How to Tell When a Cat is in Pain

Dec 1, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

I was asked the other day how can you tell when a cat is in pain.  As I sit here with my left foot wrapped in a bandage and throbbing, I think what a great question.

Anyone who looks at me can tell that I am uncomfortable and in pain.  But when my 18 year old cat has a hard time getting up on the bed is he in pain?

So we need to go back to how humans evolved and how cats evolve.  Early humans formed groups to help each other hunt and protect themselves.  With my swollen foot, I would not be much help and could actually alert predators to our location. It is good thing that everyone can tell I am not up to speed and that I should stay home.

Cats evolved as solitary hunters.  They did not hunt in groups.  They are small prey to larger animals.  Their strategy of looking like they are on top of the world was a great one.

In modern times, this strategy makes it extremely challenging to tell when our cats need our help. Many times there is not a clue until things are very advanced.

As veterinarians, we know that surgery is painful.  We treat preemptively and ensure that our patients do not sure any hurt. This seems to be a smart and reasonable thing to do and we can use many of the techniques that are used for humans.

What about chronic pain?  This is where it gets harder.  First, it is challenging to see the pain because of that solitary hunter strategy.

Sometimes if things seem different – such as not getting on the bed. Other signs could be not using the litter box. You may want to discuss trying pain management for your cat.

Contact your veterinarian to find out about all the different modalities available to help your cat be pain free.

Dr Marcus Brown

Dr. Brown, founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic and co-founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic, received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1986 from the University of Illinois. Currently the medical director for Alley Cat Allies and is an active supporter in local, state and national feline organizations such as: American Veterinary Dental Society, American Association of Feline Practitioners, American Veterinary Medical Association and American Animal Hospital Association. Dr. Brown also contributed the creation of the Association of Feline Practitioners’ 2009 Wellness Guidelines for Feline Practitioners.

Dr. Brown enjoys continuing education and regularly attends seminars and conferences across the country focusing on the advancement in feline veterinary care. Dr. Brown also utilizes on-line discussion groups and veterinary networks to assist the clinic in maintaining the highest level of care and providing the newest treatments available in feline medicine.

NOVA Cat Clinic
923 N. Kenmore St.
Arlington VA 22201

Phone: 703-525-1955
Fax: 703-525-1957

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