The Truth About Cats and Pain

Do cats REALLY suffer from chronic pain?

Anyone who is a cat lover wants to keep their pet as healthy and happy as possible for as long as possible, right? I think we all agree on this. However, can you tell if your cat is suffering from low-grade, chronic pain? Many owners cannot and are surprised when during an examination I point out something that is likely pain related. For those of you who think you can tell, here is a quick quiz. Pick the painful cat:

Did you do it? It’s hard isn’t it!? Did you know the NUMBER ONE sign of osteoarthritis in cats is an increase in “sleep” and a decrease in movement overall? Many owners interpret this as “aging”, however, many older cats continue to run, play and chase toys well into their upper teens! Other signs of arthritis may include: inappropriate elimination (near but not in the box), decreased grooming, difficulty jumping (up or down) or even a change in eating patterns.

The answer, by the way, is the black cat. He was 22 years old at the time of this picture and suffering from arthritis and a host of other illnesses. You’d never know it to look at him!

Of course, arthritis isn’t the only chronic pain our cats may “suffer in silence” with. Oral pain, bladder pain, intestinal pain and neurogenic (nerve pain) are commonly seen in our feline companions. Just like arthritis pain, the signs of discomfort are often subtle in cats. At times we perform an oral exam on a cat that has severe resorptive lesions in its mouth (similar to cavities eating your teeth away) and the owner has not noticed that the cat is uncomfortable!

This is urine from a “normal” person (or cat) and a person (or cat) with interstitial cystitis. Either way it looks uncomfortable, right?! If your urine was red, you’d go straight to urgent care!


Do the human teeth below look painful to YOU? Then you can imagine how painful the kitty on the right is!

I think most of us would agree that if it was US in the above pictures, we would be painful and on our way to a doctor or dentist ASAP. Because our kitties have no way to directly tell us they are uncomfortable, it is up to us to look for subtle signs of pain in our friends!

Coming next – what can we do about chronic pain in cats??

by Dr Diane Scott

Dr Scott - Oakview Vet Stevens Point Plover WI

Dr. Scott is a 1986 graduate of Michigan State University. She has advanced training and a special interest in avian, exotic and feline medicine.
A member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Association of Avian Veterinarians, she is also associated with Houserabbit Society and Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians.
Dr. Scott and her husband have two children as well as two cats, one dog, and four horses.

Oakview Veterinary Medical Center is a progressive clinic located in Plover, WI. Our veterinarians and staff have lots of wisdom and personal stories to share. We are friendly, compassionate, and engaged with all species!

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