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How to Tell if My Senior Cat is in Pain

Posted by Dr. Roth on March 29, 2022

Wellness Care
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Getting older can be tough on the body. Age-related health issues like arthritis, periodontal disease, and other conditions can lead to an increasing amount of pain.

Aging cats deal with pain differently than their pet parents. Instead of vocalizing their discomfort, they hide it. Knowing the subtle signs can help pet parents know when something’s wrong so that they can help. 

How to Tell If My Senior Cat Is in Pain

Like dogs, cats reach senior status around the age of seven. As they age, their risk of developing health problems increases. Many of those issues can cause significant pain. The problem is that, like dogs, cats  don’t generally like to show that they’re hurting. They’re even better than dogs at hiding their pain. The following are a few signs something might be wrong.

Decreased Activity

Slowing down is a natural part of aging, but a significant drop in activity can often indicate a problem. Pain can make a cat more reluctant to play with their pet parents or other pets in the house. Instead of running or even walking at their usual pace, they may move more slowly and carefully. 

A Decrease in Jumping or Climbing Habits

Cats are natural climbers. Cat towers, trees, towers, and perches are great additions to a cat’s home for this reason. They give cats something that they can jump onto and climb to survey their surroundings from a safe vantage point. However, a senior cat with joint pain might not use their tower as often as they used to. They might stop jumping onto the platforms or appear strained when they try. 

Changes in Appetite

Periodontal disease and tooth decay are common issues in older cats. Tartar buildup and bacteria can inflame the gums and make chewing painful. A senior cat might pick at their food or refuse it altogether.

Behavioral Changes

Sudden changes in a cat’s behavior can indicate they’re in pain. A once-affectionate cat that loved to snuggle with their pet parents might suddenly become standoffish or aggressive, hissing or scratching when approached or touched. They might stop looking to be pet, brushed, or handled at all. Some cats will retreat, preferring to hide out on their own rather than interact with anyone else. 

Unusual Litter Box Use

A cat doesn’t generally stop using their litter box for no apparent reason. Issues like joint pain can make it difficult for them to get in and out, and they may end up urinating or defecating on the floor. Urinary tract issues can also cause a change in litter box habits. 

Keep Senior Cats Happy and Comfortable

As good as senior cats might be at masking their pain, they aren’t perfect. At the first signs of discomfort, a pet parent should seek help. Speaking with a  vet regularly and practicing preventative care can help them ensure their cat lives their senior years as comfortable and happy as possible. Reach out to Fuzzy Vet Chat 24/7 for additional senior cat care questions. 

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