How to Tell if a Cat Is in Pain

Our furry friends are often our best friends— the ones who wipe our tears with their fur, those who are inexplicably happy for us to come home after a long day, and those who rely principally on our feeding hand and loving nature. We all know cats, though: one moment, they are lying with us in bed, showing us all the love in the world. They are whipping out their claws the next moment, ready to strike.

As such, cats are harder to predict than most happy-go-lucky dogs. Cats are masters at hiding their pain, which can make it difficult to determine if they are experiencing discomfort. When our pets are in pain, we are in pain. It is important to gauge whether your cat is in pain before you head to the vet, as the bills can be hefty. This is undoubtedly a stressful time, trying to communicate with this pet you love who can not communicate back with you.

As such, we are here to let you know exactly how they may be trying to communicate with you and how to determine whether your cat is in pain. Read on to help your furry friend!

1. Changes in behaviour

This would probably be the first thing to convince you that your cat is in pain. Though a cat may have extremely varying temperaments, at the end of the day, you know your furry friend best, and it would be quite apparent when there is a behaviour change.

For instance, cats are generally known for being aloof and independent, but if your cat suddenly becomes withdrawn, this could be a red flag. This could manifest as hiding in a dark corner or avoiding interactions with family members.

Conversely, some cats may become more clingy or irritable when in pain, seeking extra attention or lashing out when they feel threatened. Keep an eye out for these changes, as there is likely a cause for them.

2. Loss of appetite

We all know the familiar meow of your cat as dinner time approaches. As it gets closer and closer to dinner, their meows become more urgent as they wait impatiently for you to set up a bowl. Thus, a sudden loss of appetite can signify many health problems, including pain.

If your cat is in pain, it may be reluctant to eat or drink because it is uncomfortable to move its mouth or throat. This indicates that this may be the source of pain. As such, if your cat goes more than a day without eating, immediately take them to the urgent care vet for a check-up.

3. Changes in grooming habits

Cats are known as some of the cleanest domestic animals to date— they groom themselves and ensure they are in tip-top shape. As such, when they change their grooming habits, this is typically indicative of something bigger. Pain may make it too uncomfortable for your cat to groom itself, especially if the pain is in a hard-to-reach area like the back or hind legs.

The concern should be raised if you notice mats or tangles in their fur or a generally unkempt appearance. Some cats may also over-groom a painful area, leading to hair loss or skin irritation.

4. Changes in posture or movement

Cats are agile creatures; they like to leap, jump, and soar from high places, often inducing panic in their owners. Thus, changes in their mobility should signal that they may be in pain. This could include limping or favouring one leg, hunching over or arching their back, or moving more slowly and cautiously than usual.

Also, if your cat has difficulty jumping or climbing, this can signal pain in its hind legs.

5. Vocalization

Scratch and leap as they may, cats typically do not speak up often unless they are hungry (we all understand being hungry, though). However, they may meow, yowl, or cry more than usual if they are in pain. This is especially true when they move or are touched in a painful area.

Thus, if your cat is vocalizing more than usual, observing their behaviour and seeing if other signs of pain are present is important. Try feeling around their body to see if they signal any specific pain.

6. Changes in sleeping patterns

Cats are unpredictable: one minute, they sleep during the afternoon, the next, they are racing around the room. With every cat, though, comes a specific sleeping pattern. If you notice any change in your cat’s sleeping pattern, watch for other signs on this list.

If your cat is sleeping more than usual, it may be trying to escape from the discomfort of its condition. Conversely, if your cat sleeps less, it may be uncomfortable to rest or restless due to the pain.

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