How to Tell if a Cat is in Pain

By Tammy Dray

Cats are masters at hiding pain, so you might not realize right away that your kitty is feeling poorly. However, if you see changes in your cat's behavior and daily activities, it might be a sign that he's in pain and too uncomfortable to continue with his normal routine. If you suspect your cat is in pain, take him to a veterinarian for evaluation as soon as possible.

Hiding Pain Away

Cats are stoic animals who tend to try to hide their pain from others. In the wild, cats will hide pain to avoid appearing weak or sick to a potential predator. This is why a sick cat will rather hide away under the bed or inside a closet than pine around the house showcasing something is wrong. Sick cats rarely vocalize their pain unless they are near death or the pain is severe. This is true even when their owners approach them to pet them or check on them.

Physical Signs and Changes

A common physical sign of pain in a cat is a change in his mobility level. Playful active cats suddenly will start sleeping and lying around more than usual. They might eat or drink less. In addition, cats in pain often will have dilated pupils and might squint. Eye pain often shows up as bloodshot eyes.

Behavioral Changes

Cats in pain often stop grooming themselves and might start soiling the house instead of using the litter box. This could be an indication that moving or getting into the litter box is painful. Cats in pain might remain in a crouched or hunched position with closed eyes. Many cats isolate themselves in secluded nooks and corners of the home when in pain and might growl or show other signs of aggression when handled. They also may avoid interaction with family members and other pets.

Myths and Clues

Here's one important thing to keep in mind: Whether or not a cat purrs should not be used to gauge whether or not the cat is in pain. That's because many cats may exhibit signs of pain and still purr. In fact, many cats will purr as a way of comforting themselves if they are stressed or uncomfortable.