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How to tell if your cat is in pain – explained by a veterinarian in Markham

By September 30, 2014 February 28th, 2019 Uncategorized

Cats hide their pain. It takes knowledge and experience to identify the small details

My colleagues in Markham veterinary clinics and I see cats that have been suffering from pain almost daily. Very often the owners didn’t have an idea. Their cats “seemed so healthy”. The fact is, cats seldom exhibit any outward signs of pain.

The majority of professional veterinarians, animal surgeons and pet care specialists now agree that cats have often significant pain, yet it is very difficult to diagnose.

Arthritis or degenerative joint disease is one of the most overlooked painful conditions in cats.

I’ve treated animals from all over the province – mostly from Unionville and those seeking pet care services from nearby Markham, Stouffville, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, North York and Uxbridge – and I can tell you from my 25-plus years of specialized veterinary experience that pain in cats is often overlooked.

As with humans, pain is an indicator of a problem. The body gives you a warning that something needs to be cared for. But most owners aren’t even aware their cat has a problem and are surprised that their cat doesn’t call them for help. The reason lies in cats’ genetics. The ancestors of our domesticated cats lived as solitary hunters. They do not hunt in packs like dogs and any sign of weakness makes a cat prey to other stronger animals. Therefore, in the wild or in your home, cats are better at concealing their pain.

Veterinary medicine has a history of underestimating cat pain. For example, a cat’s gait is so smooth and elastic that arthritis often remains undiagnosed although most older cats develop degenerative joint disease. Often a cat will be in pain without any noticeable limp.

Here are some not-so-obvious signs that could reveal that your cat is in pain:

1.       A minor change in your cat’s gait

2.       He/she is withdrawn and/or deviating from daily routines

3.       Your cat sleeps more that usual and is not as active when awake

4.       Lack of grooming. For example, watch for small tufts of hair sticking up. Most cat owners who bring their pets into our vet clinic do not realize that this too can be a sign of pain.

5.       The position of your cat’s eyes. Cats in pain are usually squinting slightly and their eyes are looking slightly upward toward the outer edges of their temporal bones.

Other signs of pain in cats may be a lack of appetite, changing sleep patterns and abnormal reactions when you pet them or cuddle them in your lap. It’s also a good idea to check your cat’s urine and feces occasionally. If you suspect that your cat is in any kind of pain, please stop by our clinic. We are here to help you and your cats enjoy life to the fullest.


Dr. Ernst Marsig, veterinarian in Markham

Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Markham for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.

Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of  Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.).

Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.

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