Since cats hide pain how do you know when they are hurting?
Wild cats are masterful in hiding their pain. This instinctual technique is one of their strongest survival tactics. And because our domestic kitties are so closely related to their wild cousins, they too have adopted exactly the same tactic to avoid being attacked. But since frequently keep pain to themselves, this amazing strategy often can make it extremely difficult for their guardians to know when their cat is hurting.
This said, cat guardians who are deeply attuned to their kitties’ behavior are generally able to quickly recognize any unusual changes in their feline’s demeanor, which often indicates that their cat is suffering.
Cats that are experiencing pain may act unusually quiet, appear withdrawn (see picture above), behave oddly, become anxious, refuse to eat, have difficulty lying down or unable to sleep, pant or breathe rapidly. Their heart rates may escalate; they may bite or hiss, avoid being touched on different parts of their body, or seem lame.
The majority of cats who are in pain won’t generally show outward signs of their discomfort. In fact, very few cats will vocalize excessively. But when a generally quiet cat suddenly starts crying or howling, this is generally a sure sign that the cat has something untoward going on and needs prompt professional attention.
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Many of the more common causes of feline pain range from a trauma, an injury, urinary tract conditions, such as kidney stones or bladder infections, constipation, dental or oral infections, spinal or back conditions, gastric disturbances, indigestion, poison ingestion. Major medical conditions such as pancreatitis, kidney disease or cancer can also cause cats significant pain.
Since external injuries are generally visible, most kitty guardians recognize that their cat has been hurt. Cats recovering from illness or surgery or are being treated for gum disease, eye or ear problems may obviously show their discomfort. However, arthritis, internal injuries, an underlying urinary tract problem or a bad tummy ache are conditions which may not be readily apparent on the surface.
P.S.There are some more articles on cat pain just below this article
Additionally as cats age they often may develop painful conditions such as disc disease, degeneration of the joints and osteoarthritis. Cats who are reluctant to climb, or who have become less playful and are no longer energetically leaping high up in the air to catch that favorite toy, may indeed be suffering with one of these conditions. Therefore, it’s extremely prudent for cat guardians who suspect that their kitties may be suffering from one of these conditions to make an appointment for a thorough wellness examination with their veterinarian.
For more information about cats in pain, take a moment to watch the video created by Steve Dale, renowned author and feline behaviorist.
When you are checking to determine if your cat is in pain, what signs do you look for when you are evaluating if your kitty is in pain? Share these signs with a comment.
P.S. the comments are helpful: 2 good signs of pain are (a) unexplained change in behavior and (b) being picked up causes a cry and/or reluctance.
SOME MORE ON PAIN…
I’m beginning to understand… This is a follow-up to the article that I missed on RB for humans. Cats don’t need such. My Lucky is close to death just now, right now. She has just had an attack while writing this, while lying on the couch (where I sleep)with me. She jumped up here on the couch about midnight Central US time, and I don’t move to even go potty. This is a rare occasion; I’m pretty sure that she is not going to make it too much longer. She is twenty. pretty damn good. She’s over her attack, now. Thank goodness. I thank any and all angels out there. I really don’t want to have to leave her side, when she’s been here all this time. I am not losing her. She IS still here. I just will no longer have the ability to stretch my arm out and touch her. My eyes won’t see her…but my heart will. And it WILL touch her. Again and again.
With you in spirit Caroline xx
She’s such a survivor. She’s going to be fine. Ruth, thanks. <3
I have not read the article, yet. (nor the commetns) To me, from my understanding of cats and myself, we show pain through our eyes, first and foremost. If you don’t have the ability, or perhaps, the understanding, to look into our eyes then, you will not see it. You and I are SOL.
If, maybe, you have not picked up on our eyes, then you should look at our gestures, our movements, our nuances in gesturing. That might help. If that doesn’t work, then you should be grateful when we speak. Maybe? just a little squeak? <3
This is a “cry me a river day” over the stories here.
