Signs of Cat Pain (from Paw Project-Utah)

Intro: People are becoming more sensitive to the signs of a cat in pain. People are more aware about the emotional state of the domestic cat. At one time, not so long ago, people weren’t even sure whether cats felt pain like we do and that included some veterinarians.

Cat feeling pain? We are not sure.

The Paw Project-Utah are experts in cat pain because they are involved in reconstructive repair surgery on domestic cats who have been declawed and in highlighting to cat owners the effects and complications of the declaw operation which is described by every veterinarian as highly painful even those who support declawing. This is to be expected seeing as it is the amputation of part of each of the 10 toes of the forepaws of the cat.

Paw Project-Utah

A point that they make is that people often say that their domestic cat is fine after the declaw operation because he or she shows no signs of being in pain. Cats, as many of us realise, are very good at hiding pain because they have to do so, in the wild, in order to avoid being considered as vulnerable by predators. The domestic cat is very close to the wild cat in terms of hardwired behavioural traits.

So when people say their cat feels fine after a major operation, they may well be incorrect in their assessment. Therefore, in order to assist cat owners, Paw Project-Utah sets out some “pain guidelines” that they use when studying declawed shelter cats:

  • Loss of normal behaviour
    • lethargic attitude
    • decreased ambulation or activity
    • decreased appetite
    • decreased grooming
  • Expression of abnormal behaviours
    • inappropriate elimination
    • vocalisation
    • aggression
    • decreased interaction with other pets or family members
    • altered facial expression
    • altered posture
    • restlessness
    • hiding
  • Reaction to touch
    • increase body tension or flinching in response to gentle palpation of declawed paws
    • increase body tension or flinching in response to gentle palpation of non-declawed paws
  • Physiologic parameters
    • elevations in heart rate
    • elevations in respiratory rate
    • elevations of body temperature
    • pupil dilation

If a cat owner pays attention to the level of activity of their cat and notices that their cat stops playing as much or sleeping a lot more than normal the Paw Project-Utah say that it could be a sign that their cat is in pain.

If a cat owner starts to find that their cat’s fur is matted more than normal that is a big indicator that a cat might need some medical attention (my comment: this would not apply to a geriatric cat who is deemed to be healthy).

Cat owners should monitor their cat’s food and water intake to assess whether there has been a decrease in appetite which is a flag that something is going wrong health-wise with a cat.

If any of the signs above are recognised by the cat’s owner they should take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

My thanks to Paw Project-Utah who do great work. Associated posts.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a 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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