Not many of us pay close attention to our cat’s sounds, but the truth is when they are in pain, they may vocalize in various ways we might even overlook.
Common noises cats make to let you know something is wrong when they’re in pain include:
A cat hisses to express fear, aggression, or discomfort.
It’s often a warning sign that they feel threatened and want the source of their anxiety to back off.
Hissing can also be displayed when a cat is in pain. It’s an instinctive response designed to protect themselves from potential harm.
Growling in cats is usually a sign of anger or annoyance. It can also indicate fear, particularly if the cat feels cornered and unable to escape.
A growling cat is generally warning you or another animal to stay away.
3. Whining or whimpering
Whining and whimpering in cats are often used interchangeably, but they can sometimes indicate different behaviors or feelings.
Whining is generally associated with longer, more vocal sounds, often indicating annoyance or discomfort.
Whimpering is usually a softer, more subtle sound that can indicate fear, stress, or even pain.
If you notice excessive whining or whimpering, it’s always a good idea to visit your veterinarian to rule out any possible health issues.
4. Excessive meowing
If your cat is meowing more often than usual, it’s possible they’re experiencing some sort of pain.
A change in your cat’s vocalization is also important to note. For instance, if your cat’s normal meow turns into more of a whine or becomes louder or more frequent, it could indicate that your cat is in pain.
Sometimes, the meowing can sound pleading or drawn-out, almost like a cry. This could be your cat’s way of getting your attention and indicating that something is wrong.
Interestingly, cats may also purr when they are in pain or distress, possibly as a self-soothing mechanism.
Cats purr for various reasons; not all are linked to happiness or contentment.
While purring often indicates that a cat is relaxed or comfortable, it can also be a sign of pain or distress.
When cats are unwell or in pain, they may purr as a way to comfort themselves, possibly as a self-soothing mechanism.
This kind of purring can be thought of as a distress signal or even a call for help.
The frequency of the purr’s vibration is thought to stimulate healing and ease breathing, which could explain why cats purr when they’re in discomfort.
Caterwauling is a specific type of vocalization in cats. It’s a cross between a yowl, a howl, and a whine that’s both melodic and melodramatic.
While caterwauling is a normal part of feline communication, excessive or unusual caterwauling can sometimes be a sign of distress or pain in a cat that requires veterinary attention.
7. High-pitched sounds or screams
High-pitched vocalizations from cats are usually a sign of distress or fear. They may scream if they’re in pain, scared, or feel threatened.
Cats may also make loud yowling sounds when they’re in pain. If your cat is making these types of vocalizations, it’s wise to visit a veterinarian just to be safe.
8. A lack of sounds
Some cats may not make any sounds when they’re in pain and may stop eating or not eat as much as normal.
Other signs that your cat may be in pain include poor mood and temperament, increased irritability, and moving away from people or behaving aggressively when approached or touched.
Physical signs your cat is in pain and need immediate veterinary attention
Whether kitten, adult, or senior, cats in pain will show certain signs and behaviors in their cry for our help, but we may not always recognize when they need us.
These are some of the signs your cat may be experiencing pain and needs to see the vet:
- Boby posture, such as squatting but not peeing, limping and hunched over
- Peeing blood
- Not eating for more than 24 hours
- Constant diarrhea
- Avoiding their litter box and urinating outside of their litterbox
- Hiding all the time
- Pulling their hair out/losing hair
- Extreme aggression
- Excessive grooming
- Vomiting frequently
What are some possible causes of pain in cats?
Some possible causes of pain in cats include:
- Dental problems such as tooth decay and gum disease
- Illness or injury
- Arthritis/joint pain
- Stress and anxiety
- Ingrown claws
- Post-surgery discomfort
- Ingestion of poisons
- Injuries like cuts, wounds, and fractures
- Urinary tract infections
- Age-related issues
Be sure to seek advice from a veterinarian if your cat appears to be experiencing discomfort.
How do you comfort a cat in pain?
