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How To Spot Pain In Cats Using 8 Key Signs?

Do Cats Feel Pain?

The identification of initial indicators of discomfort in felines is a crucial measure in guaranteeing their overall well-being and contentment in the long run. Regrettably, felids possess a remarkable ability to conceal their physical or emotional distress.


Detecting a cat in pain who is experiencing discomfort or painful sensations is often more challenging compared to acute, intense pain, as they tend to exhibit less obvious outward indicators. As veterinary professionals, we have developed proficiency in discerning the nuanced indicators of feline discomfort. However, it is imperative to emphasize to owners of cats that they possess the most intimate understanding of their own pets.



Staring cat , Cute cat
A furry cat staring

Fortunately, we are equipped with sophisticated diagnostic equipment that enables us to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the specific condition affecting your companion animal.


Fortunately, individuals have the capacity to acquire the skill of identifying indicators of discomfort in felines. By engaging in this practice, one can enhance their comprehension of their feline companion's requirements. The following is a compilation of prevalent symptoms associated with feline pain. However, it is important to note that any abrupt alterations in a cat's behaviour and daily patterns necessitate a visit to a veterinary professional.


There are numerous indicators that might be seen to potentially signify the presence of discomfort in a feline companion. The key to ensuring the well-being of your cat and providing appropriate medical assistance lies in acquiring knowledge about the signs to watch for.


Cat Health Issues

The Phenomenon Of Breathing Alterations


A cat in pain may exhibit altered respiratory patterns, such as increased or decreased frequency and depth of breathing. One may observe alterations in the motion of the abdominal and thoracic musculature, as both are implicated in the process of respiration. One can assess the respiratory rate of a domestic feline by observing and quantifying the total number of breaths the cat takes during a 15-second interval while in a state of sleep.


This value can then be multiplied by four to obtain the cat's respiratory rate per minute. One can employ a timer function on a mobile device and proceed to gently rest their hand across the subject's chest in order to perceive the rhythmic pattern of their respiration while simultaneously engaging in a numerical enumeration.


Alternatively, one may observe the cyclical motion of the thoracic region, wherein inhalation and exhalation occur, constituting a single respiratory cycle. The typical respiratory rate for felines ranges from 12 to 60 breaths per minute. It is imperative to ensure that the feline companion remains in a state of rest, devoid of olfactory stimulation, wakefulness, or physical activity, during the process of enumeration, since any such disturbances may result in erroneous quantifications.


Shifts In Mobility


Mobility alterations are a consistent marker of discomfort in cats, but they are generally more mild than in dogs. Feline osteoarthritis is frequently bilateral; therefore, lameness is rare. Stiff walking, fluctuations in leaping distance or elevation, reluctance to get up or down, limited flexibility, and scratching can indicate pain.

Asking about home cat behaviour and movement changes can create pain and suspicion. Cats like to nap or hang out on cat trees, windowsills, and furniture. If jumping vertically hurts, they may spend more time in accessible areas. Clients can examine their cat's behaviour by asking where they like to spend their time and if it has changed.


Arched back and Tucked belly


A cat in pain may have incorrect posture due to abdominal pain or spine abnormalities. However, any pain might induce this arched back and curled abdomen.


Reduced Energy And Activity

Your elderly cat's energy level will naturally fall. It may be more when getting older slowing your cat if these changes are dramatic or seriously affecting his life. Pain may be preventing your cat from running, jumping, climbing stairs, playing, or standing up. Like humans, cats can get degenerative diseases like arthritis. They can also have many additional health issues that lead to pain or suffering throughout their lives.


A girl  loving three kittens
Loveable cats

Gum Colour


Cat gum is usually bright pink, but it can vary. If your cat lets you gently lift their lip, check the gum color. Avoid gum that is white, grey, dark blue, or violet. This may indicate tissue oxygen deficiency. Bright crimson could suggest high blood pressure, discomfort, or inflammation.