I so glad we have POC to go to with our heartaches.
It is just that Dee. I guess pain and death go together.
A trusting non-judgemental community makes it safe Dee! I feel safe here.. very safe.
Same here i feel so safe and it really is my family. I feel at ease great to be somewhere where we arent judged and are appreciated. I love this place so much.
I feel so for you. That your beloved kitty lived such a long life, with the best of care attests to what a wonderful kitty “mom” you are- and have been to this precious little soul.
No matter how old (or young) they may be, when they become so desperately ill, and with the tender, loving release we give them- (with many tears flowing at the same time), I think we all go through that “what if” “I missed something” and blame ourselves. It think that is natural- since we want to give them the best of care. You did!
Your post is incredibly touching- and must touch the hearts of everyone here at PoC. We will all face that heart-wrenching decision at one time or another… and it is never easy.
You absolutely have it right- she didn’t want YOU to beat yourself up and go through the pain of second guessing… she waited for both of the people she loved the most in the world and knew that you would give her that final act of devotion and love- the release to the Rainbow Bridge. She has healed now- she is happy and playing again- and as I write this my tears are flowing- but as a dear friend once told me- our tears are liquid love.
I am sure that your cat wants you to know that she was cared for in an extraordinary manner- and that your relationship was powerful. What a blessing to have had that many years together.
leah hes beautiful thats horrible what you had to go though.:( Its so hard dealing with this. I really wish i had of done more with cassy. I could of prob pervented what happend but then maybe not.
Everyone’s stories remind me so much of our Benji who we said goodbye to just over 5 years ago. I knew he was under the weather because he was off his food and drinking more. I took him to the vets (who we had been with for 20+ years). The vet told us he was in Kidney failure so they kept him overnight, re-hydrated him and gave him a steroid injection. When I called the next day I was told he would do well on medication and I could pick him up. When I went to collect him I spoke to a young lady vet who was very bright and positive I remember saying ‘will he be ok? I always thought that cats with Kidney failure couldn’t survive?’ She said ‘let me have a look at his notes; yes he has moderate Kidney failure but most cats do well with drugs and he has had a steroid injection so you will see him pick up within 24-48 hours.
I took him home and he was wobbly. He vomited but still made it to the litter tray, his eyes were cloudy. It was a cold night in January and I held him all night on cushions in front of the fire I didn’t know what else to do. Was he getting worse or would he, as the vet said start to perk up soon? Did I wait and see? To me he was getting worse but if I had him him put to sleep would I have made a mistake not giving him the full 24-48 hours to recover as the vet had stated? At 4am I woke my husband. Benji had starting fitting and I knew we had no choice. By that time he couldn’t see, his eyes weren’t focused they were dead he couldn’t see us anymore.
At the Emergency vets the lady vet (an older lady) was lovely she said ‘thank God you bought him when you did if he starts fitting more than he is now we would have struggled to find a vein’ She gave us enough time to say our goodbyes then that was it he left us for good. My husband put his finger between his pad and toes to say goodbye because that’s one of the ways they interacted; how they would start to play together. He said he’ll know its me. I buried my head in his long fur and just cried. Benji had been with us for 17 years since he was 11 months old.
Afterwards the emergency vet told us that the other vet should never have given us that false hope and that most cats don’t do well with Kidney failure. She said that she should also have told us what else could happen and what to do if it did.
My Benji suffered I know he did because I was given false hope I was told he would start to pick up in 24 – 48 hours. If I had know there was no way he was going to recover I would have acted so much sooner.
A couple of weeks later I wrote a letter to the owner of the practice explaining what had happened and that all I wanted was to know that the vet concerned thought about what she was saying and that she should in future give the full facts and not be so flippant where peoples beloved pets were concerned.
All I got back was a short sharp letter saying basically ‘the vet concerned did nothing wrong Benji was fine when he left the surgery and his Retinas could have become detached by a jolt in the car on the way home. I was shocked by the cold, callous reply and when MC Ozzie came into our lives I changed vets. The vets I am with now well lets just say the difference is like night and day.
