How to Tell if a Cat is in Pain (Plus Ways to Help)

Cats are good at concealing their pain making it difficult for owners to detect when the pet is almost dying. While in the wild, cats hide their pain from predators so they don’t seem an easy target. The same happens when the feline is kept as a pet. This makes it fundamental for pet owners to understand how to tell if a cat is in pain.

Pain in cats can be caused by infections, dental problems, or surgery. Being able to tell when your cat is suffering goes a long way in ensuring it has a healthy and happy life. Fortunately, if you understand your cat well, you can outsmart it by noticing some behavioral changes.

In this article, we will discuss how to tell if a cat is in pain and how you can comfort it. 

how to tell if a cat is in pain, signs of pain in cats

How to tell if a cat is in pain

Some common signs of a cat in pain include vocalizing, increased sensitivity, change in facial expression, aggression, and hunched posture.

a). Increased sensitivity

Cats suffering from either acute or mild pain will have increased sensitivity in the affected areas. This happens mostly in cases of injury such as after surgery. The cat will respond by unpredictable withdrawal when you touch certain parts

b). Decreased grooming

Cats like to keep themselves clean by either grooming themselves or their partner. You can tell a cat is in pain when you notice little or no concern for its hygiene. A cat whose coating has not been groomed will have matted fur, overgrown hair, and dirt particles.

c). Lethargy

You will notice a cat in pain by its lack of energy. A healthy cat is usually playful until something is bothering it. A cat in pain will show signs of tiredness and will remain motionless.

d). Vocalizing

Making strange noises is a common sign that a cat is in pain. Normal sounds made by cats include meowing, hissing, or growling for short periods. However, if the sounds are elongated and weird, it is a sign that your pet is in pain.

e). Withdrawal

You cat tell if a cat is in pain if it has excluded itself from the other pets or your kids. The feline will isolate itself in a hidden corner. Withdrawal is one of the most common ways a cat in pain can remain unnoticed.

f). Violent behavior

Cats suddenly become aggressive when in pain. When a cat is violent, its tail will be erect, its ears flatted backward and its back arched. In this situation, the cat does not welcome anyone to invade their space or even pet it.

g). Change in motion

When a cat is in pain, you may notice a change in how they move. You will mostly find the cat limping when they move. You may also find them moving slower than they usually do. This happens because one or more joints involved in the movement are uncomfortable.

h). Change in facial expression

Many animals express emotional or physical pain through the face including felines. Facial changes are identified using linear distances on facial landmarks. This includes the position of ears, whiskers, and partial or complete eye closure.

i). Low appetite

Reduced urge for a cat to eat is another common sign that the pet is in pain. Although there could be other reasons why your cat has a low appetite, pain is a great suppressant of food consumption in animals. 

j). Hunched posture

A  hunched posture in cats is identified by an arch along their back. The section between the front and rear limbs appears to be raised and the head facing down. A hunched posture may be an expression that the cat has chest or abdominal pain.

Diagnosis of pain in cats

When you notice a combination of signs of pain in the cats listed above, examining the cause of the pain is the next step. This is done by looking for physical injuries on the cat’s body. It will be an easier task if the feline had a surgical procedure recently.

If no physical injuries are evident, the veterinarian can then conduct oral and eye tests. Dental and visual tests can be used to determine whether the pain is from those hard-to-detect areas.

The diagnosis of pain in cats can go as far as conducting lab tests such as blood and urine tests. The veterinarian can also perform X-Rays, MRIs, and CT scans.

How to comfort a cat in pain

Comforting a cat in pain could make the life of your pet easier and happier. Some of the methods used to comfort a cat in pain include hot and cold therapy, physical therapy, massage, and the use of Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs.

a). Hot and cold therapy

 Heat therapy is an easy procedure you can perform if your cat has a long-term injury or chronic pain. All you need is a warm towel or a heating pad and place it over the injured area. 

If your cat is suffering from a recent injury, cold therapy is the best option to ease the pain. You can use a cold towel or a pack of ice to hover around the injured area. This will numb the nerves causing pain to the cat.

b). Physical therapy

Physiotherapy in cats is conducted by exercising parts of the body that could be in pain. The movements involved in physical therapy aim to relieve the pain, eliminate limping and strengthen the muscles.

c). Medication

After diagnosing your cat, the vet can recommend the use of medicines such as Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are used in cats to reduce inflammation causing pain in the feline.

However, you should follow the veterinarian’s prescription strictly as these drugs have side effects. Some side effects of NSAIDs in cats include stomach ulcers, dizziness, and allergic reactions.


How can I ease my cat’s pain?

You can ease pain in cats by using heat and cold therapy, massage, or laser therapy.  A specialist may also conduct acupuncture, laser therapy, and chiropractics to reduce pain in cats. The vet may also recommend medication to reduce inflammation in the affected tissues.

How do you know if your cat is crying for help?

Some obvious signs of distress in cats include withdrawal, aggressiveness, loss of appetite, limping, and lethargy. Happy cats are usually friendly and crave their parent’s cuddling. When you notice your pet is changing its behavior, then something is affecting them.

When should you say goodbye to your cat?

Sometimes pain in cats may be exhibited due to a serious underlying condition and the pet may not recover. You will know it is time to say goodbye to a cat when there seems to be no improvement even after medication, significant weight loss, remains motionless, and not using the litterbox.

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