Cats are notorious for playing their cards close to the vest and not letting on when they’re experiencing pain. While frustrating for cat owners, it makes sense that a solitary animal like a cat would instinctively hide signs of an illness or injury in the wild as a form of self-protection. How can you tell if your cat is in pain and needs to see the vet? Here are a few indicators to watch for.
1. Body Language
Cats who are experiencing pain will often sit in a crouched or hunched position. The back will have a high curve, the head will be lowered, and the paws will be tucked under the body. A cat with a moderate to severe pain level will sit like this rather than lie down flat in a relaxed position.
When a cat cries out in pain, you can be pretty sure the pain level is severe. If you touch an area of the body where the cat feels pain, she will often cry out, and also may flinch, hiss, bite, or tense up. If your cat is naturally vocal, listen for a meow that sounds different than normal, more frequent, or more demanding to gauge mild to moderate pain.
Cats who are sick or in pain will often seek out dark, quiet places to go off by themselves and hide. If your normally social cat retreats to the back of the closet or under blankets or furniture, this could be a warning sign of pain…especially if he also sits in the crouched position while hiding.
A cat in pain will often obsessively lick the area of discomfort. A cat will lick an injured paw or an itchy back. Cats experiencing urinary blockages will engage in frequent licking of the kitty private parts. If you see this type of licking combined with frequent, unproductive trips to the litter box, get your cat to the vet ASAP.
Cats have very expressive eyes. A cat who’s feeling fine will have eyes that look bright and react to the light and objects in his field of vision in a normal way. Cats in pain often have dilated pupils, regardless of the light. You may notice a strange look in their eyes and their facial expressions in general. Staring into space with a blank expression and not looking directly at you (or other things, like food) is common.
If your cat is showing one or more of these signs of pain, be sure to make an appointment with the vet as soon as you can.
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