How to Tell if Your Cat is in Pain - Top 25 Behavior Signs
Detecting signs that your cat is in pain can be very important as early diagnosis of potential disease, ailment or injuries. It can help prevent major problems developing and undue suffering.
Unfortunately, cats are renowned for not showing that they are in pain. The more that owners can identify the signals and subtle signs for pain,
then the sooner the pain can be treated and alleviated. Even the most attentive owner can find it difficult to detect pain, even when they are
familiar with your cat's behavior and demeanor. There may be many false alarms as many of the common signals are not specific to pain and may have other causes.
Many owners look for a single key sign such as a hunched-up posture, refusing food, difficulty in jumping, or the cat hiding or avoiding of bright lights.
The diagnosis would be more reliable if owners could use a suite of signs that are generally indicative of pain.
What is needed is a list of reliable signs of pain in cats so that the diagnosis by owners
could be based on multiple trustworthy and proven pain symptoms, or signs, rather than single ones.
Such a list would help cat owners and veterinary practitioners separate fact from fiction and eliminate myths that can cause false diagnosis
and unnecessary trips to the vet. Similarly reliable diagnosis will reduce the time the cat suffers before being treated.
But how can the reliable behavioral signs of pain identified when there are so many myths and theories among owners and even veterinary practitioners?
A recent research project was based on an extensive survey of hundreds of veterinary experts in feline medicine to
identify key pain symptoms and signs that usually occur when cats are in pain.
Identifying the top 20 reliable behaviour signs would provide a much more reliable tool owners could use for detecting when cats are in pain.
Seeing two or more of these signs would increase the reliability of the diagnosis.
The other aim of the survey was to list symptoms which are generally poor indicators that cats are in pain.
This eliminates the myths and fiction about pain in cats.
Behavioral Signs for Both Low Level and High Level Pain in Cats
Reluctant to move
Shifting of weight
Hunched up posture
Lower head posture
Difficulty to jump
General mood change
Absence of grooming
Reaction to palpation
Overall activity decrease
Less rubbing toward people
Licking a particular body region
Behavioral Signs Only Present for High Level Pain in Cats
Change in feeding pattern
Avoidance of bright areas
Growling (especially if new)
Eyes closed (can have other causes)
Groaning (can be unreliable, but useful if pattern changes)
Generally Poor Pain Indicators for Cats
Mouth semi open
Lying on the back
Sitting more often
Cat lying on its side
Hiding down in the sink
Trying to bite someone
Body relaxed and tail up
More rubbing toward people
Trying to scratch someone
Standing longer than usual
More rubbing toward objects
Seeking contact with a people
Scratching objects more often
Overall increase in activity
Ear flattened (generally a sign of fear)
Seeking contact with a person more often than usual
Trembling or shivering (generally a fear or stress)
Rolled up (generally associated with stress and fear)
Less rubbing on objects (generally a sign of distress)
House soiling (generally a sign of decline in mobility)
Lying ventrally (lying flat with chest down and back up)