How to Know If Your Cat Is in Pain

Cats are amusing, aren’t they? Ask anyone familiar wit them and they’ll agree they groove to the beat of their own music. But because cats can sometimes be a bit finicky, it can be difficult to tell if something is wrong with them.



Cats are naturally good at hiding their symptoms. Oftentimes, when they come to the clinic for a problem, owners are surprised to find that some conditions might have been going on for days or even weeks. However, after doing some digging, we find that there were probably some subtle changes in their behavior that served as clues.


Cats are naturally good at hiding their symptoms. Oftentimes, when they come to the clinic for a problem, owners are surprised to find that some conditions might have been going on for days or even weeks.

When going over the history and during the physical examination, here are some of the things that are observed:


Signs to Look For

  • Change in temperament (such as a friendly cat become more shy or aggressive)

  • Change in eating or drinking habits (loss of appetite, difficulty chewing or swallowing)

  • Decrease in energy level or mobility (limping, unable to jump, staying in one place, hunched or curled posture)

  • Change in grooming habits (overgrooming or not grooming at all)

  • Reacting (vocalizing or tensing) when light pressure is placed on any part of the body

  • Straining to urinate or defecate (tail flicking or posturing for a long time when going to the bathroom)

  • Urinating or defecating outside the litter box

  • When looking at their eyes, they’re squinting, keeping them shut, or avoiding bright lights

  • Increased heart rate and respiratory rate


For the most part, if we can narrow down to a certain area such as the mouth (loss in appetite, difficult chewing, preferring softer food, hypersalivation, odor, swelling), then diagnosis and treatment is simple. But as we said, cats are professional actors and actresses. If an area of pain cannot be properly isolated, and all other diagnostics are normal, sometimes a short course of pain medication can give relief. A word of caution though – never give your cat any over the counter pain medication. Most, if not all, can be toxic, especially at the wrong dosage can be fatal. Consult with your veterinarian on the best course of action..

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