Signs of Pain in Cats

Early detection of pain in your cat is critical for keeping your cat happy and healthy, as well as addressing any potential ailments.

While most cats in acute, short-term pain will show signs of being harmed, cats suffering from chronic pain or sickness may disguise their agony for long periods of time. This type of discomfort can have a long-term mental impact on cats, creating grief and making them less resilient.

For example, if a cat injures its paw and has noticeable difficulty walking on it, is highly noisy (i.e., meows in a much more frantic and unpleasant sounding manner than usual), and refuses to let you touch it, you can tell the cat is in pain. A cat with a more chronic ailment, such as dental disease or arthritis, on the other hand, may show very little sign of discomfort, only presenting signals when it reaches a high level of intensity.

Every cat will display distinct indicators of pain, so keep an eye out for any subtle changes in their behavior or body language.


  • Loss of appetite.
  • Tiredness
  • A decrease in pleasurable activities such as playing, social contact, and enjoying the outdoors.
  • They appear lame and have enhanced sensitivity to touch in certain places of their body.
  • Movement and activity levels are reduced.
  • A shift in a cat’s behavior. Your cat, for example, may begin to avoid performing activities that they know or believe would cause them pain. They are no longer allowed to jump up onto beds or other raised objects because they are afraid of hurting themselves.
  • Negative mood and temperament; irritation.
  • Vocalization, like meowing, groaning, hissing, or growling unpleasantly or urgently.
  • When your cat is in discomfort, he or she may try to avoid being handled by moving away from people or acting violently when approached or touched.
  • Less grooming in general or more grooming in a specific location (possibly resulting in bald patches and itchy skin).

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Changes in posture, body language, and behavior can occur gradually or suddenly in a cat under discomfort. This can include increased bodily tension, hunching and squatting, or lowering the head.


When a cat is in pain, some cats will display a noticeable alteration in their facial expression, while others will show a more subtle shift, such as:

  • Your cat’s eyes may squint or close.
  • Their ears may seem flattened or squeezed against their sides.
  • Their lips, nose, and cheeks may appear tighter and squeezed.

Some cats may be less visible when expressing indicators of discomfort, describing some but not all of them.

Always talk to your vet-doc about any changes in your cat’s behavior.

This list of pain indicators in cats is helpful, but it only goes so far. Your veterinarian is the ideal person to ask if these changes in your cat are caused by pain.

For example, a cat with an irregular gait may be in pain, but other non-painful diseases (such as neurologic diseases) may also be present. Alternatively, a cat with a change in mood could be suffering from a hormonal alteration, such as an overactive thyroid, rather than being in discomfort. Any behavior change can significantly impact a cat’s health, so take care of it.


Categories of Pain

Pain is divided into several categories.

Acute Pain

  • This discomfort can persist for up to three months and arises from inflammation and healing after an accident.
  • Injury, trauma, surgery, and acute medical problems and diseases can all contribute to it.
  • Acute pain usually occurs unexpectedly and lasts a short time.

Chronic Pain

  • This is typically defined as pain that lasts longer than the average healing time or pain that persists in situations where healing has not occurred or will not occur.
  • Degenerative joint disease (DJD), often known as feline arthritis, is a prevalent, chronic, and painful condition in cats, with up to 92 percent of all cats exhibiting symptoms. It’s also one of the most common and under-diagnosed feline ailments.

Persistent Pain

  • Cats who are in constant pain may require palliative treatment.
  • Palliative care is an all-encompassing strategy to providing cats with the condition that is not responding to curative therapy with a plan to improve their quality of life, with pain management being the primary focus.

During routine check-ups, your veterinarian will ask you questions about your cat and take a medical history. Check-ups should be done at least once a year and more regularly for senior cats and those with chronic illnesses. So, if you check up on any changes in your cat’s behavior, interaction, or daily routine, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

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How can you know if your cat is in pain?

Pain in cats can result from various diseases, ailments, injuries, trauma, surgery, or medical treatment.

It might be challenging to determine whether or not a cat is in pain, where the discomfort is coming from, and what is causing it. Cats are particularly adept at hiding pain signals, which can be subtle and easy to ignore. This is particularly true of chronic pain, which is frequently misdiagnosed as being caused by old age.