I knew Benji was ill and that’s why I took him to the vets yet we put so much trust in those that medically look after our family what else can we do?
Well written article as usual. Many,many years ago one of my children brought home a very young stray kitten which he said was thrown out of a car. We named her Mandy and when she was with us about 6 weeks she was running around playing and let out with a tiny scream. We immediately ran to the car, raced to the vet with me trying to give her mouth to mouth. We were rushed into exam room where the vet announced she had passed. His guess what that she had a heart condition and that she probably had a heart attack running around so hard. Needless to say we were devastated. She was so sweet and we were lucky to have her in our lives if even for a short time.
My girl was bright, playful, and ” pretty much her normal self” right up until the day she passed away at 17.., the night before she passed she was unusually spending lots of time laying in our bath tub…as she had always hopped in the shower with us since she was a kitten we didn’t think much of it… The next morning she seemed ” off colour” ….my hubby said I don’t know why but I think I will take the day off work …stay with her and keep an eye on her. We planned to take her to the vet that night for a ” once over to check”… As she had an over active thyroid that our vet was managing and a heart murmur since a kitten we had always been extra vigilant for signs of illness…and I thought a very good judge of when she was sick… I went to work and called him regularly…when he hold me half way during the day that ” she still hasn’t touched her bowl of milk” I knew SOMETHING bad was happening… She was the kind if cat that you had to spell the word milk around as even just hearing it said would send her into a frenzy of mews and purrs and leg climbing…she was addicted to it I think…
I left work early ( I was lucky to have an employer that understood that for some people pets are children)… When I got home she was not in her usual place of right behind the door mewing madly as I came home… hubby assured me that when he left to come get me from the train ( 5 minute car trip) she had been laying in the bath…” She meowed and answered me when I left t come get you ” he said… She wasn’t in the bath…I frantically ran through to the laundry where her ” brother ” our pink and grey galah who we got as a fledgling when she was a tiny kitten… They where brought up together and where almost inseperatelable … There she was laying in the door of the toilet…facing towards him…he was sitting on the floor of his cage not making any noise just a tiny little ” blip blip” noise…I knew then what had happened… We scooped her up…she couldn’t hold up her head, was trying to mew but was obviously struggling to breathe…we rushed her to the vet…but of course the news was what I already knew…her lungs had collapsed…the vet felt it was most likely due to her just getting so thin from the over active thyroid that her skeleton crushed her…I held her and said…if it’s your time then go.I love you…she lifted her head..looked at my eyes and meowed one more time…as my hubby sat at my feet sobbing against my legs….
When we looked at photos of her a few days later with our family my dad said…you can see here she was not well…her white fur has a yellow tinge… And her grey fur is also not glossy…For the first time I noticed it… The photos we had taken two weeks before that day showed a cat with yellow tinged and dull white and grey fur…. I beat myself up for months over that…why had I not noticed…I was a bad cat parent… But a freind then said to me…. You know animals hide things… And she loved you so much…She didn’t want you to be sad…she waited until you where both gone before she let go….
I now realise that even though she obviously felt unwell…and that her time was coming …our love for her….and her love for us meant she didn’t “let on” that she felt sick… We can be comfortable in the knowledge that up until she passed over she was happy, loved and cared for… And that she passed away surrounded by the ones she loved including her beloved brother…. The photo shows her in her specially built fully enclosed with chicken wire cat run 3 years ago…it’s pouring with rain…but she loved to be outside in her run…in the PVC pipe as pictured…
This brought a tear to my eye and made me feel very sad again because it brought back the death of my cat but thank you very much for writing such a loving epitaph to your beloved cat.
It is very difficult at the end to know exactly what to do and when to do it. The decisions we have to make are big and sometimes final. There is no going back from euthanasia. Thank you for commenting.
