National Pain Awareness: Don’t Let the Cat Get Your Tongue


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September is National Pain Awareness Month – and that holds true for pets, and cats must be of a particular focus.  Both dogs and cats often mask pain, but cats are master magicians not showing us all their cards.

The notion that because of their smaller size cats suffer from arthritis less often than dogs turns out to be an absolute myth.

According to Johns Hopkins medicine the following is true of pain in humans and the same turns out be true for dogs and cats, who happen to have nearly identical pain receptors to us.

  • Pain is a warning sign that indicates a problem that needs attention.
  • Pain starts in receptor nerve cells located beneath the skin and in organs throughout the body.
  • Living with pain can be debilitating and adversely affect everyday life, and in the case of our pets chronic pain often impacts the human animal bond, and the welfare of the animal.

The question is: How can you do something about it if you have no idea your kitty is in pain?

Here are indications that your cat may be hurting:

  • Not wanting to go up/down stairs
  • Way in which the cat goes up and down stairs
  • Reluctance to move
  • Painful cat is not a playful cat
  • Doesn’t want to be touched; clearly not enjoying touch
  • Hesitating before jumping on or off
  • Adjusting the way which the cat who once jumped down is now doing so in stages
  • Sleeping more without movement from place to place
  • Under-grooming
  • Over-grooming
  • Accidents outside box (but often near the box) Hiding
  • Excessive Purring/Meowing/Hissing/Growling
  • Tail flicking
  • Starring
  • Looking “scrunched up, “
  • Walking stiffly
  • Lower head posture
  • Shallow breathing
  • Eyes closed
  • Over-night yowling
  • Change in appetite

This is quite a list isn’t it? And it’s not even complete. The Grimace Scale notes cats indeed do express their emotions and feeling pain by observing their faces  The Feline Grimace Scale (FGS) (© Université de Montréal 2019) is a valid, fast, reliable and easy-to-use tool that can help with pain assessment. (although the scale may also reveal signs of fear, anxiety and/or stress in cats).

If you note any changes in your cat’s gait and/or more than three in the above list, take a video (with your phone) of the cat walking up/down stairs and moving around the household. (Veterinary professionals can make a determination watching short videos – there’s no need for an hour docudrama). Of course, there’s also no replacing your veterinarian getting his or her hands on your cat, and taking X-Rays.

Here’s a handy and easy to follow check-list to identify if your cat is in pain.

With cats, even more than dogs – if you suspect something is wrong – something probably is wrong.

Also, with cats more than dogs, treating pain has historically been more challenging for various reasons.

Solensia is a once-monthly monoclonal antibody therapy, for the control of feline osteoarthritis pain, administered by a veterinarian – and when the product is released (hopefully later this year), there’s no doubt whatsoever that this will be a huge game changer for cats identified in pain due to arthritis.

First and foremost, keep in mind, veterinarians can’t help cats they’re not seeing.