Spotting Signs of Pain or Discomfort in Cats

Spotting Signs of Pain or Discomfort in Cats

Cats are masters of disguise when it comes to pain.  They have a natural instinct to hide their weaknesses from predators, so there is an evolutionary advantage to concealing any signs of discomfort.

This can make it difficult for owners to spot pain in their cats, but it’s important to be vigilant.

And the key to a positive result is …. early intervention.

Case Study : Cats & Osteoarthritis

Most cats like their R&R spots to be elevated – windows sills, chairs, for example.

If you notice your cat finds it increasingly difficult to access favoured elevated rest spots, they may be signalling potential discomfort associated with osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis, a condition causing chronic pain, is surprisingly common among cats especially for cats older than 6 years old.

Having an annual Wellness Check or being a member of the 2Feet4Paws Club (with all the complimentary checks throughout the year as well as significant discounts on any tests, supplements, pain relief and medications) will help us build a bespoke plan to keep your cat as comfortable & well for as long as possible.

Detecting Signs of Pain in Cats:

Identifying signs of pain in cats can be challenging, as they instinctively conceal their discomfort, a survival strategy from their wild ancestors.

 Nonetheless, pet owners are uniquely positioned to recognise behavioural changes that could be indicative of discomfort, such as osteoarthritis pain.

For example:

  • How your cat jumps onto higher surfaces?
  • How your cat descends from higher surfaces?
  • How your cat navigates stairs?
  • How eager your cat is to chase moving objects.

The Consequences of Persistent Pain on Your Cat’s Well-being:

Chronic pain significantly affects your cat’s quality of life and overall well-being.  

Seeking proper pain relief and management is crucial to improve your cat’s outlook and quality of life.

Additional Signs of Pain:

Additional Signs of Pain:

In addition to the above mentioned behavioural changes, several other signs may indicate discomfort/pain in cats:

  • Reduced energy and activity levels.
  • Decreased interaction with family members (human or pet).
  • Diminished interest in playing.
  • Inappropriate urination or defecation.
  • Reduced grooming habits.
  • Excessive licking or chewing in specific areas.
  • Increased purring (which can be a sign of pain).
  • Personality changes, such as increased irritability or withdrawal.
  • Flinching or vocalizing when petted or picked up.
  • Excessive scratching or biting.
  • Sleeping in a hunched position.

Book your visit should you see any of these signs.

Sharing Your Observations with our Veterinarians:

Cats are experts at concealing their discomfort, even during veterinary examinations. Therefore, it is essential to report any behavioural changes observed at home to our veterinarian. 

Consider recording videos of your cat engaging in these activities, as it can aid in more accurate diagnoses.


Lascelles BD, Dong YH, Marcellin-Little DJ, et al. Relationship of orthopedic examination, goniometric measurements, and radiographic signs of degenerative joint disease in cats. BM C Vet Res. 2012;8:10.