When it comes to comforting a cat in pain, it’s like treading on thin ice, so when they do show signs of pain, it means they really need your help.
The first step to comforting a cat who is in pain is first to have your vet check your cat to assess the severity of their pain.
If your cat’s pain is not severe and is caused by things like arthritis or an injury, your vet can give you instructions to follow on how to treat your cat.
Create a safe, cozy space for them. This could be their favorite blanket or cat bed; somewhere they feel secure.
You know how you love to snuggle under a warm blanket when you’re not feeling well? It works the same way for cats.
Try to minimize any loud noises or disruptions that might cause additional stress. Think of it as creating a serene, tranquil sanctuary where their only job is to rest and recuperate.
If they allow it, gentle stroking can be comforting. However, be very careful not to touch any areas that may be causing them pain.
I want to share that you should never try to comfort your cat at home on your own without first getting veterinary help.
Home remedies are not always the best go-to when it comes to comforting a cat in pain, and they should always be done under the guidance of a veterinarian.
If you want to give your cat the best care and comfort possible, you should take them to the vet.
How does pain affect a cat’s quality of life?
Cats, like our beloved Cleo, experience pain just like humans do, and it can greatly impact their quality of life.
Pain can cause cats to become irritable, anxious, and even aggressive.
They may become less active, have a loss of appetite, and avoid certain activities they once enjoyed.
Even though cats are known to hide their pain, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or affect them.
But to see the signs, we must pay attention to them, monitor their behavior, and seek veterinary care when necessary to ensure their pain is properly managed and their quality of life is maintained.
What role is technology playing to help us recognize pain in our cats?
Interestingly, I found a study from the National Library of Medicine that seeks to automate the identification of pain in cats using technology, specifically facial expression analysis, because facial expressions are a common indicator of discomfort.
Methods: The research compares two methods for automating pain recognition in domestic short-haired cats during spaying procedures.
The first method uses convolutional neural networks, a deep learning model frequently used for image recognition.
The second method employs machine learning models inspired by the cat-specific Facial Action Coding Systems (catFACS), focusing on the look of the cat’s face.
The results: Both methods achieved similar accuracy rates above 72%, indicating their potential for automating pain detection in cats.
However, each approach has its drawbacks. While the deep learning method performs better and requires less manual effort, it lacks transparency in decision-making.
There were challenges in automating facial analysis for animal emotion recognition and pain detection, such as limited data availability, breed-specific facial variations, and the absence of verbal feedback from animals.
And the researchers stress the need for further research and larger, more diverse datasets (variety of cat breeds, etc.) to improve the models’ generalizability and robustness.
Conclusion: Overall, the study concludes that combining facial analysis with behavioral and postural information may enhance cat pain detection accuracy.
It also highlights the potential of machine learning and computer vision techniques in aiding veterinarians and researchers in objectively assessing animal pain.
The collaboration between biologists and computer scientists applying machine learning techniques in biological sciences holds significant promise for various applications in understanding animal behavior and welfare.
So, this means that maybe someday you and I will be able to understand more and possibly speak with our cats.
Treating physical pain in your cat with your vet’s help
Pain in cats can be hard to spot, especially as they often hide signs of illness or discomfort.
Sometimes, a litterbox accident could be as a result of aching joints.
Physical pain in cats can manifest in several ways, including changes in sounds and behavior, such as avoiding the litter box.
Now, imagine you’ve noticed your pet, who is usually very active, nimble, and agile, starting to wince while jumping off the couch, or perhaps they are no longer showing interest in their favorite toys.
These could all be signs of physical discomfort. So, what should you do? The first step is to speak with your vet.
Just like we would visit a doctor when we’re not feeling our best, getting professional advice for our pets should be the same.
Your vet will likely thoroughly examine your cat, checking for any signs of injury or illness and doing everything to get a clearer picture of what’s happening inside your cat’s body.
While it’s tough to see them in pain, with appropriate veterinary care, most cats can go on to live comfortable, happy lives, but it’s up to us as their parents to help them as quickly as we can.