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Signs of Pain or Discomfort in Cats & What to Do

Signs of Pain or Discomfort in Cats & What to Do

If a cat is in pain you may not even become aware until it has become a serious issue. This is because our feline friends are hardwired to hide any signs of weakness including pain and illness. Here, our Springfield vet specialists share the signs that your cat may be in pain and when it may be a good idea to seek veterinary care.

When might a cat show signs of pain?

The pain that your cat is experiencing will determine the way in which your cat expresses their discomfort.

Most cats will show obvious signs of acute pain if they have an accident or injury but it can be much more challenging to tell if your cat is experiencing chronic pain such as pain caused by arthritis or gum disease. 

Because cats instinctively hide signs of pain it is essential for pet parents to always keep a watchful eye for uncharacteristic behavior, personality changes, an unusual stride, or changes in appetite.

Signs of Pain in Cats

While they may be subtle, here are the most common signs of pain in cats:

  • Frequent or ongoing meowing or howling
  • Litter box accidents, urinating outside of their litterbox
  • Tail flicking
  • Won't eat or reduced appetite
  • Poor grooming, scruffy-looking
  • Reduced energy, lethargy or lack of interest in play or going outside
  • Hiding, no interest in spending time with you or other family members
  • Limping
  • Avoiding being handled, picked up or petted
  • Behavioral changes
  • Irritable mood, short-tempered with people or other pets
  • Uncharacteristic hissing, growling or spitting
  • Unusual vocalizations (meowing more than usual, crying)
  • Excessive grooming
  • Panting
  • Patchy fur

How to Tell if a Cat is in Pain

Cats in pain will often display changes in body language. In some cases, the body language changes of a cat in pain will be very noticeable but often these changes are more subtle. Our vets recommend always monitoring your cat's overall demeanor, stance, and gait so that any changes from their normal will be easily spotted. 

  • Body language changes related to pain in cats include:
  • Tense looking body
  • Crouched or being hunched over
  • Head lowered

Other Visible Signs of Pain in Cats

While facial expressions may not be the most obvious signs of pain in cats, there are still a few things you can watch for when looking at your cat such as:

  • Squint or close their eyes tightly
  • Flatten their ears so that they are pressed to the sides or back of their head
  • Project an overall facial appearance of tension with a tight mouth

When to Reach Out to Your Vet

Often signs of pain in cats are missed until the cat's condition is advanced. When it comes to your cat's long-term health it's always best to err on this side of caution.

If your feline friend is displaying signs of pain contact your vet right away to schedule an examination, or visit your local after-hours animal hospital. To help preserve your cat's good quality of life pain management, and treatment of painful conditions early are essential.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat has been diagnosed with a painful condition that requires further diagnostics, ask your primary vet for a referral to our Springfield veterinary clinic or contact us for emergency care.

New Patients & Referrals Welcome

The Regional Veterinary Referral Center is accepting new patients in emergency situations or by referral! Our experienced specialists are passionate about the health of Springfield pets. Contact us today to learn more.

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