to be done very carefully as the dosage amounts are different. For most cats, you can give them a dose of about 10 mg but this should be given every 48 hours, rather than every six hours as with humans.
While you can give your cat a dose of aspirin, its very important to try a different medication if possible. Aspirin should only be given to your cat rarely as it can cause significant health problems and sometimes be fatal.
If you plan to give your cat aspirin, look for an aspirin dosage for cats chart. This way, you can find the right amount of aspirin to give your cat depending on aspects such as their age and weight.
As with any medication, its always a good idea to ask questions or voice your concerns with your vet. This way, you can be confident that you will help your cat without accidentally causing further problems.
Are There Any Changes In Litter Box Behavior That Could Mean My Cat Is In Pain
As already stated, cats are famously clean and tidy, and that generally means being careful with their litter box habits as well. They like having a discrete place to eliminate, and most cat litter makes the litter box an attractive destination. If a cat that has previously been consistent in using the litter box appropriately suddenly begins missing the box or eliminating in other areas of the house, pain should be considered as a potential explanation.
When cats have lower back or hip pain, climbing into and out of a litter box can be a terrible experience. Even worse are covered litter boxes, where the top of the opening can come into contact with the cat’s back. In this situation, a cat will often go to the litter box, but simply refuses to go into it. The cat may choose instead to eliminate near the litter box, letting us know that it understands this is the place to eliminate, but also letting us know that it is uncomfortable getting into the litter box. Other cats may simply choose to eliminate in the same room as the litter box, but not necessarily next to it. And still other cats may choose a completely different part of the house for elimination. Once pain is managed, provide your cat with lower-sided litter boxes.
“If a cat that has previously been consistent in using the litter box appropriately suddenly begins missing the box or eliminating in other areas of the house, pain should be considered as a potential explanation.”
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Licking Chewing Or Fur Loss
Cats will sometimes make a fuss over the particular part of their body that is in pain, but this is not always the case. Some cats with cystitis will lick their tummies and cause fur loss in that area. Likewise, some cats with arthritis in a particular joint may lick or chew at that area more frequently than normal. Rarely, this licking is enough to cause damage to the overlying skin.
Why Is My Cat In Pain
Recent research has shown that degenerative joint disease, including osteoarthritis, in cats is a much larger problem than many have thought in the past.
Mark Epstein is a doctor of veterinary medicine, who co-chaired the 2015 American Animal Hospital Association guidelines. He states that up to 60% of cats and 90% of all older cats have degenerative joint disease. Through the stress response, this contributes to patient morbidity and even sometimes mortality .
The lower spine in cats is a common area of arthritis. Arthritis is a general term that describes a variety of diseases that are characterized by inflammation within the joint. This inflammation results in chronic degeneration of joint cartilage and the adjacent bone. Since joint cartilage serves a vital function in the lubrication and cushioning between bones, these disorders uniformly result in progressive joint pain and stiffness. This can cause a great deal of pain every time your cat jumps.
Actual Patient: Nikki
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Cat Has Lack Of Energy
When our cats are nearing the end of their life, they will often experience a lack of energy. They may not be as willing to do things they once loved, and you may find them sleeping the days away.
If its becoming harder and harder to get your cat up and moving each day, you may need to discuss your cats quality of life with your veterinarian.
What Can You Do To Manage My Cats Pain
First and foremost your cat needs a full examination from their veterinarian, in order to determine what is causing their pain. From there, your vet will draw up a treatment plan in order to address your cats individual issue.
Depending on the condition, there are a variety of methods to treat your cats pain. Your doctor will likely recommend one or more of the following:
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Hiding Pain: Evolution & Adaptation
Obviously, they are nonverbal, which is the first obstacle, but the main problem is they are a prey species. This means they will adapt to pain and anything that can make them vulnerable to a predator. Since theyve recently been domesticated , so they really are remarkably unchanged from solely living and surviving outside.
What Kind Of Behavior Changes Might I See In My Cat That Could Be A Sign Shes In Pain
One of the most common pain-associated behavior changes we see in aging cats is a decrease in grooming and self-care. Cats are, by nature, extremely finicky about keeping themselves clean. Watch any conscious cat for longer than a few minutes, and you are likely to see it cleaning some part of its body.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common chronically painful ailments in cats, affecting more than 90% of cats 10 years of age and older. Spinal arthritis makes it uncomfortable to twist and turn, so grooming the body, especially the hind end, becomes difficult. OA in the lower spine and hips can make the area over the pelvis and upper rear legs tender. When grooming the lower back, pelvis, and rear legs becomes painful, the cat simply stops taking care of its coat. Areas of the cat’s body that are not groomed become matted, and the cat develops an overall unkempt appearance. When we try to help them out by using a comb or brush, they tend to object.
“One of the most common pain-associated behavior changes in aging cats is a decrease in grooming and self-care.”
If you notice your cat developing matted hair or flaky skin, make an appointment with your veterinarian, as this can be an important signal of pain. Because cats like to be clean, a dirty cat is not normal. If your cat has trouble grooming even after its pain is well managed, consider having a groomer give it a ‘lion cut’ to make the body hair short and easy to keep clean.
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How To Tell If Your Cat Is In Pain And What To Do
If your cat is in pain, you may miss some of the signs if you dont know what to look for.
Kitties dont typically display pain as overtly as other animals might. They dont often yowl if they feel sick in fact, they might even try to hide their pain until theyre seriously ill.
That makes sense if you think about cats in the wild. They wouldnt want to advertise to potential predators that theyre feeling vulnerable. However, for our furry family members, we need to know when theyre in pain so we can help them.
How do you know that your cat is in pain and its time to take them to the vet? Here are a few signs that can help you tell if your cat is hurting.
Signs That Your Cat Is Sick
Jenna Stregowski, RVT has worked in veterinary medicine for more than two decades. Her veterinary experience ranges from routine wellness care and preventive medicine to emergency and specialty care, where she has performed duties ranging from specialized nursing to clinical administration. Jenna has been writing about pet care for over 10 years, including for publications like DVM 360 and DogTime.
Illustration: The Spruce / Ellen Lindner
Could your cat be sick? It may be difficult to know if subtle changes in your cat indicate a health problem. Cats are experts at hiding illness. In the wild, this instinct can protect them from predators or other cats that might be a threat. Today’s house cat has the same tendency to avoid vulnerability, even if the only potential threat is a housemate. Even cats in single-pet homes tend to have the instinct to self-protect.
There is another reason why cats and many other animals are less likely to show pain or illness: they simply do not have an emotional relationship with their discomfort. Animals tend to accept the pain or illness as the new normal and move on. It may not be until they are extremely ill that their sickness becomes obvious to humans.
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