The reason why your comment was moderated was because it is your 1st comment but hereafter any comment that you make will be published immediately.
Kayleen I’m crying as I type this message to you even typing I don’t know what to say except you did know in the end and you did everything a good cat caretaker could you made sure she didn’t suffer. I hope you’re still not beating yourself up you couldn’t have known. I am so sorry for your loss.
Thank you for sharing this, Kayleen.
We can only do our best.
We’re not paychics.
So sorry for your loss Its so hard going though this. Brings tears to my eyes as my girl been gone two months now. Your cat was beautiful. Its so painful saying goodbye. hugs i still live daily with the loss. I
She still eats and drinks a lot. I understand more about her ‘whining’ now. At night, I lock her in the bedroom with me to prevent accidents. She had been scratching at the door to be let out. I opened the door and she just sat there staring at the door. She had never done that before. It explains a lot now. Thank you!
I meant to say “the other night, she was scratching at the door”
Michael, that picture made me so sad. I grew up having cats and at one point my family had 9 cats in the house. That number has since dwindled to 3 in just a few months. That picture of Binnie was basically how all of them looked towards the end and we knew there was a problem. The vet had no clue as to what was plaguing them and I think she prescribed something that just sped up the process. I want to think that they weren’t in pain, but somehow in my heart I know that wasn’t true. Cats are such strong, brave creatures in such tiny packages. Humans can learn a lot from them.
Hello Leigh. Thank you for commenting. We think the same way-there is no doubt about that. The picture is sad. I do now believe that my cat was in pain or at least discomfort and I feel very bad about it. At one time she went to the front of the place where I lived, to a car park and rested over the drain where I believe the cool air was blowing up around her which I presume gave her some relief. That was one sign that I have in my mind as to why I now think she was in some pain. I bless her and love and I shed a tear for her.
(Your comment was moderated because I believe it is the 1st time you have commented on this site but from now on any further comment you make will be published immediately.)
Female intuition is the most powerful thing to use for me.
I like what you say. I think female intuition is very important in this instance. Also, a man’s intuition may also be good enough! Both benefit from knowing one’s cat very well by having a close relationship with him or her. Thank you for commenting.
One way I believe I can tell my 13-year-old Bailey is in pain in his front legs and shoulders is that he grooms there somewhat vigorously after using his legs. His vet is quite sure he has arthritis, which was the conclusion many years ago after my observing this behavior. I have lots of kitty steps and stools around to help my precious little man.
Nice point. I saw a fox do this after he had broken his leg. It was terrible to see because you had a broken leg for a long time and he had licked off all the fur from his leg. You are right, cats do lick areas that hurt as it provides relief.
I definitely notice when something is ‘off’ with my cats. Problem is knowing what to do about it as my vet looks at me as if I’m crazy! My youngest is 3 years old and maybe 3 times a year he will have 1-2 days where he withdraws from us slightly. He’s normally always around us but when he’s on one of these days he will stay out of the way and not greet me at the door. I check him over and he seems totally fine, eats fine, using litter tray normally. It worries me 🙁
hello Helen. Thanks for commenting. Your comment was moderated because it is the 1st time you have commented but from now on you can comment freely and it will be published immediately. One excellent point that you make is that it can be hard to convince a specialist like a veterinarian that you are aware of a problem that he can’t see. I always think that good cat caretakers know more about their cat than their veterinarian, certainly at an intuitive level. I have a feeling that your cat is healthy. He may just have a psychological problem about perhaps something in the environment or his lifestyle. I am guessing of course.
When my beloved cat Mattie developed lung cancer, her only symptoms were that she seemed more reluctant or hesitant to jump up/down from the bed and other furniture and that she began to cry out when I picked her up. If she hadn’t liked to be picked up and snuggled, I would have missed that clue. She also started sitting in a crouch more often, which I later learned was a symptom of a breathing problem. I asked my vet if she was getting arthritis or something. Testing revealed that she had cancer in both lungs. She was my best friend and must have been sick for some time to have cancer in both lungs, but she continued to play and eat normally and cuddle with me all that time. I knew when she wouldn’t come to bed and didn’t want to move around much that it was time to say goodbye. I dragged the mattress onto the floor and slept with her that night and called the vet the next morning to arrange for her to come out and euthanize her. I didn’t want to stress her by taking her to a strange place to die. I held her as she slipped away.