Alterations In Litterbox Utilization


One observable behavioral modification frequently observed by those who keep cats is the occurrence of improper elimination. There are numerous physiological and behavioural factors that contribute to this phenomenon, including pain and inflammation of the bladder. The inclusion of orthopedic pain as a factor to consider is particularly important, particularly in feline patients of advanced age. Frequently, alterations in defecation patterns that serve as indicators of orthopedic discomfort arise from challenges in reaching the litterbox or are attributable to factors like the box's placement, dimensions, or configuration. Cats may alter their body position while urinating and defecating due to joint discomfort. However, pet owners who are unable to witness the elimination process may not be able to perceive these changes.


Experiencing An Increased Duration Of Sleep.


A cat in pain typically exhibits a proclivity for slumber, with an average duration of rest ranging from 50 percent to 75 percent of a 24-hour period. In the event that a domestic cat is experiencing discomfort, it is likely that they will exhibit reduced levels of physical activity and an increased inclination towards extended periods of sleep compared to their typical behaviour.


Reduction In Their Appetite And Thirst.


Pain has the capacity to effectively reduce appetite and thirst, a phenomenon observed in both humans and animals. If feline individuals exhibit a diminished inclination towards consuming food or water, it may serve as an indication of potential discomfort or distress. Alterations in dietary and fluid consumption patterns may also serve as indications of various underlying medical conditions; hence, it is advisable to promptly notify a veterinary professional.


Alterations In Heart Rate And Pulse

The feline's heart rate corresponds to the pulse rate, as it facilitates the circulation of blood from the heart to the vessels. The experience of pain and discomfort frequently leads to an elevation in the heart rate or pulse rate of felines. The pace of pain often increases considerably when the affected area is handled or moved. The typical resting heart rate range for a feline is approximately 160–200 beats per second. In a manner analogous to the assessment of a feline's breathing rate, one can also ascertain the heart and pulse rate of a domestic cat within the confines of a domestic setting. Position your palm on the subject's chest, specifically behind their elbow, and proceed to ascertain the quantity of cardiac contractions occurring throughout a 15-second interval.


Subsequently, multiply this count by a factor of four. Due to the normally elevated heart rate of cats, the task of measuring their heart rate might provide considerable challenges. To obtain a precise measurement in terms of cat safety, one can depend on additional indicators such as the individual's respiration rate, mood, and alterations in body position. It is also possible to seek guidance from a veterinary professional or any of the clinic's nurses in order to acquire knowledge on how to assess the vital signs of your feline companion.


A sleepy, Lazy cat staring
A sleepy, Lazy cat staring

Is It Permissible To Administer Over-the-counter Pain Drugs To Felines?


Contrary to popular belief, it is important to note that over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications commonly used by humans, including ibuprofen, aspirin (Advil, Motrin), and paracetamol (Tylenol), possess hazardous properties when ingested by cats. Aspirin, in particular, exhibits a high level of toxicity and should be strictly avoided when administering medication to cats.

If a feline consumes any of the over-the-counter analgesic medications listed, it is imperative to promptly seek veterinary assistance. The subsequent indicators of toxicity and adverse reactions associated with the ingestion of aspirin by felines are as follows:

  • Gastrointestinal discomfort is characterized by symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea.

  • The occurrence of ulcers in the stomach and intestines.

  • The potential occurrence of renal failure

  • The condition of being unable to form blood clots

Cats possess a remarkable ability to conceal their suffering and anguish, although as a caring caregiver, one can develop expertise in discerning even the most inconspicuous indicators. One aspect of responsible cat ownership involves diligently observing and monitoring the behaviour, practices, and physical well-being of one's feline companion, enabling the identification of any abnormalities or deviations from the norm. Cats, as members of the household, lack the ability to communicate their physical discomfort or illness to their human caregivers. However, it is incumbent upon individuals to identify the aforementioned indicators, as well as any other atypical manifestations, and promptly seek an assessment from a veterinary professional.


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