Categories: IBS

Is IBD in cats painful?

Yes, IBD in cats is painful. It is painful in people and therefore it must be the same for cats. Also, I know this because today I was reading about a study on facial expressions when cats are in pain. It’s a study which looks at how cats’ facial expressions change subtly when they are in pain. Of course, the researchers had to pick participants for the study who were in pain.

The researchers did this by selecting cats who were suffering from various illnesses one of which was inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. The study says that these cats suffered with abdominal pain. The other diseases that they refer to which cause abdominal pain are: hepatic lipidosis, pancreatitis, suspected foreign body, lymphoma, constipation, urethral obstruction, idiopathic cystitis and urolithiasis.

Cat with squinting eyes? This is not a great example. It is hard to find a good example of cat feeling pain and expressing it through squinting eyes. This is the nearest I can get today. Photo in public domain.

Out of interest to me and I hope you, the study rather obliquely and without great clarity tells us how the facial expression of cats changes when suffering from pain. I’ll quote the study verbatim the sake of clarity.

Action units were defined as follows: (1) Ear position: refers to the tips of ears pulled apart and rotated outwards; (2) Orbital tightening: narrowing of the orbital area, with a height between eyelids smaller than 50% of eyes width, or tightly closed eyelid (squinted eyes); (3) Muzzle tension: flattening and stretching of the muzzle from round to an elliptical shape (muzzle may be bulged); (4) Whiskers position: movement of whiskers forward (rostrally and away from the face), as if standing on end (spiked); (5) Head position (in relation to the shoulders): head below the shoulder line or tilted down (chin towards the chest)

I feel that I have to try and interpret this piece of scientific text. When a cat is feeling pain their ear position changes so that the ears are pointed outwards. The eyes are squinted, the muzzle is flattened, the whiskers are pulled forwards as if standing on end and the head drops below the shoulder line or is tilted down.

Conclusion: IBD in cats causes pain to the cat. In addition to the above signs of pain, the cat may sit hunched up (the same as (5) above?), become very quiet and may lick fur off their belly to try and relieve the pain. Over-grooming is a way for cats and other animals to relieve stress and pain. It seems to be the feline version of rubbing a painful area of the body for humans.

The study (which I may have visted before): Facial expressions of pain in cats: the development and validation of a Feline Grimace Scale.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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