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How To Know The Signs Your Cat Is In Pain

In this article, I’m going to talk about how to know the signs your cat is in pain.

Cat’s hide pain from their owners, but you can look for signs in your cat face using the Feline Grimace Scale (FGS) and checking for common symptoms that include the following:

  • Difficulty jumping and moving
  • Not grooming
  • Hunched posture
  • Change in eating behaviors

If your cat shows any symptoms of pain, contact a vet for help.

Some owners may notice changes in their cat, and put those changes down to old age.  However, they may be due to a health issue that needs veterinary attention.


How to know the signs your cat is in pain

In this article, I’ll go into detail about how to know the signs your cat is in pain.

I’ll talk more about what pain is and how it works, how to use the FGS to know if your cat is experiencing pain, what health problems cause pain, and what to do if you think your cat is in pain.

My name is Derrick, and I write for Simply Cat Care. Our goal with this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions relating to your cat’s health.

Let’s get into it.

1. What is Pain?

Pain is an unpleasant feeling that affects sensory nerves.

The pain starts with the stimulation of nerve endings called nociceptors and the transmission of information along afferent peripheral sensory nerves.

The central nervous system receives this information and results in affective-motivational changes to behavior depending on the location, duration, and intensity of the pain.

2. What Are The Signs My Cat Is In Pain?

There are a lot of signs of pain, but the main things to look for are:

  • Difficulty jumping and moving
  • Not grooming
  • Hunched posture
  • Change in eating behaviors

Pain results in affective-motivational changes. This is scientific lingo for something which affects your cat’s motivation to do different cat things (e.g. jumping).

Based on research from a team of feline medicine experts, there are 25 agreed signs of pain in cats. That means they are reliable ways of showing your cat is experiencing pain.

These signs are sufficient for pain, but not necessary for pain.

In other words, you don’t need all 25 signs to show your cat is in pain as even one of these signs is sufficient to demonstrate pain.

Check out the full report here to look at all the possible symptoms of pain. I recommend downloading a copy for quick reference.

3. How To Use The Feline Grimace Scale To Find Out If Your Cat Is In Pain

The Feline Grimace Scale (FGS) is another pain recognition tool.

Veterinarians developed this tool to help identify signs of pain in a cat’s face including their eyes, ears, and mouth area.

This tool is used in the clinical setting. However, you can use the chart yourself to find out whether your cat is in pain.

The scale looks at five areas in the face

  • Ear position
  • Orbital tightening
  • Muzzle tension
  • Whiskers position
  • Head position

A score of 0-2 is given for each criterion based on whether the symptom is absent, moderately present, or present.

If the total score is over 4, then it shows your cat might be in pain.

4. What Health Problems Cause Pain?

There are a lot of health problems associated with pain. These include:

  • Skin related problems (e.g. cuts and scratches)
  • Damage to external body parts (e.g. hurt paw)
  • Digestive problems (e.g. hairballs, foreign bodies, constipation)
  • Infections
  • Cancer
  • Urinary tract blockages

It is hard to know what is causing the pain in a cat can without a veterinarian assessment.

For this reason, it is important to take your cat to the vet if you suspect any pain as the pain can be a sign of a serious health problem.

5. What Should I Do If I Suspect My Cat Is In Pain?

Take your cat to the vet.

Don’t try to provide your cat with pain relief medication without vet approval.

Use the symptoms chart and the FGS to find out whether your cat is in pain. If it appears your cat is in pain then contact the vet.

Why Can’t I Give A Cat Pain Relief Medication For Humans or Dogs?

Cat’s have different bodies and livers that don’t metabolize drugs the same way a human or dog does.

Cats have a deficiency in glucuronidation enzymes in the liver that removes and excrete drugs.

Giving your cat the wrong medication (e.g. medication intended for dogs or humans) or dosage can result in side effects.

Alternative treatments (e.g. essential oils) are usually unproven in research and should only be used if approved by their vet.   

Essential oils are not safe for cats and should be avoided.

Your vet is best equipped to follow a standardized protocol for pain treatment and management.

They can find out whether the pain indicates a serious problem that needed immediate attention.

How to Know the Signs Your Cat is in Pain: Checklist

This is a checklist to help you find out whether your cat is in pain.

  1. Take note of your cats usual behaviours and any changes
  2. If you notice a change, use the FGS to check your cats facial signs of pain.
  3. Check the symptoms chart which contains 25 known signs of pain in cats.
  4. If your cat scores over a 4 on the FGS or shows any symptoms on the chart then take your cat to the vet.

Do not use your own medication.

Conclusion: How To Know The Signs Your Cat Is In Pain

In this article, I show you how to know the signs your cat is in pain.

Cat’s hide pain from their owners, but you can look for signs in your cat face using the Feline Grimace Scale (FGS) and checking for common symptoms that include the following:

  • Difficulty jumping and moving
  • Not grooming
  • Hunched posture
  • Change in eating behaviors

If your cat shows any symptoms of pain, contact a vet for help.

Pain can indicate many health conditions in the external or internal areas of your cat.  It is important to seek out the advice and support of a vet to determine the best course of action without delay.

Do not try to treat your cat’s pain with your own medication or herbal remedies. Some of these treatments may be dangerous to cats.

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