We need to have a method which helps us to know whether our cat is in pain or not. This is because we know that cats do not show that they are in pain. This is common knowledge. We need to have a handle on this problem because all good cat caretakers do not want their cat to be in any sort of pain. I will include discomfort. Discomfort is low-level pain.
This article is a follow-up to Jo Singer’s article on the same subject. I just felt that I needed to discuss it myself having thought about it.
These are two (perhaps three) ways to tell that your cat is in pain:
If your cat has been diagnosed by a veterinarian as being ill from any illness then make a presumption that your cat is at least in discomfort and maybe feeling pain. How can I make this presumption? I believe it is quite easy to make this presumption because we know, as people, that illness causes, at the least, discomfort and, at the worst, acute pain, dependent upon the sort of illness that one is suffering from. With injuries, right away we can presume that a cat feels pain and there will be observable indications such as growling, hissing and flinching etc..The underlying hidden illnesses are harder to assess with respect to pain….
Observe Behavioral Change
Be observant. One of the best signals that your cat is paying is that her behaviour will change. This method of assessing whether your cat is in pain is based upon having a knowledge of your cat’s normal behaviour over, preferably, a long period of time. This method requires that the cat caretaker is observant and has a close relationship with their cat. A change in a cat’s behaviour is probably the best indicator a cat is in pain but, of course, it does depend on the kind of change in behaviour that one is observing and the illness.
Personal experience tells me that when a cat is in discomfort or feels pain, he or she will slow down and be passive. The word that veterinarians constantly use is “lethargic”.
Another obvious change in behaviour is a lack of appetite. When people are ill they lose their appetite. People are human animals and therefore it is a simple process to extrapolate how we feel and behave when we are ill to assessing how a cat feels and behaves when they are ill.
When we are really ill we go to bed and we stay there until we are well again. When a cat is really ill, she finds a quiet place, perhaps a cool place if she has a fever, lies down and appears to snooze. That is reminiscent of the sort of things that we do when we are really ill.
Other changes in behaviour that can be attributed to discomfort and pain in a cat are as follows:
- Self grooming less often
- Wishing to be left alone
- Purring more often (purring is not only a sign of contentment but an indication that a cat requests our friendship)
- Licking a particular area. Animals lick an area that is painful to alleviate the pain.
- Irritability and crankiness.
- Hiding and being less sociable or less interactive with her caretaker
I want stop there because I want this page to be very short and easy to read. I want it to be very focused on these two things (a) a presumption of feeling pain when a cat is ill (b) an observable change in behaviour, which must be based upon a knowledge of normal behaviour.
The second of those two is the best but there is a weakness, which is that the cat’s caretaker must be a good caretaker and must know their cat very well. I will make a guess and say that a lot of cat owners are either not observant enough or not sufficiently connected enough with their cat to observe subtle changes in behaviour.
Being able to assess whether one’s cat is in pain is a good example of why it is important to be a good cat owner. I do not know how many cat owners will be able to spot slight changes in their cat’s behaviour but I suspect that it is no more than 50% and quite possibly quite a lot lower than that.
The answer is that all cat owners should, from the outset, be observant of their cat and understand her routines, likes and dislikes and normal behaviour.
This is a bit of an afterthought because I had not intended to put a third way of assessing pain in your cat into this article. However it occurred to me that cats do make facial expressions. This does require very good observation and a very good knowledge of one’s cat. However, once again, in line with human behaviour, cats can show that they are in discomfort or in pain through an altered facial expression. The picture heading this page is an example, I believe, and it is painful for me show it because she was my cat.
Associated: An earlier article on the same subject.