Cat kills mouse or bird. Do they cause pain?

Yes, the mouse that your cat just killed felt pain and fear as animals have the same ability as humans to transmit nerve signals from the peripheral parts of the body to the brain to signal injury. Therefore, from a straightforward scientific point of view, looking at the anatomy, we have to conclude that animals have the same ability to feel pain at humans. The question which we can’t really answer accurately at the moment is how animal brains process that signal, i.e. how effective are they at tolerating the pain signals?

Mouse hunt is over
Mouse hunt is over. Pain has been caused. But the cat has gained pleasure. Pic in public domain. Presentation by PoC.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

And it is probably accepted by the experts and veterinarians that the animals treated at veterinary clinics, in general, tolerate pain better than humans. If that is true, and I believe that it is, we can learn from animals. In fact, when a human has to accept chronic pain for whatever reason, a lot of therapists teach clients to learn how to manage it. Animals like mice and other prey animals of the domestic cat, arguably exercise pain management something which humans need to be taught.

In regards to pain cats are like their prey. We can see pain etched on cats’ faces. They’ve created a sort of ‘scientific facial template’ in order to compare the face of a cat suffering chronic pain with that of a cat who is not. There are distinct differences. In general terms, the face becomes pinched. The eyes narrow a little bit and the cat looks noticeably miserable, an indication of the emotional response. The differences can be quite subtle but to an observant and good cat caregiver it should be noticeable.

Showing the changed facial expression of a cat suffering
Showing the changed facial expression of a cat suffering

There was a time, not that long ago, when vets thought that animals didn’t feel pain or that they felt pain differently to humans. This resulted in bad veterinary care such as not providing painkillers after declawing. Can you imagine that? It is one of the most painful operations and veterinarians didn’t provide painkillers. And they believed that if they felt pain they wouldn’t walk and therefore their toes would heal faster; abjectly cruel in its concept and sadly ignorant, particularly so since the operation was not needed in the first place.

One veterinarian, the senior vet I suspect at South-West Animal Clinic, said that “animals have very similar if not identical pain pathways as humans. Also, pain whether perceived by the animal or not, is not beneficial but harmful”.

They do say that ‘animals do appear’ to tolerate pain better than humans. However, pain tolerance varies, anyway, between individuals within a species and between species. The question in the title is probably superfluous, almost idiotic because there are so many obvious indications that animals feel pain.

The argument given as to why predators apparently tolerate pain better than humans is because they cannot show it as it makes them appear vulnerable to predators. There are predators of predators such as leopards killing domestic cats and lions killing leopards. Or lions killing hyenas.

Domestic cats are blamed for killing billions of birds annually. They are estimates but cat advocates need to recognise the amount of pain that they cause. Birds feel pain as mammal do because they have pain receptors. There is a study on this dated 2000 in which lame chickens chose food containing a painkiller when allowed to choose their own diet. Unfortunately, domestic cats cause mountains of pain in the animals that they prey upon. And, yes, I love cats but also all animals and we have to be realistic.

Reptiles avoid painful stimuli judging by their response. And their response changes when they are given pain-killing drugs. It is harder to detect pain in a reptile because they don’t have facial expressions like mammals said Bree Putman, postdoctoral fellow at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles when communicating with National Geographic. But reptiles have the neuroanatomy necessary to experience pain (Pain Management in Veterinary Practice).

And, interestingly, when your cat catches a fly indoors and eats it, the experts believe that it will feel pain. A study concluded that flies have the anatomy to feel pain but we don’t know how they experience it and whether it causes discomfort. They have neurotransmitters and a brain. I have more on that topic on another page which you can read by clicking on this link if you wish.

Below are some more pages on pain.

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