Signs of Pain in Cats & How to Help

Cats are naturally stoic and independent creatures, which means they tend to hide pain when they experience it. It is important for cat owners to be able to recognize discomfort in their kitties so they can get it treated. Our Laguna Beach vets share signs of pain in cats and how you can help them.

How To Tell If a Cat is in Pain

Your cat may display signs of pain differently from other cats. How they act can vary depending on their breed, age, and a few other factors.

If your cat has acute pain from an immediate injury, like a cut on the paw, they'll usually make it clear by limping on that paw or yowling when they walk. Chronic pain, like gum disease or spine pain, is a bit trickier; they might hide from you in your home if they have pain like this because they're unsure what to do about it our how to signal what they're feeling.

This is why it is important for pet owners to keep a keen eye on their kitty for changes in behavior, energy, or appetite.

Signs of Pain in Cats

There are a wide range of symptoms a cat in pain can display. Some of these signs and symptoms of a cat in pain include:

  • Frequent or ongoing meowing or howling
  • Litter box accidents, urinating outside of their litter box
  • 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 such as refusing to jump onto a bed or furniture that they typically love to be on
  • Irritable mood, short-tempered with people or other pets including
  • Uncharacteristic hissing, growling or spitting
  • Unusual vocalizations (meowing more than usual, crying)
  • Excessive grooming
  • Panting
  • Patchy fur

Ways That Your Cat's Posture & Body Language May Change if They Are in Pain

Cats will often change their body language if they're in pain. Our vets recommend always monitoring your cat's overall demeanor, stance, and the way they walk so that any changes from their normal will be easily spotted. Changes can be subtle or more obvious.

Body language changes related to pain in cats include:

  • Tensed body
  • Crouching or being hunched over
  • Lowering head

How Pain Could Be Expressed in Your Cat's Face

While many cats show little or no change in their facial expression while experiencing pain, some cats are very expressive. If your cat is in pain they might:

  • 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 Seek Veterinary Care For a Cat In Pain

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.

Do you suspect your feline friend is in pain? Contact our Laguna Beach vets right away to book an examination so we can diagnose and treat your kitty.