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How does a cat show pain? This is how you recognize it!

Tzt. Elisabeth Helm GPCert SAS/SAM
Cat in pain
Cats are true masters at hiding pain. Here you can learn which signs can indicate an illness or pain in your cat.

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How does a cat show pain?

Cats are true masters at hiding pain

Cat at the vet
Sometimes you have to ignore their dogged bravado!

This is the nature of the cat: in the wild, a sick or injured animal would quickly become a victim. This knowledge is so embedded in their psyche that a cat grits its teeth and does not whine.

If your cat's behavior changes, it may be an indication of pain. You know your cat best and play an important role in her health care team to recognize signs of pain as soon as possible. Cats may hide signs of discomfort and illness to protect themselves from enemies. This behavior stems from their wild ancestors who had to avoid being recognized as prey by other animals. Therefore, it can be difficult to determine if your cat is sick or in pain. Veterinarians specialize in assessing these subtle behaviors and physical changes.

It is of great importance that you know well the usual temperament and behavior of your cat. Even the slightest deviation could be an indication that your cat is sick or in pain. Since cats communicate nonverbally and cannot tell you that they are in pain, it is important that you, as the owner, investigate abnormal behaviors that may be associated with pain. If any of the following changes occur in your cat, don't hesitate and seek veterinary care immediately.

Possible signs of disease in cats:

  • Is your cat suddenly sleeping more than before?
  • Is your cat not eating or chewing funny?
  • Does your cat have bad breath or discolored teeth?
  • Is your cat unclean and makes next to the litter box?
  • Is your cat suddenly aggressive?
  • Does your cat drink more water than before?
  • Does your cat move less or stop playing?
  • Does your cat vomit a lot?
  • Is your cat not cleaning himself properly anymore?
  • Does your cat scratch constantly or groom excessively?
  • Does your cat meow more or hide a lot?
  • Does your cat avoid elevated places it used to use?
Motion animation in cats

As a cat owner you should observe your cat daily and keep an eye on whether it eats well, goes to the toilet normally, shows no diarrhea or vomiting, moves normally and maintains its coat.

Pain categories

Acute pain

Such pain can occur when your cat is injured and its body becomes inflamed and heals. Acute pain can last up to 3 months. Causes can include injury, trauma, surgery, and acute medical conditions and diseases. Acute pain usually occurs suddenly and usually goes away quickly.

Chronic pain

Pain is considered chronic when it extends beyond the usual healing time or in conditions where a cure is not possible. Degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis, is a very common, chronic and painful condition in cats. It is known that up to 92% of all cats have symptoms of this disease. Osteoarthritis is one of the most serious and least recognized diseases of the old cat.

Persistent pain

Cats who are in persistent pain may benefit from palliative care. Palliative care is a comprehensive approach that provides cats for whom conventional treatments are not working with a plan to enhance their quality of life. The focus is on pain control.

During regular check-ups, the veterinarian will talk to you about your cat and take a medical history. It is important that these examinations take place at least once a year, and even more often for older cats and those with chronic diseases. So if you notice any changes in your cat's behavior, interaction, or daily routine, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Treatment of pain of the cat

We will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan for your cat's pain. This plan may include the following measures:

  • Medicines and alternative remedies
  • Physiotherapy 
  • Chiropractic
  • Environmental changes such as the use of special bedding or ramps, etc.

 

We are committed to working with you to develop the best possible strategy to ensure your cat receives loving care and recovers optimally from illness, injury or surgery, and a good quality of life is achieved.

Cat-friendly veterinary practice

Monitoring of the pain patient

Once a treatment plan is in place, you may be asked to monitor your cat at home. To do this, we recommend the following:

  • Record your observations in a notebook.
  • Watch for any changes in behavior, activities, or routine, even if they seem minor.
  • Discuss your observations with us.
  • Let us know if there are any changes, if you have questions, or if you notice the first signs of side effects.

 

For chronic painful conditions, continuous treatment is required; for acute conditions, therapy is continued until the pain subsides. If pain is not recognized or treated, unfavorable behavioral changes may result.


Please remember: cats do not act maliciously on purpose, and any change in behavior can be a sign of pain or other health issues. Being able to recognize and treat your cat's pain can be as life-saving as any veterinary treatment.

We are happy to advise you on any questions you may have about your cat.
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About the author
Tzt. Elisabeth Helm GPCert SAS/SAM
Tzt. Elisabeth Helm GPCert SAS/SAM

Elisabeth Helm has over 10 years of professional experience as a veterinarian. She completed her studies at the LMU Munich and subsequently trained as a General Practitioner for small animal medicine and surgery at the International School of Veterinary Postgraduate Studies. In 2013 she founded the veterinary practice Uderns in the Zillertal.

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