Brenda. Your comment brought tears to my eyes and for now that is all I can say. Thank you commenting. Your comment was moderated because it is the 1st time you have commented on this site but from now on any comments you make will be published immediately. Take care.
Brenda I’m so sorry you must miss her so much
I have a two year old cat who has hemolytic anemia, and before it was diagnosed I noticed that he was very lethargic and did not spend time socializing with the other cats in the house. He was also not interested in playing or being touched, he would cry when he was picked up. Now that he’s being treated I know to look for those same signs.
Hell Lyssa. I’m sorry to hear that your cat is not well. You make a nice point that one sign of a cat being in pain is that when you pick him or her up he may cry out. Thank you for that contribution. Your comment was moderated because it seems it is the 1st time you have commented on this site-for which I thank you-and from now on your comments will be published immediately. You can also upload photographs into comments by the way.
If my vet considered me “neurotic” it would be time to find another vet, Reno. Thankfully she knows that I know WHAT I am talking about and thus far I have been right on the money.
Both my vets actually are thrilled with clients that carefully observe their pet’s behavior and contact them when something is amiss. They are NOT so thrilled with clients that wait, and wait until it’s too late to do anything for an ailing pet. Those are not the clients they want as well. They love observant clients who take action in a timely manner.
After a clinic vist or a home visit, one of the vet tech staff always makes a follow up call to make sure our cat (s) are on the mend, and if I see something that is still amiss they want me to call them and let them know so any further action can be promptly made.
I am what my vet considers a “neurotic” client. I know my cats and dogs so well, that ANY subtle change is cause to watch even more closely and usually take a trip to the vet. In fact, with my little Munchkin, I was told that her runny eye was simply that. However, I knew better and I took her to a different vet. It was found that her runny eye was actually Horner’s Syndrome brought on my multiple chest tumors. I had noticed other subtle behavior changes as well and I was told that since she was 18 years old, that was to be expected. Evidently, it was the cancer taking over. I wish that more veterinarians would realize that we, as owners, know our pets better than they do. Yes, they have the medical knowledge that most of us don’t possess. But we live with these precious creatures. We interact with them daily. We know what is “normal” for our pets and what is not. I believe that if more vets would act on the suspicions of the owners that many more ailments would be detected earlier when treatment would be easier and more fruitful.
Thanks for your comment.
What irks me the most are the folks who, after declawing their cats claim that they are doing “just great”, and refuse to accept that cats “HIDE” their pain so incredibly well. Yes, it does take careful observation- looking for the subtle behavioral changes that you beautifully described.
I am positive that some of the folks who are not willing to listen to the “truth” about declawing, and its risks, may, even on an unconsious level feel some guilt about what they have done and are in denial that they have inflicted inordinate pain on their cats.
The other factor that simply drives me up the way is the attitude that so many cat “owners” (as opposed to guardians or companions) think of their cats as property and maintain the stance that “You can’t tell me what to do or not to do to my cat.”. I have run across this particular attitude even amongst those who profess great love for their kitties, and are highly feline knowledgable. That simply galls me.
Again,thanks. Your “talking points” are so valuable, and naturally I will be sharing them over and over.
Its still surprises me how little vets know about pain. When I took Mr Jinks to the vet with his broken leg and he never even spat or cried during examination I commented to the vet about how well cats hide their pain. He said ‘I don’t think he’s in pain’ How could he not be with a leg broken in 2 places? 🙁
I wonder if that vet would as stoic as Mr Jinx and hide his pain if his leg was broken? I doubt it, you can bet he’d be screaming for pain medication!
