Cats hide the pain for a good reason – out in the wild they have no pack to protect them from predators, so a cat visibly in pain is a surefire prey. But this instinct can work against them in the safety of a household as pet owners often misread their pain signals. Learning to decipher those cues can make both your kitty and your life a lot simpler. So, let’s see the most common signs your feline friend may be in pain.
Top Signs that Your Cat May Be in Pain
It depends on the type of pain, but a cat in pain will no longer be able to mask its ordeal, or at least not do it that flawlessly. A suffering cat will rarely cry out in pain, so it is best to focus on the most subtle signs, especially when the pain is chronic:
- A cat in pain may suddenly lose interest in their favorite activities, toys, other pets, and people;
- A distressed cat may withdraw, sit still for long, take longer-than-usual naps, and become less active;
- A suffering cat may lose interest in their day-to-day grooming activities (a healthy cat spends around 4-6 hours on grooming, all day, every day);
- A cat in pain may overgroom the body region that causes them pain;
- A cat in pain may become unusually vocal – so expect lots of meowing, crying, growling and even purring (yes, persistent pain can spur excess purring in a cat);
- A cat that is hurting may become unusually aggressive toward you especially if you want to touch the area that hurts (it can happen even to cats that are naturally easy going);
- House soiling (a cat in pain, especially arthritic pain, may find it too hard to get in and out of their litterbox);
- Appetite loss cats in pain lose all interest in their favorite foods (this should be a red flag as cats are wired to never go hungry for survival reasons); if your kitten has eaten in 48 hours take them immediately to a vet.
Causes of Cat Pain
Pain in cats and other pets can be acute, chronic, or post-surgery, but just like with the pain symptoms and signs, you should take your cat to a vet to get a clear picture. Acute pain is usually caused by injury, fractures, poisoning or gastrointestinal obstructions. Chronic pain is most commonly caused by arthritis, which goes wildly underdiagnosed in cats.
Here are some of the less common causes of cat pain:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs), such as cystitis, and urethral obstructions
- Widespread inflammation of the intestines (enteritis), stomach (gastritis), and pancreas (pancreatitis)
- Various dental diseases and conditions, like tooth fractures, gum disease, and tooth lesions
- Middle or inner ear infections these can cause a lot of pain and can be caused by something as trivial as not properly cleaning the ears.
- Degenerative eye issues
- Aortic thromboembolism, a heart disease complication more common in cats than in dogs
- Cancer – the most painful types of cancer for a cat are kidney or spleen cancer, bone cancer, and mouth cancer.
Best Treatment for Cat Pain
If you suspect your cat may be in pain take them to your vet. Do not try to self-medicate as both human-approved and dog-approved meds can be toxic to a cat. It takes as little as a Tylenol tablet to kill a cat. So, human NSAIDs are a big no for cats. A veterinary professional will know what to give each cat for pain after a medical diagnosis.
The most common pain killers your vet might prescribe, in severe cases, are meloxicam, which is best-given post-surgery, and robenacoxib. Aspirin is sometimes administered to cats as well but in smaller doses than in dogs. Do not try giving your kitten aspirin if you see them in pain, as aspirin can be lethal to small animals if internal bleeding is involved.
As a pet owner, you can help ease your beloved furry friend’s distress through tried-and-tested remedies that cannot interact with the medication prescribed by your veterinarian. For instance, if your kitty is in pain because of arthritis you can apply a quality topical pain relief for pets to the affected areas. Also, a heating pad can make arthritic cats’ life a little better, especially at night.