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cat pain. signs of pain in casts

Is your cat in pain?

Cats evolved as hunters. 

Their ability to survive and compete depended on their ability to avoid appearing weak or vulnerable. They are masters at suppressing and masking the signs of pain and different breeds have different tolerances to pain.
But your cat will give signs that it is in pain by changes from its normal behaviour.

Here are nine things to watch out for

1. A change in eating habits. Cats in pain may lose interest in eating or drinking, or they may overeat as a coping mechanism.

2. A change in grooming. Cats are obsessively clean so you notice your cat grooming less frequently or avoiding certain areas of their body, it could indicate discomfort in those areas.

3. A change in behaviour. A cat in pain may become more lethargic and reluctant to engage in usual activities such as playing or exploring or they may become restless or agitated, pacing or seeking isolation.

4. Unusual posture. Cats may hunch over, keep their body tense, or favour certain limbs or body parts if they are in pain They may limp.

5. Some may meow, cry, or growl more than usual. Watch for unusual vocalisations, especially during movement or when being touched.

6. Hiding away in unusual places or avoiding social interaction.

7. Behaviour in the litter try. Pain can affect a cat’s ability to wee or poo comfortably. Look for signs of straining in the litter tray, changes in litter tray habits or vocalising when the are doing their business.

8. Irritability or aggression, especially when touched or handled in sensitive areas. They may hiss or growl or even lash out unexpectedly.

9. Panting or rapid breathing. This can be a sign of underlying medical issues requiring immediate attention

What can you do?

Never give your cat over-the-counter pain medications meant for humans. They can be toxic to cats and cause severe side effects.

Take a note of all of the behaviour changes and take your cat to your vet. A cat’s behaviour might change due to the stress of being in the vet’s clinic so observations of your cat’s behaviour at home will be valuable.


Vets will make their own observations and tests. They have some tools such as the Feline Musculoskeletal Pain Index (FMPI) and the Feline Grimace Scale (see the illustration at the top of this post) to help them assess what pain your cat is feeling.

In the first instance vets will try to treat the underlying cause of the pain. They may also prescribe a pain medication specially approved for cats. If the condition is not curable, they may recommend changes to your cat’s home environment to provide comfort, relief and distraction to ease your cat’s discomfort.

By instinct, your cat will silently ‘tough it out’ but your observations of their changes in behaviour can speak volumes on their behalf.

For a deep dive into the issue of cat pain, check out Recognising signs of pain in cats.

Also see our related post on Osteoarthritis in cats.

Is your cat in pain? Read More »

Osteoarthritis – is your cat suffering in silence?

Osteoarthritis is among the diseases of ageing that we share with our cats.

It occurs when the cartilage padding in our joints wears away causing the bones to rub against each other. For us, the resulting pain is enough to cause us to get attention but it is in the nature of cats to try to avoid displays of discomfort.

The disease should be looked for in any cat of seven years or older. It is estimated that over three-quarters of cats over 10 years will experience it.

It appears most commonly in the elbows and hips, and less commonly in shoulders and ankles and in the backbone and sternum.


Diagnosing osteoarthritis can be difficult in a single visit even for experienced vets aided by x-rays.

The clues to whether your older cats is affected by osteoarthritis are often in their general condition and behaviour:

  • They may lose their appetite and lose weight.
  • You may notice mood changes – formerly happy cats may become depressed and withdrawn and show poor grooming habits.
  • You may notice stiffness in their legs, especially after sleeping or resting.
  • They may start to appear lame or, more likely, you will notice that they will be be reluctant to jump or will make much shorter jumps.
  • They start missing the litter tray.
  • Their claws may become longer due to lack of use.

Taking careful note of these symptoms will help you help your vet reach a diagnosis.


Osteoarthritis in cats cannot be cured and the treatment options are limited.  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Metacam) can be used to manage the pain. Weight loss for overweight cats may reduce the stress on joints. Some dietary supplements and other treatments have been claimed to provide relief in some cases and your vet will advise you.

Beyond that, most responses involve making the cat’s environment more convenient and comfortable. You can help them live with osteoarthritis by:

  • making sure they don’t have to go up or down stairs to access food, water, sleeping quarters or litter trays
  • providing litter trays with one lower side to make entry and leaving easier
  • raising food and water bowls
  • providing softer bedding
  • providing ramps to their resting places such as a favourite couch or bed.

Sadly, this disease is a progressive, lifelong process. However, working with your vet you can improve your cat’s quality of life greatly in her golden years.

Also see our article on recognising pain in cats.

Osteoarthritis – is your cat suffering in silence? Read More »