This is particularly true of declawed cats. The anatomy, gait changes, and alteration of forces on the joints, and research on phantom pain tells us that these cats must experience pain, whether occasional or constant – yet almost nobody notices it because cats are such masters at hiding it. Chronic pain of declawing can develop weeks, months, or even years after surgery, according to veterinary pain specialists and result in aggression and urinary tract inflammation (flare-ups are almost always related to stress).
However, there *are* subtle signs of pain that astute guardians (like you guys!) pick up on whether they realize what they’re doing or not…squinting, pulling back whiskers, ears slightly turned back…signs that scientists are finding are similar across many mammal species.
Jean, Thank you very much for popping by and making a very good point namely that the cat demonstrates subtle signs that he or she is suffering pain due to declawing and those signs are probably in addition to the usual signs that she/he demonstrates when suffering from pain. I’ll be honest and say that I had not thought of that particular point before. For example, urinary tract diseases being caused by stress and stress being caused by pain. That is a connection that I had not thought about although I was aware that stress exacerbated diseases such as cystitis. Aggression as well is another indirect sign of feeling pain or irritability which can be manifested in aggression. I see that. Thank you once again, Jean.
Thanks for being here, Jean.
You are a wealth of info.
So true Jean! I love your Little Big Cat web site and often point people in your direction to get some much needed education.
For me, it has always been hard to tell if a cat is in pain, just not feeling well, or if “their time” is just around the corner.
In all of these scenarios, they isolate and hide, eat poorly or not at all, and can’t be conjoled into play.
What I’ve found, mostly, with a cat in pain is that they can become agitated or aggressive to approach, they may hiss and even run from us, and the real telltale sign is rapid breathing or panting at rest.
I can only speak from my own experience and concerning conditions that I have had some experience with as to the level of pain involved.
With the cats I’ve had (have), I think the most serious and severe pain is associated with trauma/injury, dental abcesses, calculi (passing kidney stones), advance cancer, and arthritis.
Moderate pain or discomfort comes from the hy6pertension (not the diseases themselves) associated with CKD, hyperthyroidism, and heart disease.
The lesser pain or discomfort is with chronic liver disease or failure.
I can’t address some of the most serious illnesses such as FeLV or FIV because they are so complex and can present with so many conditions.
I’ve been fortunate to never have had a cat with FeLV, but I have had one with active FIV that passed and one, currently, that tested positive for FIV 2 years ago and is thriving.
Knowing your cat, observing, feeling the body, watching movements awake and asleep, memorising the voice, all these things help us to spot very early on if our cat is unwell or in pain, watch the eyes, the third eyelids, the expression, the way he/she holds their ears, are they depressed, are they hiding? Know your cat as best as you possibly can and the slightest change alerts you to a possible problem.
This is an area where retired people or people who spend a lot more time at home are more easily able to build a close relationship with their cat which brings the hidden benefit as you mention, namely, that the person is better able to monitor their cat with the resultant health benefits. I think that all cat-to-human relationships should be as close as possible for both parties to benefit from the relationship to a maximum.
Laura is with the cats almost all the time. When she goes to visit family I worry I’ll miss something. It’s hard for me to just keep up with which cat is hiding where for a nap and if everyone is eating Ok and such.
Thanks for addressing this, Jo. I’m having to watch Pancho pretty carefully now because of his gum disease–until he can have his surgery, the doctor wants him to have pain meds fairly regularly. He really isn’t acting any differently, not even sleeping more than usual, but it’s very difficult to tell even though I’m with him most of the day.
I am happy that your vet is using pain control. Gum disease is very painful and if cats don’t eat- as you know- they get into trouble very quickly.
If your cat has difficulty eating and refuses you can bet he is feeling pain. Your vet is right on the money, and I wish that more vets would use prudent pain management in cats that are in pain.
Heck, there are vets that declaw and send kitties home without any pain management. They should have their licenses revoked, in my opinion.
