5 Signs of a Cat in Pain

5 Signs of a Cat in Pain

If you have a kitty, you have already known how weird this creature can be. Things get even worse when cats are in great pain.

It seems that they inherited an instinct to ignore the pain from their ancestors living in the wild. That was necessary to protect themselves from predators.

Such behavior has not changed much over time, so you need to be careful when noticing subtle changes in your cat's behavior.

Unfortunately, they can be the only sign that indicates a severe health condition. There are 5 signs of a cat in pain you should pay attention to.

Behavioral Changes

Severe pain will often cause the cat's personality change since even these tough creatures can't hide that they suffer over a long period.


You should be alert when noticing that a friendly and kind kitty starts showing uncharacteristic aggression.

So, pay attention to growling, hissing, and avoiding cuddling. It can also tend to destroy objects or hurt people when in pain.

Decreased sociability

A few months ago, my Clementine started refusing to play with her mom Malena, our American Staffordshire Terrier.

She looked healthy, but such unusual behavior was suspicious to me. After taking her to the vet, we backed home with a diagnosis of severe urinary tract infection.

So, be careful!

Decreased activity and lethargy

Inactivity is usual with aging, but it can't appear overnight. Any lack of regular activities and more sleeping or excessive lying down may indicate pain presence.

Once you see that your cat can't jump as expected, you should suspect arthritis. It is probably time for high-quality hip and joint support.


A painful animal will scream, whimper, or meow loudly when the pain is severe. For instance, every touching sore area will cause a reaction.


Most people are surprised when I tell them that purring can sign great pain, anxiety, and stress. In fact, the kitty experiencing pain may purr more than a satisfied one.


One of the first cats' instincts is to hide when feeling the pain to increase their chances of surviving in the wild. They haven't changed such behavior to this day.

Changes in Hygienic Habits

Once the cat stops taking care of hygiene, you should be alert immediately.


Grooming changes

Kitties are meticulous, so the absence of self-grooming is a sign that something is wrong. In most cases, your furry friend can't reach particular body parts without pain, particularly when the cause is osteoarthritis.

On the other hand, irritation or soreness may cause over-grooming and significant skin trauma.

Inappropriate litter box use

It can be confusing when your kitty with established hygiene habits starts avoiding the box.

Once you notice it to try to pee in corners or unsuitable places for this activity, you should suspect a urinary problem and take it to the vet right away.

It is also not rare for cats to have trouble getting in a position for pooping because of joint or bone pain. Those suffering from constipation will also avoid the litter box.

Changes in Diet

Loss of appetite

Pain is not a common reason for losing appetite but can be one of the symptoms of tooth infection or wounds in the oral cavity.

It is recommended to consult your vet as soon as you notice that your furry friend avoids regular meals.

Increased appetite

If your senior cat starts eating more than usual, you should get it checked for hypothyroidism.

Any weight changes are always concerning, and it is better to ask your vet for advice.

Increased thirst

As soon as an issue with the urinary tract or kidneys occurs, your kitty will look for more water than usual.

Physical Signs of Pain

  • Abnormal postures

When the cat feels pain in the hips or rear legs, you will notice it standing with the front legs under her chest and avoiding characteristic stretching.

That way, it attempts to redistribute weight and relieves the pain in affected body parts.

  • Limping

When your cat starts limping, you should suspect that it is an indication of pain. The most common reasons for this condition are:

  • Broken bone
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle strain
  • Trauma
  • Tickborne disease
  • Thorn in-between the toes
  • Bony cancer

Limping that persists more than 24 hours requires taking the cat to the vet.

  • Stiffness after rest

The pain of osteoarthritis is a probable reason to see your furry friend stiff after sleeping and rest time.

Talk with your vet about appropriate treatment that includes physical therapy, pain-relieving medications, and nutritional supplements.

  • Facial expression changes

Believe it or not, some kitties feeling pain develop a grimace that includes a wide-eyed look, squinting eyes, or blank stare into the distance.

Such facial expression is always an emergency, and you need to check what it is about.

Signs of Illness Followed by Pain

  • Changes in urination

It is one of the primary symptoms of painful urinary tract infection or a problem with kidneys.

If you notice any change in urination frequency or spot blood in the urine, go to the vet.

A particularly emergency and dangerous condition is in male cats straining to urinate without anything that comes out.

  • Eye changes

In most cases, dilated pupils are a sign that the cat feels pain in its body. Constricted pupils are usually a sign of pain in the eye itself.

  • Ear debris or discharge

Be aware that any ear infection is excruciating and painful and may lead to eardrum damage.

  • Skin changes

In most cases, hair loss, skin irritation, or painful itch is a sign of external parasites, allergies, or skin infection.

  • Swelling

In a case of a painful wound, abscess, or inflammation, you may spot a swollen body part. Visit the vet immediately, especially if the area is hot to the touch.

  • Bad breath

It is often a symptom of a dental issue. However, excessive drooling and bleeding are signs that your kitty suffers from a painful oral infection.


Please don't neglect the subtle changes in your cat's behavior, as its well-being and recovery may depend on your alertness.

Once apparent signs of illness occur, you may have lost the valuable time necessary for timely therapy.

Therefore, don't trust this mysterious creature prone to hide pain and visit the vet when suspecting something is wrong.

Jovanka Panic

My name is Jovanka Panic. I am a writer, translator, veterinarian, humanitarian, and passionate traveler. After playing with white bears and elephants in the Belgrade ZOO and dealing with the Rabies virus in the Institute Pasteur, I enjoy writing.

My five beasts are my ultimate love, including three cats (Clementine, Josephine, and Sophia) and their 'mom' American Stafford Terrier (Malena).

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