Cats may not speak but they do communicate their disease or pain in their own ways. Although they can’t come up to us and say “I’m hurting” cats do exhibit behavioral changes that can indicate they are experiencing sickness and pain. The American Animal Hospital Association has pain management guidelines that can help owners and veterinarians manage feline pain.
1) Changing In Activity Level
Change in activity level can indicate discomfort. Cats might become less active and sleep more hours than they used to. Stiff and arthritic cats may be reluctant to change positions or no longer jump onto high surfaces. Conversely cats may become more active, restless, repetitively getting up and down and seeming to have difficulty getting comfortable.
Most of us know that a hissing or growling cat is an unhappy cat, but did you know meows and purrs can accompany pain as well Some cats purr when they are frightened or hurting and it does not always indicate contentment. This is particularly true for cats with an easy going or gentle personality.
3) Facial Expressions
Facial expression can be difficult to understand in a cat but certain giveaways can indicate pain or discomfort. A vacant stare at nothing in particular or a glazed expression is common. Cats in stress can also have dilated pupils part of the stress response in the body. Unlike in dogs cats do not normally pant. If you notice a panting cat particularly when she is at rest , you should get her evaluated as soon as possible.
Some cats are naturally surly for their entire lives. It can be hard to tell if they are escalating their level of aggression. However a normally friendly cat who is suddenly hissing, swatting, and biting may be a cat in pain. Out of character meanness is a cat’s way of asking to be left alone.
5) Self Mutilation
While many people associate biting and licking with allergies, pets in pain often repetitively lick and bite at painful areas. They may do it so often that they cause secondary trauma to their body in the form of skin infections and hair loss.
6) Daily Routine Changing
A cat whose appetite suddenly drops may be feeling too much pain to eat or may be experiencing nausea from a disease process. Cats who have an abrupt onset of soiling in the house after years of using the litter box may be too painful to get in and out of a box with high sides or too sore to get to where the box is located.
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A lap cat who suddenly can’t stand being held may be experiencing pain when they are touched . Any of these changes in their usual personality and preferences may be medical in origin.
7) Change In Posture
Cats do a version of the little old person shuffle when they are stiff; they walk very gingerly and avoid the usual athletic leaps we are accustomed to seeing. Cats with abdominal pain may have a hunched back, tucking in their abdomen in a protective posture.
You may also notice a cat being protective of a certain area of their body, not wanting to be touched or scratched; they may also limp or hesitate to put weight on a sore limb.