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    Masters of Masking: How Can You Tell if Your Cat is In Pain?

    Topic: Cats
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    When humans are in pain, we are able to communicate to others what hurts and how severe the pain is using our words. Unfortunately, our furry friends do not have this option. For this reason alone, it can be difficult to know if and when your cat is experiencing pain.

    Additionally, cats are experts at hiding signs of pain on a daily basis. Harking back to their days in the wild, cats learned to cover up pain to prevent predators from seeing their weaknesses in order to survive. This skill has been passed down to house cats today, causing problems for pet owners who go unaware of their pets’ injuries for potentially weeks on end.

    While you might expect that an injured cat might yowl or limp, this isn’t always the case. Usually, it takes careful observation to truly identify your cat’s signs of pain before getting it veterinary help. Use these tips to more easily tell when your cat is hurting.

    Behavioral changes

    Some of the most obvious signs of pain in cats actually have to do with their behavior rather than visible changes. Cats that are experiencing pain may act quite differently than they usually do, which typically raises some red flags for pet parents.

    Keep an eye out if your normally social cat starts hiding or withdrawing from social situations more often. This is a common sign of pain, since cats may try to hide and nurse their wounds out of sight.

    Additionally, pain may cause cats that are usually lovable and excited to stop playing, refuse to be touched and even act aggressively toward their owners. This rapid change in demeanor should be cause for concern and is usually easy to spot.

    Finally, your cat may begin to eat less and not even come out for treats, vocalize by crying or growling and stop grooming itself regularly. It may even stop using the litter box properly, urinating or defecting in other areas of the home or even right outside the litter box, instead.

    A cat growls in displeasure

    Physical signs of cat pain

    There are a host of other physical signs your cat might give off that indicates it is in pain. Unfortunately, because cats are so good at masking, these symptoms may not be noticeable right away or they may be infrequent enough for you to miss.

    If your cat starts displaying behavioral changes, take time to observe it much more carefully in the following days, watching for physical signs like limping, difficulty or refusing to jump or run, an abnormal gait, awkward shifting of weight and stumbling. These might indicate injuries of the back, hips or legs.

    Other physical signs might include a hunched-up posture, persistent lowering of the head, squinting or keeping eyes shut, licking a body part repeatedly or refusing to move one body part in particular. If you apply light pressure to a part of your cat’s body and it reacts abruptly, that area may be painful.

    Work with your veterinarian

    Unfortunately, merely noticing a few symptoms of pain in your cat is not enough to determine what, specifically, is wrong with it. Changes in behavior are certainly abnormal, but diagnosing them is not as simple as asking your cat what hurts once you notice something is wrong.

    There are many potential causes of pain for cats, including infections, arthritis, cancer, illness, injuries, eye problems, oral problems and digestive tract problems. Even if you can identify the general area that is painful for your cat, it is unlikely you’ll be able to identify the specific cause on your own.

    Once you spot signs of pain in your cat, you will want to call your veterinarian and set up an appointment for examination. There, your vet can give your cat a thorough checkup and find the source of the problem.

    Be prepared to explain any pain symptoms you observed to the vet, as well as any events that may have resulted in injury, such as a fall from a high place or a fight with another animal. You should also note any other symptoms of illness, including coughing or sneezing, since pain can be associated with diseases or infections.

    With your help, your vet will be able to efficiently and accurately identify your cat’s injuries and create a treatment plan.

    Before and potentially after your pet’s vet visit, consider giving it natural pain supplements to help it sleep and heal more easily. You should never give cats pain medications designed for humans because they could potentially cause toxic poisoning or even death.

    With your help, your vet will be able to efficiently and accurately identify your cat’s injuries and create a treatment plan. Once your cat has been diagnosed and given treatment, you’ll be able to help nurse it back to health until it is happy and comfortable once again!

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    Meet Our Expert

    Dr. Janice Huntingford

    Pet Wellbeing's own Dr. Jan has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years. Since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, she's founded two veterinary clinics and lectured extensively on pet herbal therapy, nutraceuticals, acupuncture, rehabilitation and pain management.

    Dr. Jan has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities, helping us to formulate all of our supplements. She is an essential part of Pet Wellbeing.

    And lucky for us, she's only one of the great team of people who make Pet Wellbeing so special.

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