12 Clinical Signs of Pain in Cats

12 Clinical Signs of Pain in Cats

They are attributed 7 lives, but the truth is that cats suffer and can get sick. Although it will be difficult for you to appreciate it for its survival instinct, today we want to show you what are the main signs of pain in cats.

If you know your pet and pay attention to its behavior, you will easily identify the changes that can alert you to an injury or incipient illness. In those cases, do not delay the visit to the vet and inform him of what you have observed.

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Cats and pain

If you live with a cat, you will already know their particular discretion to express their moments of pain or weakness, as well as the enormous variability between them with respect to the relationship with pain. There are no 2 cats that behave the same when faced with pain.

When a feline feels pain, he tries by all means to lessen its presence by not moving. Already your ancestors from the arid lands of North Africa had to maintain integrity so as not to become easy prey for their predators .

At the end of the day, pain is a protection mechanism that cats know how to manage perfectly, although it is difficult for humans to detect it in a timely manner. In fact, when a cat is hurt or sick it does not stop purring because it calms it down.

Likewise, you should know that during the disease or injury processes, felines release interdigital pheromones, so if your cat goes through this situation you should take care of their hygiene , especially if they live with more cats so that they do not perceive it.

Behavioral changes in senior cats should not be underestimated, since in many cases their apathy, isolation or lack of appetite are indicative of conditions that require treatment.

What is the medical community saying about it?

In 2017 an international group of veterinarians conducted research trying to obtain a certain medical consensus on what are the most obvious signs of pain in cats. The conclusions were published in the scientific journal Plos One .

The highlight of this study is the classification of up to 25 unequivocal signs of discomfort in cats that, if present, will facilitate the orientation of veterinary tests. In turn, the necessary signs are distinguished from the sufficient ones .

For you to understand easily, stress is a necessary sign of pain but not enough, since whenever the animal feels pain, stress is present.

For its part, experiencing stress does not inescapably indicate that there is pain, not at least of a physical nature, although its presence slows down the recovery, especially of cats that are hospitalized.

Signs of pain in cats What are they?

The classification outlined by Dr. Isabella Merola and Daniel Mills, professor at the University of Lincoln, places surgery and disease as priority pain triggers in felines.

Said classification is substantiated in the following categories: 

  • Lack of movement and play due to osteoarthritis. Joint pain prevents you from moving. Therefore, you can see that he sleeps at unusual times, that he hardly plays or that he does his business outside the sandbox.
  • Lack of appetite. Fasting is an unequivocal sign that something is wrong. In turn, if the lack of appetite is sustained over time, it will surely cause a liver disease.
  • Lack of cleanliness. The discomfort diminishes their desire to groom themselves, showing their fur looking bristly, rough and not very shiny. Nail sharpening can also be relegated to the background.

At other times, the cat may compulsively lick or moderate a certain part of its anatomy, which bothers it, leading to mutilations .

  • Irritability and aggressiveness. When you pet it, your cat runs away or pulls its ears back as a sign of attack. If it repeats itself in a short space of time, you shouldn’t delay visiting the vet.
  • Excessive vocalization. On some occasions, the cat does not stop meowingor growling, for example, when you interact with it. Unless you have a Siamese , your cat is trying to express her emotional distress. Something stresses or distresses you.
  • Anti-pale postures. If it experiences severe pain, the animal tries to adopt the position that alleviates the pain. You will notice that he walks hunched over or that he spends a lot of time lying down with his front legs stretched out.
  • Sialorrhea or excessive salivation. If you appreciate that your pet does not stop coming and going to the feeder, pay attention to his salivation. It may be that excess of this is hindering your ability to swallow.
  • The presence of the nictitating membrane. It is usually common in feverish cats. Even with your eyes open you can see this third eyelid. If your cat reacts to light or shows twitching of the eyelid, it may be due to an ocular pathology.


From a clinical point of view, there are other signs of pain that require medical action. We refer to:

  • A high heart and / or respiratory rate
  • An increase in blood pressure
  • Pupil dilation
  • The paleness of the mucous membranes.

The priority in this regard is that you observe the behavior of your cat and that if you detect something unusual, consult your veterinarian. He will guide the tests (x-rays, blood or urine tests …) to find the appropriate treatment.

Of course, never self-medicate your cat and even less with drugs for human use. The consequences could be fatal. Are you familiar with some of the signs of pain in cats that we have mentioned? We await your comments.


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