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Spotting the Subtle Signs of Chronic Pain in Cats

Cats are living longer than ever before, which is good news! Unfortunately, with old age comes disease. Common diseases that affect older cats are arthritis and general muscle or skeletal problems both of which can lead to persistent (chronic) pain.

It may be that the underlying cause of chronic pain in cats is directly treatable, if not, vets are at least able to prescribe something to alleviate the symptoms. The problem is that it can actually be quite difficult to spot whether or not a cat is in pain!


Are Our Cats in Pain?

According to a study into feline chronic pain at least 2 out of 3 cats over the age of 9 suffers from chronic pain, however, only 22% of cat owners take their pets to the vet for an ‘old-age check up’.

The problem is that when cats are in pain, they generally only give us subtle clues that make it difficult for us to know when we should take them to see the vet.

Essentially we have two options, either; be sure to take older cats to see a vet for regular check ups or learn to notice these subtle hints that cats give us (see below).

However, the signs of chronic pain in cats are so subtle that your vet might even miss them!

There is a solution though – a new initiative supported by Jess the Cat (Yes, Postman Pat’s Jess) called ‘Spot the Signs’ aims to educate both cat owners and vets! You can visit the Spot the Signs website here.

See our list of 23 signs of cat pain selected by experts. This list will help you identify if your cat is in pain.

Spotting the Signs of Chronic Pain

The ‘Spot the Signs’ campaign revolves around four key questions. If the answer to any of the questions is ‘Yes!’ then it might be worth consulting your vet as to whether they believe your cat may be suffering from chronic pain. Proactive vets should ask you these question if you take your cat in for an ‘old-age check up’, the questions are:

  1. Reduced Mobility – Have you noticed that your cat is less willing to jump up or down? For example, jumping onto or off furniture.
  2. Reduced Activity – Is your cat becoming less active? Such as sleeping more, moving slower or moving as though stiff.
  3. Changes in Grooming Habits – Have you noticed a change in your cat’s appearance? Do they have a matted or scruffy coat for instance, due to less grooming?
  4. Changes in Temperament – Have you noticed any change in your cat’s mood or attitude? For example, are they less tolerant of people?

When asked these questions, 65% of cat owners said they recognised one of these signs in their cats.

You can see why even a vet might miss these signs, as they require knowledge of how your cat behaves on a daily basis. If you can answer yes to any of the above questions, it might be worth visiting your vet – they may be able to treat the underlying cause, rule out chronic pain or at least provide pain relief.

Your Thoughts

Do you recognise any of these signs in your cat? If so, have you sought advice from your vet? If you have an older cat, do you take them from check-ups with the vet?

If you have had any experience with chronic pain in cats, please let us know in the comments below.


About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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