How to Tell if a Cat is in Pain
Identifying whether your cat is in pain can be difficult, as symptoms will vary based on each cat's personality and the type of pain they are experiencing. While acute pain due to accident or injury is typically more noticeable, chronic pain such as arthritis or gum disease may be more challenging 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 Voorhees Veterinary Center 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
- Frequent meowing or howling
- Unusual vocalizations
- Won't eat or reduced appetite
- Uncharacteristic spitting/hissing/growling
- Poor grooming, scruffy-looking
- Excessive grooming
- 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
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 at Voorhees Veterinary Center
Our veterinarians sometimes recommend acupuncture in combination with medical treatments to help manage and alleviate symptoms of pain in pets.
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.