How to Tell Whether Your Cat is In Pain


Cats are masters at masking pain. Their ability to hide pain goes back to their wild origins. In the wild, a sick animal becomes prey. While acute pain may be fairly obvious to cat guardians, it may be more difficult to discern whether your cat is in pain when it comes to chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis. Sadly, even veterinarians often overlook signs of feline pain. Therefore, it’s up to the cat’s guardian to understand the signs of pain in cats.

Signs of pain in cats

Any of the following symptoms may be indicators of pain:

– crying or vocalizing
– irritability
– restlessness
– seeking solitude or extra attention
– licking or chewing at the painful area
– lethargy or depression
– lack of appetite
– sudden changes in behavior
– aggression

Do not ignore signs of pain

Some of these signs may be subtle and difficult to spot for even experienced cat guardians. Do not ignore these signs. Aside from the fact that no cat guardian wants their cat to hurt, pain left untreated can negatively impact your cat’s health.

Pain causes stress in the body, which can affect major organ systems and lead to diseases such as urinary tract, kidney, liver and heart disease. It can also cause behavioral problems. In a worst case scenario, undiagnosed pain may lead to premature euthanasia.

Muscular, joint and soft tissue pain is often overlooked in cats, but the fact that they may not show signs doesn’t mean that they’re not hurting.

Finding the cause of pain

Your cat’s veterinarian will be able to determine the cause of your cat’s pain by a combination of a thorough physical exam, X-rays and/or ultrasound, and bloodwork.

Treatment options for feline pain

There are many different options to treat feline pain, ranging from oral medications to injections to holistic modalities such as acupuncture, Reiki, laser therapy, massage and hydrotherapy. The choice of treatment will depend on your cat’s individual situation and overall state of health. In some cases, multiple modalities will be used to control pain.

Never use over the counter pain medications for cats

While Aspirin is sometimes used for cats, the dosage and strength is much different than it is for people, and it should only be given under the direction of your cat’s veterinarian. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is toxic to cats and can be deadly.

By knowing how to recognize signs of pain in your cat, you will be able to get your cat’s pain diagnosed and treated before it becomes chronic.

This article was previously published on and is republished with permission.

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