Saturday 15 January 2011

Cat In Pain

Perhaps the most significant thing about a cat in pain is that they hide or mask it. It is said that they do this is as an act of survival. It is also said that the domestic cat is small and therefore vulnerable to larger predators and so hides pain that would give a signal to a predator that the cat might be easy prey being weakened by an illness that causes the pain.

That makes sense in one way but not in another. Do lions and tigers mask pain? They are top predators and they are cats! They probably do mask pain or at least it won't be obvious that the lion or tiger is in pain.

There is no doubt that it can be difficult to tell if a domestic cat is in pain. But it is not all that difficult. A domestic cat in pain will become quiet and more passive. He or she will find a quiet corner or place that is well protected, curl up and keep out of the way. If a cat is fatally injured he or she will find a quiet spot to die.

I am not sure that this is a survival strategy. It is more to do with a simple and logical reaction to feeling ill and pain. Humans go to bed and are passive when in pain and feeling ill. We don't want to do anything. We feel depressed and demotivated. I am sure that cats feel the same way.

A cat in pain will feel poorly and become inactive. If we notice a change in the routine of a cat towards being more passive and quiet,  or demonstrating a "do-not-disburb-me" behavior we might assess that our cat is in pain and go to the vet.

Other possible signs of a cat in pain might include:
  • inappropriate elimination - although the cause is more likely to be stress or other causes
  • eating habit changes
  • eating litter
  • weight loss
  • sleep habit changes
  • more vocal
These, though can also include general symptoms of feeling ill.

Many years ago, when my lady cat got a grain of wheat stuck in her eye - a sharp and painful object - she went to the bottom of the garden and kept quiet. She had not gone to that spot before. There were two changes in routine - quiet and a remote, new place to rest.

I noticed this, checked her out and spotted the object in her eye. I stopped her, held her still and between the nails of my thumb and finger grabbed the end of the grain and yanked it out. I was lucky to get it. She yelped and immediately looked more comfortable. A lot of gunge had built up around the grain to protect the eye but it must have been painful.

At the time, I was about to take her to the vet. Look for changes in routine and quietness if assessing whether a cat is in pain or not and when there is no obvious reason why your cat should behave differently. However, when pain is acute the cat will probably be vocal and try and relieve it. In short the cat might move.

But please don't administer pain relief without a veterinarians supervision. Pain killers can kill cats - feline pain relief.

See the story behind the picture heading this post.

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