Ask the Vet: Signs Your Cat is Suffering


Q: My cat Simon just turned 12, and I’ve found myself worrying about him a lot now that he’s well into double digits. Everything he does that is even slightly irregular has me scouring the internet for information. He recently had his annual check-up at the vet, and I know he’s healthy and that I need to stop stressing myself out all the time. So, I was wondering if you could share with me some common signs that cats exhibit when they are suffering. It would be very helpful for me to know what to look for when it comes to his overall health.

A: It’s very important to keep in mind that animals are designed to hide their pain; their signs of suffering are often very subtle. The most common signs to watch for in older cats are:

  • weight loss
  • hiding
  • loss of appetite
  • drooling
  • wet lips or vomiting
  • increased thirst and larger urine spots in the litter-box
  • decreased energy and involvement with the family
  • increased sleep
  • head hanging down in a lower and more arched position than usual
  • resting awake but with eyes closed

Certain ailments have certain signs. Older cats suffering from arthritis pain tend to eliminate outside the litter-box because it’s difficult for them to climb inside. With kidney failure you see significant weight loss, decreased appetite, and increased thirst.

Animals do have an innate drive to push on and live on, which can prevent us from seeing that they really are suffering. Your pet may feel like they are trapped in a constantly aching body. Sometimes, they need relief more than we may realize.

Because our pets are naturally designed to conceal their pain or suffering, it is up to us to determine their quality of life. It can be helpful to discuss anything you notice in detail with your veterinarian. Every case is different and it’s difficult to generalize.

drtwyningAbout the Vet: Dr. Karen Twyning is the founder of Pet Loss At Home. For over 10 years Dr. Twyning has dedicated her career to easing the pain of ending a pet’s suffering by offering euthanasia in the pet’s own home. She is working towards building a national network of compassionate veterinarians with availability seven days a week in every city nationwide. Visit PetLossAtHome.com for more information.

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