Small animal vet Lindsay Donaldson reveals the subtle signs to look out for to tell if your cat is in pain.
Is your elderly cat in pain, perhaps with joint disease like arthritis? It can often be very hard to tell, which is why I frequently see older cats presenting to me in already quite significant levels of pain. Unfortunately, it is only when the signs are severe do they really become clear in our feline companions. Cats are very private creatures and are exceptionally skilled at masking most signs of disease and suffering from people. They do this so well that even the most diligent of owners can easily miss signs of sickness and pain, or if they don’t know what to watch for, owners may not realise the significance of the changes that they are noticing in their cats.
Often the only changes we see are very subtle behavioural changes which may come on slowly over an extended period of time, and are therefore difficult to really put your finger on as an owner. Also, just to make life harder, no two cats will show signs of pain in the same way, so it is important for an owner to focus on what is new behaviour for their particular cat. What are the signs you should be looking out for? If your cat is showing any of the following changes it may be because of pain:
Reduced grooming and matting, weight loss or gain, a reduced appetite, character changes such as becoming clingy or alternatively more withdrawn, resentment to being handled. Changes in sleeping – more or less, and maybe choosing a new location in which to sleep. A decreased ability to jump up to things, or not quite being able to make a leap that before would have been easy. Changes in toileting; perhaps missing the tray or toileting outside the tray. Excessive licking of joints or over grooming, a reduction in hunting or using the scratching post less and overgrown claws.
If you have noticed any of these changes in your cat you should organise to get them checked by your vet. They may recommend further tests and advise you of the best way forward. Don’t ignore those changes, they could be the only sign you’ll get that there’s something wrong with your feline friend.