By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 6 December 2011)
There are many causes of pain in cats, including infections and other diseases, injuries, tooth decay, spasms, intestinal upsets, arthritis, poisoning, frostbite, and surgery. Cats occasionally howl or cry due to pain, but this is uncommon. Instead, they tend to hide their pain because in the wild, showing weakness could make them vulnerable to other animals, so it’s not always easy to spot when a cat is in pain.
How to Tell if Your Cat Is in Pain
Signs of pain in cats include:
- Altered gait
- Becoming withdrawn
- Being quieter than usual
- Breathing rapidly/panting
- Flinching or becoming aggressive when touched
- Having accidents outside the litter box
- Hunched posture
- Increased heart rate
- Lack of grooming/dull, matted coat
- Loss of appetite
- Mental dullness
- Over-grooming certain spots, possibly to the point of pulling out fur or even creating sores
- Overgrown claws (this can happen when a cat becomes less active)
- Reluctance to get up or engage in certain activities (running, jumping, climbing, playing, going outdoors, etc.)
The main things to watch for are changes in behaviour, personality, activity levels, or movement (limping, altered gait, etc.), particularly if these symptoms arise rapidly.
Pain Treatment and Care for Cats
When a cat is in pain, the most important thing to do is consult a veterinarian for a diagnosis. In addition to treating the underlying medical problem, a veterinarian can implement an effective pain management strategy.
Pain medications commonly used by humans such as Aspirin and Tylenol are highly toxic to cats, so you should never give human medications to your pet. There are medications a veterinarian can prescribe to treat pain in cats, as well as non-pharmaceutical treatments such as the use of warm compresses, gentle massage, physical therapy, or dietary supplements for certain problems. Alternative remedies such as glucosamine, acupuncture, or acupressure may also be helpful in some cases. However, they shouldn’t be used without first consulting a veterinarian.
For pain caused by chronic ailments such as arthritis, there are a number of additional things that can be done to make life easier for the cat, such as:
- Providing a soft bed at ground level
- Adding a ramp or step stool to places the cat likes to go, such as the sofa or windowsill
- Using a large, low-sided litter box
- Placing food, water, and litter boxes on the first floor of the home
- Situating the cat’s bed near a heater or providing an electric heating pad for warmth, especially during cold weather (turn heating devices off when you’re not there to supervise)
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for veterinary consultation and care.