I wish Pancho well and that he will recover quickly after his surgery.
I guess the one thing I thought about when reading this article is that we know our cats well enough to spot a problem. Our vet tells me that I am over protective but the honest truth is that if something is “off” about my cat’s attitude, gait, general health or whatever I go to the vet. Our family raised 6 kittens nine years ago. They were 5 days old when we rescued them. We know them very well and can see changes almost immediately and yet. That seems to be not fast enough sometimes because of the hard wired protection that the cats use to mask symptoms. I watch for changes in diet, awkward gait, tail attitude, eye clarity,and changes in schedule. It has been a challenge with the last cat we rescued. He is 14 years old and I knew nothing about him. We are learning, together, how to communicate. 🙂
Hi TaniMara, thank you for your comment. I think you make a very good point. A good cat caretaker will know her cat very well and be able, therefore, to pick up even small changes in behaviour and appearance, which is something that a veterinarian is unable to do for obvious reasons. In a way, we know our cat better than a veterinarian and we can therefore provide very important information to help with diagnosis.
GREAT comment TaniMara!
Readers here in PoC are highly attuned to their cats. They can “smell” out a problem in a heartbeat- with just a flick of the tail or an ear.
The terrible problem, from where I sit, are cat “owners” who don’t either take the time to learn or have no idea at all about symptoms of pain in cats, therefore don’t take them to the vet if something is a subtle sign of distress.
I am very over protective also. But my vet knows that when I call her because I smell something “wrong” that I have never been off target. Vets depend highly on our observations because we see them at home- and not in a clinic setting. We know our cats.. we know everything about them because we care that deeply. It is the people that don’t know- that don’t bother to know- and only take their cats to the vet when they are obviously sick (if they even do that)- that is the problem.
I do a lot of volunteer work over at Pet360 on the message boards. A few weeks ago I was horrified by the answer one of the member posted in response to a question about a cat not eating- “Your cat will eat when it’s hungry”.. Such wretched information leads to major problems as WE all know. You can bet that I corrected that information immediately..
Jo, at this moment 2 pm GMT on 9th March your post has 3,100 FB Likes. Good uh? Something happened somewhere.
Michael- I am still in tears reading comments-touched so deeply by the extraordinary love and feelings of loss.. especially since right now Sir Hubble is so ill.
I am very moved by those “likes”, because it shows me that people so strongly identify with this post. It shows me that people care.. and that is a really good thing.
I agree, Jo – this touched a nerve. Pain (chronic pain) is often associated with the last months of a cat’s life and those months are very difficult (emotional) for cat and person.
“How can you tell your cat is sick” and “How can you tell your cat is in pain” are very necessary topics cat owners look up. I wouldn’t be surprised if this article gets a lot more comments and it won’t die out because there will always be cat owners needing to know this information.
Hi Eliza. Yes I think assessing whether our cat is in pain is extremely important. It may go wider than that. What I mean is, we should be able to assess whether our cat is in discomfort. A recent article I wrote stressed the importance of intuition in assessing whether any anything was wrong because our intuition will be able to compare current behaviour with past behaviour and behavioural changes are a good indicator that something is wrong.
I had a vet say that about one of our rescues named Cocoa. Said give him a few days and he’d eat when he was hungry. I left that office and drove 50 miles to a specialty vet who did bloodwork and Cocoas WBC were at 28,000. I knew he was sick!
My daughter can usually tell when a cat is sick because it won’t play the same as usual or turns down food. Being injured is tougher since cats hide pain. My mama used to tell me cats would go hide to die. I think a lot of cats who live outdoors do this when injured and the family just thinks the cat ran away.
Eliza, you are relying on your intuition to assess whether a veterinarian has made a decent diagnosis and I admire that. An experienced and observant cat caretaker can assess their cat, in some ways, better learn a veterinarian can. The cat who used to play and who no longer plays is demonstrating a change in behaviour and, as previously mentioned, a change in behaviour is perhaps the single biggest indicator that something is wrong healthwise.
