Pain in cats
Cats are not only predators, they can also be prey. They know this, and don’t like it to be obvious when they are in pain. This makes it very hard for us humans to recognise it too. Over the years, people have tried to decode the signs and signals they may give out so we can work out if they are hurting or not. Acute pain (such as that from a recent injury or illness) can show in their faces. The feline grimace-scale has been developed and is now used worldwide. A score of 1 to 3 is given to both their ear position and to the tension in a cat’s mouth. The higher the score, the more pain the cat is experiencing. If you suspect acute pain in your cat, you will need to seek immediate veterinary treatment. The causes are many, from infections to fractures or internal injuries.
So what about chronic pain? Chronic pain is experienced by cats with more established, less recent injuries or illnesses. These diseases include arthritis, or chronic inflammatory conditions such as pancreatitis, spinal disease, neurological disease, or longstanding skin or gastrointestinal disease. Chronic pain is much harder to identify. Cats will hide signs of this as much as they can, viewing it as a potential weakness which would make them vulnerable, and will often just “make do”, by doing less things they enjoy. The more they value the behaviour, the more they will hang onto it. Your cat is jumping up on the bed less? Running around and chasing things less? Eating less? Chances are they just can’t justify the enjoyment they will get from the activity with the pain they will feel as a result. They have probably already given up their less favourite activities by the stage you notice anything.
Pain can be debilitating. If you recognise any of the above signs, please get in touch because your cat is not going to tell you willingly if they are experiencing either acute or chronic pain and there are many options for pain relief and environmental changes that can make your cat more comfortable.