Recognizing when a cat is in pain can be difficult- cats are VERY good at masking pain! There are typically subtle signs that you can watch for, though-- we hope this list helps! 

How Do I Know If My Cat Is in Pain?

As a pet parent, you want an easy way to tell if your cat is in pain. As a veterinarian, I want the same thing. I wish I could just ask my patients to tell me how they are feeling, like the facial expression scale physicians for people. But I’ve not had one patient answer me, so...

We have to rely on a cat’s behavior to evaluate pain. Here are some of the more common signs of pain in cats:

Top 15 Signs of Pain in Cats

Any one of the 15 signs of cat pain listed below are sufficient to diagnose pain, but this is certainly not an exhaustive list.  

  • Lameness (limping)

  • Difficulty or hesitation jumping

  • Reluctance to move

  • Reaction to palpation (touching)

  • Withdrawn or hiding

  • Lack of self-grooming

  • Decreased appetite

  • Decrease in energy/activity

  • Hunched-up posture

  • Licking a particular body region

  • Squinting or eyes closed

  • Change in feeding behavior

  • Growling

  • Straining to urinate

  • Tail flicking 

Always Discuss Your Cat’s Behavioral Changes With Your Vet 

While this list is helpful, it only goes so far. Your veterinarian is the best person to help you decide whether these changes in your cat may be due to pain.  For instance, a cat who has an abnormal gait might certainly be in pain, but other non-painful conditions (such as neurologic disorders) could also be involved. Or, a cat who changes her general mood may not be in pain but may have a hormonal change such as an overactive thyroid. Any change in behavior could be significant for your cat’s health and should be addressed. 

If you think your cat is in pain, never give your cat any of your own pain medications. They can kill cats. Instead, call your veterinarian so they can help you figure out the best treatment. There are many options, including a variety of pain medications and acupuncture.