He pissed me off big time! I have to use him as a cheap vet but no way will I take a really sick cat to him. When Jubi had the calicivirus she went to the expensive vet. That’s the trouble with an 80+ year old vet.
Laura actually stares at each cat several times a day to do some empathic health check. She’s never been wrong. Back when I was working I was roused from bed 2 hours early so I could do a vet visit before going to work.
And if it’s necessary Laura fixes a meal of KMR Milk and some A/D in a syringe and makes the cat eat a bit. Jubi got sick late Sunday and you can’t get a vet on the weekend here so she kept her hydrated til Monday morning when I had her at the vet when they opened.
When Mitsi died she tried to go away and hide ina corner. She was in alot of pain it was awful. If my cats aren’t happy I know right away because their habits change. Just a small change is enough to make me wonder.
yes esp when they change. Its very heartbreaking
I agree, Marc. The problem I had with my lady cat who died at around the age of 19 or 20 is that she became a geriatric cat and that in itself changes behaviour especially when dementia is involved. She became more passive and more isolated and it was difficult to distinguish that from the possibility that she was feeling pain.
It’s very difficult with cats, they are so stoic and brave that it’s hard to know sometimes if they are in pain. I think the clinching evidence is when they start hiding away, a sign they are hiding something and could be withdrawing from life as cats do in the wild.
Even the best cat caretaker may not realise until that happens.
well i guess some cats cry out to us, or when they make that growly noise or seeing them in pain. As a cat owner i know can usually tell the signs. Esp when they dont seem to be doing much and seem unhappy.
It can be extremely difficult to know for sure that one’s cat is in pain or at least in a lot of discomfort. The signs can be subtle and if your cat, in any case, is quiet and a bit passive becoming more passive and quieter can be difficult to detect.
I am not sure that we ever know for sure whether a cat is in pain or not unless the cat has undergone an operation which we know is bound to cause a lot of pain.
It is difficult to accept that our cat might be in pain and that we don’t know and therefore do nothing about it.
How many cats in pain are there in homes which goes unrecognised by the cat’s caretaker? Cat pain may be one of the big unresolved and unaddressed cat health issues because, as you say, cats hide their discomfort so well. It seems to me that cats are able to accept pain better than humans.
Michael the photo at the top – complete with caption – is rather sad. I hope Binnie was ok – I would guess that she was pretty ok because you would have known if she really really wasn’t.
I thought you might spot the sadness in the photograph. It is a sad photograph. It makes me feel sad to look at it. And somehow it does reflect the situation she was going through at that time. She was at the end of her life and giving up. For the entire 9 months at the end of her life, for me, it was painful because I knew it would only end in one way. I took the photograph to show the reality of how a cat who is at the end of her life tends to behave. I was not sure whether she was feeling pain or not. It was not readily apparent although as I mention in retrospect I now think that she was feeling pain and that is also painful to me, today.
We are constantly learning about our cats Michael especially with advances in behavioural and veterinary research. You made Binny as comfortable as you possibly could and I’m sure her last months with you were filled with everything her little heart desired.
My cat is almost 23 years old. Lately she’s been crying a lot. It makes me sad it might be time to let her cross the rainbow bridge. I’ve had her since she was 4 weeks old. She’s my baby. I’ve had her since my junior year in High school and my 20th reunion was in 2012!
Hello Erika. Thanks for commenting. Your comment was moderated because it is the 1st time you have commented but from now on your comments will be published immediately. What you are going through is exactly what I went through when my lady cat died about 2 years ago. For me it was a tortuous time and it lasted about 9 months. There is a lot of stress and decision-making is very hard indeed because there comes a time when it can be better to euthanise and that is a very big decision indeed. This page may help on that subject.
I believe that your cat is crying a lot because she is confused due to dementia. That is the normal reason for it anyway in an old cat. I wish you and your The best of luck and thanks again for commenting.