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Signs of Pain in Cats

Cats are known for hiding their discomfort, so you'll need to be aware of signs that your feline friend may be in pain. Our Southborough vets share insights into the symptoms of pain in cats, along with tips on how you can help your kitty. 


How to Tell if a Cat is in Pain

Identifying whether your cat is in pain can be difficult because symptoms differ depending on the cat's personality and the type of pain they are experiencing. While acute pain from an accident or injury is usually more noticeable, chronic pain from arthritis or gum disease can be more difficult to detect.

Since cats tend to hide their pain, kitty owners should watch for unusual behavior, changes in personality or appetite, or physical signs such as limping. 

In this post, our vets at Southborough Veterinary Hospital will list signs of pain in cats, how to analyze your cat's body language for symptoms of pain and offer advice on when to seek veterinary care. We'll also discuss how veterinary acupuncture may help relieve pain in your cat. 

Signs That a Cat is in Pain

You may see one or more of these symptoms if your cat is in pain: 

  • Tail flicking 
  • Not using their litterbox 
  • Avoiding being handled 
  • Behavioral changes 
  • Irritability 
  • Limping
  • Frequent meowing or howling 
  • Unusual vocalizations 
  • Won't eat or reduced appetite 
  • Uncharacteristic spitting/hissing/growling 
  • Poor grooming, scruffy-looking 
  • Excessive grooming
  • Lethargy 
  • Panting
  • Patchy fur

How to Identify Pain in Your Cat's Posture & Body Language 

When cats are in pain, they tend to display changes in their body language. Though these changes may sometimes be quite apparent, they may be more subtle at other times. Our veterinarians recommend keeping a close eye on your cat's general behavior, posture, and movements so that any deviations from their usual behavior can be detected early on. 

Common changes in a cat's body language that may indicate pain include: 

  • Tense-looking body
  • Crouched or being hunched over
  • Head lowered

Pain Expressed on Your Cat's Face

While many cats show little or no change in their facial expression while experiencing pain, some are very expressive. If your cat is in pain, they might:

  • Squint or close their eyes tightly
  • Flatten their ears so that they are pressed to the sides or back of their head
  • Project an overall facial appearance of tension with a tight mouth

How to Help a Cat in Pain

First, it's important to identify the source of your cat's pain by observing their behavior and consulting with a veterinarian. Once the cause is determined, you can provide pain relief through medications prescribed by the vet, creating a comfortable environment for your cat to rest, and offering gentle care and attention to help them feel safe and supported during this difficult time. 

When to Seek Veterinary Care

Signs of pain in cats are often missed until the cat's condition has advanced. Regarding your cat's long-term health, it's always best to err on the side of caution.

If your feline friend is displaying signs of pain, contact your vet as soon as possible. Depending on the nature of your pet's condition, they may recommend coming in for emergency care or scheduling an appointment for an examination. Your veterinarian can diagnose your cat's condition and develop a custom treatment plan based on your kitty's needs. 

Veterinary Acupuncture for Pain

Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine often used to increase blood flow, boost oxygenation in tissues, encourage healing, and help relax muscles. During an acupuncture session, tiny needles are inserted into your cat's body at precise points (meridians), where the blood vessels and nerves meet.  The needles help guide vital energy along these meridians, which supports the nervous system and promotes circulation while enhancing the body's natural healing abilities. 

Your veterinarian can tell you more about this treatment and assess whether it is right for your pet. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you seeing signs of pain in your cat? Book an appointment with our vets at Southborough Veterinary Hospital today to have your feline friend examined.

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