Signs of a Cat in Pain

A cat in pain does not always make its suffering clear to its owners, as the species' natural inclination is to hide its weakness in case predators try to attack when it's ill. However, there are a few clear traits that owners can look for when they suspect illness or injury.

Hiding Away in Dark, Enclosed Spaces

The first instinct of a cat in pain is to hide away in a dark, enclosed space. This is because cats feel more in control of their surroundings if they're in a small space for which there's only one or a few entrances, such as in a box or under a piece of furniture. The darkness, too, gives them a sense of camouflage and advantage since they can find and navigate in the dark better than some other predators. However, cats tend to like dark, enclosed spaces even when healthy, so this alone is not an indication of a cat in distress.

Overly Lethargic

A cat in pain becomes more lethargic than usual. Cats do sleep for most of the day, but cats who are under duress will sleep even more than usual. A healthy cat should have some bursts of energy throughout the day. They should walk, play and run around for short periods throughout the day. A cat in distress will engage in these activities less often or refrain from these activities entirely.

Lack of Appetite

A healthy cat will feed itself if food is available throughout the day and will drink every few hours. A cat in pain is less likely to feed and drink. Even when the owner presents the food and drink to the cat, the cat may seem disinterested. Sometimes the aroma of fresh canned food or the cat's favorite food may entice the cat to eat a small amount, but any disinterest in food on a regular basis should alert the owner that the cat may be experiencing distress or pain.

Excessive Purring

Cats do not only purr when content. If a cat exhibits other symptoms of a cat in distress, excessive purring may also be a symptom of its pain. Purring is common when a cat experiences any excess of emotion, even distress. Some researchers believe that purring may even stimulate the cat's immune system and soothe sore muscles, which would explain why a cat who feels pain purrs.

High Rate of Breathing

Cats who are in pain may exhibit a high rate of breathing. Normal cat breathing is about thirty breaths per minute. Cats in pain may breathe somewhere around one hundred breaths in a minute. Owners can calculate the number of times their cats breathe in a minute by watching how many times the cat's chest expands and contracts within fifteen seconds and multiplying that number by four. One expansion and contraction together counts as one breath.

A cat who exhibits the traits of a cat in pain should be examined by a vet as soon as possible. At the very least, behavioral changes could be an indication of a cat experiencing stress.