Free CatsMe! app helps to detect pain in cats

Quite a a lot of work is being done by researchers on detecting the changes in expression of a domestic cat when they are suffering from pain. There are changes but they can be subtle. It’s actually one of the great problems for a cat caregiver; to understand how their cat is feeling in order to make the best possible decision as to when it is necessary to take their cat to a veterinarian.

We all know that cats like to hide their pain. They tend to go into a quiet corner and hide and simply suffer. Clearly that’s an indication by which I mean the overall change in behaviour; the passivity, the desire to remain in a hiding place and stay out of harm’s way because they feel vulnerable.

But it certainly helps to be able to read your cat’s face and this Japanese app will help, it is claimed.

CatsMe! app
CatsMe! app
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

They trained the app using artificial intelligence technology in reading 6,000 pictures of cats’ face and the developers of the app say that it is more than ninety-five per cent accurate.

Professor Edamura, the head of the Animal Medical Center at Nihon University worked on the software and he said that veterinarians like him are better able to decide if a cat is suffering from pain than owners – normally. He added that, “More than 70% of elderly cats have arthritis or pain, but only 2% of them actually go to hospital”.

The app is meant to be a tool for owners to be made more aware about how their cat companion is feeling, whether they are in pain, or whether they feel okay. This is a good starting point and the app is not made to be a final diagnosis but to make owners more aware and therefore encourage them to take that step in seeing a veterinarian.

Until now, more than 230,000 people have used the app since its launch in Japan in 2023. One of the customers is Mayumi Kitakata. She lives in Tokyo with her 14-year-old cat Chi. She uses the app to read his face daily.

She said that, “He is at an age where more and more diseases are going to appear. So being able to consult the vet but still reduce the number of visits to the hospital is very important for him and me.”

There are 16 million pet cats and dogs in Japan which is more than the number of children under 15 years of age. The app was developed by Careology in conjunction with researchers at Nihon University.

You can click on this link to go to the website and take a look for yourself.

Cat in pain

There is more than one of these apps. I wrote about another about 3 years ago. This one might be more refined.

Below is an example of how pain can affect a cat’s facial expression:

Showing change in feline facial expression when in pain
Showing change in feline facial expression when in pain

General changes in feline behavior when in pain

Cats are known for being stoic creatures, but there are some key changes in their behavior that can indicate they’re in pain. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Reduced Activity: A painful cat might become less active, reluctant to jump or climb, and prefer to stay hidden or curled up in a tight ball.
  • Changes in Appetite: Loss of appetite or difficulty eating can be a sign of pain, especially if your cat usually loves mealtimes.
  • Litter Box Issues: Painful elimination (urination or defecation) can cause a cat to avoid the litter box or go outside of it.
  • Social Withdrawal: A friendly cat that becomes withdrawn or even aggressive towards petting or interaction might be in pain.
  • Vocalization Changes: Pain can make cats vocalize more than usual, with meows or yowls sounding different in pitch or urgency.
  • Physical Signs: Look out for unusual body postures like hunching, flattened ears, or facial grimacing. Excessive licking of a particular area might indicate pain there.

If you notice any of these changes in your cat, it’s best to consult a vet to identify the cause and get them the treatment they need.

Changes in feline expression and body language – descriptive

Cats may not whimper or cry out in pain like other pets, but they do show it in their subtle facial expressions. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Ears: Flattened ears or ears rotated outwards from their natural position can signal pain.
  • Eyes: Squinting or narrowing of the eyes is a common sign of discomfort.
  • Muzzle: Tension in the muzzle area, making it appear more pinched or drawn tight, can indicate pain.
  • Whiskers: Relaxed whiskers normally curve outwards. When a cat is in pain, their whiskers may become straighter and spread wider apart.
  • Head Position: A lowered head position compared to their normal posture might suggest pain.

These signs are most helpful when used in conjunction with other behavioral changes. There’s a tool called the Feline Grimace Scale that vets use to assess pain in cats by assigning scores to the severity of each facial expression change.

RELATED: Taylor Swift’s Scottish Fold cats are likely to be in chronic pain

Wider issues

Separately, on a much wider issue, humankind is yet to fully grasp, as a whole, that many animals feel pain and are still treated as if they do not. Take for example fish. A study concluded that fish feel pain (and why not?). And yet billions of fish are captured from the oceans every year and allowed to suffocate on the decks of boats in an agonising death. People treat fish as non-sentient objects which is a terrible blind spot for humankind.

The issue of pain is very important as it is linked to sentience and sentience is very important in terms of bestowing upon animals rights which approach those of humans and one would hope that one day animals are granted equal rights to humans. This would be the objective of PETA and I written about PETA and their attitude to animal rights in another article which you can read by clicking on this link.

1 thought on “Free CatsMe! app helps to detect pain in cats”

  1. This app is important as sadly too many cat caregivers are a little slow to take their cats to vets partly because of the expense and partly because they are unaware that their cat is in pain because of a illness that is not obvious. This app should help cats. Thanks for the post.


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