Why Do Cats Hide Their Pain?

The ability of cats to hide their suffering is thought to be an evolutionary relic from their wild days when illness or injury makes them a target for neighboring predators. The frailty of a feral cat not only makes her more vulnerable but also puts her at risk of being bullied or abandoned by her group.

Although domestic cats today are unlikely to become prey, they may see other pets in the house–or even other people–as competitors for resources such as food and water. Cats fear that revealing signs of suffering may cause them to lose out to a more deserving animal; therefore, they disguise their symptoms, whether it’s a deeply embedded inclination or overprotective feline logic.

What can I offer my cat as a pain reliever?

Although underlying issues must always be treated and, in certain situations, surgery, your veterinarian can utilize a range of drugs to give pain relief for your cat (for example, a broken bone).

Please avoid using common human medications like ibuprofen or paracetamol, as they are highly hazardous to cats. Contact your veterinarian if you have animal painkillers at home from a previous condition or for a different pet, as they may not be safe to use.

What can I do to assist my ailing cat?

Consider rearranging her bed, food dishes, water bowls, and litter box to make them more accessible to her at home. As well, make sure the litter box is easy to get into and out of. To compensate for her disadvantage, if you have a model with a lid or deep sides, you may need to replace it with an open, shallower structure and scoop it clean more frequently. Do you have a large family? Other pets or children should not be allowed to play or roughhouse with her. She might be able to get out on her own, but you don’t want her to lose faith in people while she recovers.

If your feline companion is recovering from an illness or surgery, try to keep their movement and physical activity to a minimum until they feel better. Your cat’s recovery will be aided by soft, padded bedding and a calm, pleasant atmosphere. Of course, prevention is the best medicine. Annual doctor visits and a well-balanced diet will go a long way toward preventing a painful ailment in your cat.

As a pet parent, you undoubtedly want your cat to have a long and healthy life. Learning to recognize when your pet is in discomfort will go a long way toward improving her quality of life.

Cats’ Glasgow pain score

Most veterinarians use pain scales to determine how much discomfort a pet is in. However, because pets cannot communicate, the results are based on the veterinarian’s assessment of pain level.

The most often used pain scale for cats is the Glasgow Feline Composite Measure Pain Scale (CMPS-Feline). It has 28 possibilities, divided into seven categories, based on the cat’s behavior, such as ear position, vocalization, and posture. Each alternative is ranked according to the degree of the pain, with a maximum score of 20 for each of the seven categories. In-clinic, the pain scale may be applied swiftly and accurately.

Cat pain treatment

Different types of pain necessitate various treatments. Ensure that any drugs prescribed by your veterinarian are given to your cat in the correct dosage. The type and dose amount of pain medicine will have a distinct effect on each cat. Keep an eye on your kitty’s reaction to the medication, and if you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian or, if it’s after hours, your local Vets Now pet emergency service.

Natural pain relief for cats

A slew of new herbal medicines for cats is hitting the market. However, there is little study on the use of herbs in cats. Cat owners should only use natural drugs if their veterinarian recommends them. Only treatments that are supported by evidence-based veterinary medicine or solid scientific principles should be considered, and your vet-doc is the best person to provide you with this advice.


For a variety of reasons, determining whether or not your cat is in pain might be challenging. Cat owners frequently overlook small pain signals in their cats or wait until more prominent indicators emerge, such as loss of appetite and lethargy. Cats may only develop more evident symptoms after being ill for a long time or if they are sick in rare circumstances. It’s possible that by the time you detect something is wrong with your cat, it’s been going on for longer than you realize.

Although no one needs to think of their cats being in pain, it is critical to recognize the signs of discomfort in cats so that you can provide comfort and prevent medical conditions from escalating.

Changes in your cat’s behavior are the most common sign of suffering. You are a vital member of your cat’s healthcare team because you are the one who knows them best and can help spot signs of pain as soon as possible. Because cats hide signs of discomfort and disease, which could make them appear susceptible to their enemies, pain signals may be subtle. This feature was inherited from their wild ancestors, who needed to avoid becoming prey for other animals. It can be tough to tell if your cat is unwell or in discomfort because of this. Veterinary specialists are equipped to assess these subtle changes in behavior and physical health.

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