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 »