Fraser Valley Animal Hospital

2633 Ware Street
Abbotsford, BC V2S 3E2


Feline Signs of Pain

Cats and dogs show their pain in different ways. Cats tend to become quiet and withdrawn and are extremely good at hiding pain. Remember that there is a range of pain from discomfort to extreme and the more subtle the pain the more discreet the signs.  The subtle signs that there many be some early discomfort includes...

1. Decrease Jump height.  A cat who once jumped from the floor to the counter now prefers to use a chair to get.  Here is a list of signs to watch for if you are unsure if your cat is in pain.

2. "The Jerk"  As a cat approaches the counter or bed he/she should jump without hesitation.  Often with arthritis we will see the hesitation, the mild stutter before actually jumping.

3. "The Cupboard Slide" which is seen when a cat is jumping down and slides his paws down along the cupboard to get as close to the floor as possible before jumping.

4.  Behaviour Change  One of our warning signs as veterinarians is the cat's history and when we hear, "my cat is getting old and/or doesn't play anymore"  we worry about pain commonly associated with arthritis.

Clinical signs may vary between cats and so different cats will show different signs.   Some other signs of less subtle pain include:

  1. Almond shaped eyes caused by facial tension
  2. Droopy head
  3. Droopy ears
  4. Tucked tail
  5. Does not want to play
  6. Lack of social interaction with owners, visitors, other pets
  7. Does not enjoy playing with toys or usual activities
  8. Subtle lack of alertness (early) gradually increasing to a deep apathy
  9. Diminished appetite
  10. Body tension
  11. Facial tension
  12. Accepting treats or food gingerly
  13. Lack of interest in walks, swimming, chasing the ball
  14. Doesn’t respond when called
  15. Worried or sad facial expression
  16. Ears pulled back or flattened
  17. Eyes wide open to expose “whites of eyes”
  18. Avoidance of direct eye contact, when talking to them
  19. Lips slightly retracted in a “grin”
  20. Whiskers pulled back against cheeks caused by facial tension
  21. Shifts frequently while resting
  22. Difficulty getting up
  23. Excessive panting (particularly when not hot)
  24. Head held abnormally low
  25. Shivering/trembling/shaking
  26. Unsettled
  27. Pacing
  28. Difficulty moving after a long rest
  29. Difficulty laying down
  30. Slow or abnormal gait
  31. Limping - note this is a rare sign for arthritis
  32. Hunched back
  33. Compulsive licking or rubbing of certain body part
  34. Looking at sides or other body part suddenly and/or worriedly
  35. Suddenly running away from “nothing in particular”
  36. Can’t jump on bed or couch
  37. Reluctance to lie down
  38. Sleeps in a position that avoids a certain body part from touching ground or bed
  39. Purplish tongue colour (not gums)
  40. “Guards” a certain part of body
  41. Reluctance to touch
  42. Reluctance to be picked up
  43. Isolating themselves from other family members
  44. Disinterested in surroundings
  45. Unusual attention seeking
  46. Unusual aggressive behaviour in an otherwise docile pet
  47. Refusal to eat
  48. Clenching of teeth, biting down on an object
  49. Urinating or defecating in house, where normally would not happen

If you are seeing these signs, or have concerns of other symptoms, please call 604-854-2313 or email us at and we will help you with your cat’s comfort.