January 2008 Issue

Is Your Cat Really Hurting?

Several behavioral and physical signs can strongly suggest that your cat is in pain. Here's what you should look for.

Pinch your finger in a car door, step on a nail or cut your thumb while peeling an onion, and you’re apt to let out a holler that will alert everyone within hearing range to the fact that you’re experiencing pain. And then you’ll spend the next week or two talking about that dreadful moment and its unpleasant consequences. Your cat is much different from you in that respect. Certainly, it can experience discomfort of varying intensity in its hard and soft tissues — its bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and internal organs. And it may howl for a moment when it senses sharp pain. But it certainly won’t verbalize. It won’t be able to point pathetically to a lacerated paw pad or an aching joint and say, "This is where it hurts!"

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