Signs of Pain in CatsYou know what pain feels like, but do you know how that feeling is transmitted within your body? Did you know that besides being unpleasant, pain causes negative physical and mental effects on the body? This is true for both humans and cats. Cats feel pain just as we do, but they express it differently. Are you concerned about your pet?Book a video consultation with an experienced veterinarian within minutes.Professional vet advice onlineLow-cost video vet consultationsOpen 24 hours a day, 365 days a year Book Video Consultation What is pain?Prolonged, untreated pain can cause metabolic and endocrine changes that negatively affect the body’s systems and organs. Pain can slow down healing and recovery from a traumatic injury or event, and it can cause even further stress to a cat beyond the traumatic event itself.This occurs whether the pain has been caused by a surgical procedure, a traumatic event like being hit by a car, a sudden (acute) or long-standing (chronic) inflammatory condition, neurologic pain, and more.Pain is typically categorized as either:Acute (sudden onset)Chronic (long-standing, ongoing, can even be lifelong)Here is a more scientific, detailed explanation of what pain is.Causes of Pain in CatsBroken bone, dislocated jointSoft tissue tear (ligament, tendon, muscle)Soft tissue strain/sprain (ligament, tendon, muscle)Back issuesEar infection, skin infection, urinary tract infectionStomach and/or intestinal upset (gastritis, gastroenteritis, foreign body, toxin)Some cancers or benign masses in uncomfortable placesPost-surgical painHow do I know if my cat is in pain?Since cats can’t tell us about their pain, where it is, how long it’s been going on, how severe it is, and other descriptive information to further characterize it, several scoring systems and pain management guidelines have been created to help determine how a cat is feeling. Here are just a few of them:The American Animal Hospital Association’s “How To Tell If Your Cat is in Pain” (This is a PDF you can download and print out, the same or similar to those used in many veterinary practices):Two pain-scoring instruments, the Glasgow Composite Measure Pain Scale: Feline (Glasgow CMPS-F) and UNESP-Botucatu Multidimensional Composite Pain Scale (UNESP-Botucatu MCPS), are validated for use in cats.Some veterinary schools, such as Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine, have produced their own pain score system, used by many vets across the country, especially when monitoring cats after surgery.Clinical Signs of Pain in CatsAttitude/MentationWithdrawn, hidingMay become aggressiveAbsence of normal behaviors such as groomingBody MovementTrembling if extreme painFlinch when painful area touched (even lightly)GuardingHissing, swatting, and/or biting to guard painful areaPostureRemain still for long periods of timeSitting sternally (with chest on the floor) in a stiff position and head tucked under or lying flatCurled up but with a flattened/”hunkered down” stiff appearanceRespiratory PatternMay have a faster than normal breathing rateVocalizationMeowing in an audibly mournful or sad wayPurring (this comforts them, so cats can purr when happy or distressed/painful/even when dying)During a veterinary exam, painful cats may also have a faster than normal heart rate, a higher than normal body temperature, a faster than normal breathing rate, and an increased effort to breathe.Diagnostics Used to Identify Pain in CatsYour vet may want to check bloodwork, x-rays, or even advise advanced imaging such as abdominal or heart ultrasound, or CT or MRI depending on the condition. If your cat is in a lot of pain, this may require an injectable sedative and pain control medications to be administered by your vet. This is to reduce pain and stress in your cat (imagine having your leg x-rayed when it’s broken and any small movement makes you want to scream!)Options for Treating Pain in CatsTreatment depends on the condition. It may consist of:MedicationsAnti-inflammatory (steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medication)Anti-itch (antihistamines, steroids)Antibiotics or antifungal medicationsNeuropathic or opioid pain medications for more severe conditionsAnti-nausea/anti-vomiting medicationsSurgeryPhysical therapy/rehabilitationLaser therapyAcupunctureRegenerative medicine (stem cell)MassageSupplementsGlucosamine/chondroitin for joint healthOmega 3 fatty acidsIce/heat packs, warm compressesI think my cat is in pain. What do I do?Don’t panic!Make an appointment with us using your FirstVet app or call your veterinarian.Let your cat rest, do not exercise them, do not try to touch their painful area, or place them in uncomfortable positions.Read more:How to Examine Your Pet at Home: A Step-By-Step GuideCauses of Limping in CatsArthritis in CatsNeed to speak with a veterinarian regarding your cat’s pain or another condition?Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.