Greetings, two-leggeds, and welcome to my newest post. This is Lucinda the literate cat. My CCL (Cantankerous Cat Lady) has asked me to give you some insight into how to know if your cat is in pain. It’s not easy, but I’ll do my best to teach you how cats react to pain and how you can tell if they are hurting.
First, let’s look at some general information that may help you understand the situation from the cat’s point of view a bit better.
To understand how a cat reacts to pain, you must first know something about cat history. You see, cats were once wild creatures who had nothing to do with two-leggeds. Then, long ago in ancient Egypt, cats entered into an agreement with these old ones.
At that time, cats performed a life-saving service for those old Egyptians by saving their grain supplies from being eaten and destroyed by an army of vermin. In exchange for this service, cats were invited to live inside two-legged homes, where they would be fed and sheltered to pay them for the work they did.
You might say they saved civilization. In fact, the Egyptians were so grateful that they considered cats gods, and honored them as such. Did you know that in that ancient land, if a two-legged killed a cat, he in turn was killed to avenge the cat’s death? My, how times have changed.
But I digress. My point is that many of cats’ reactions to pain stem from the early days before they came under two-legged protection. In the wild, a cat learned to hide his pain and to hide himself, so no predator would find him weak and ill and be able to kill him easily for dinner.
These early pain beliefs (you call them instincts) still exist in the cat, even if no predator is nearby. If he is ill or in pain, his first reaction is to hide. He turns inward, looking for healing forces within his own body. He becomes very quiet and inactive.
If your cat is hiding a lot, not eating much, and is not very responsive, you’d better check to make sure he is okay.
A cat believes in the simple life. We do not collect possessions or use what you two-leggeds call money, as we do not have any use for these things. The cat has learned over the years that if he keeps things simple, they are much more apt to lead to happiness and contentment.
In this way, he avoids many of the dangers of a more complicated life. Instead, he focuses on balance, as this balance in all things helps avoid many of life’s problems and pitfalls.
He establishes a routine and adheres to it strictly. If his routine is disrupted, he is no longer in balance, and such lack of balance can lead to stress and illness.
Then he may be in pain and will need all his strength to combat it. Even though there is no predator, it is important to him to find a place where he will not be disturbed.
You two-leggeds are forever planning for some event that will happen in the future. We cats live in the now. We see no reason to wander from the present, and if the present is sickness or pain, we can overcome it much better if we are in the now.
Our focus needs to be on the present moment, as that is where we are. Why try to go to someplace else in our heads? That’s all very well when we are asleep. Then we can dream about better times and places, but when we are awake, we need to focus on this moment and what is the best way to deal with it. The now is all that interests us; the past or future do not affect the present moment.
We do have some tools at our disposal to help us with healing. One powerful one is our purr. You two-leggeds have finally learned that the sound of our purr is not just soothing, but it also has healing power.
You have done studies that show the purr can be a healing sound for both you and us cats. Think, though, how much more effective it is for your cat. Not only is the sound soothing, but the purr mechanism vibrates our whole body, sending healing waves into every part of us.
Though the purr can’t heal everything, it is so soothing, and can help us handle pain much better.
We cats are also very stoic. (Though not a cat word, it really fits us well.) We do not question why we are ill or in pain. It is just what is, and we accept it. Of course, we may not like it, but we deal with our pain as just the condition of our world at the present moment.
Though we tend to hide illness and pain, be aware that we can lash out at our two-legged just because we want to be left alone. Be aware that at such times our judgment may be a bit off and we will try to harm you, even though we would not normally behave in such a way. Just leave us alone!
We may not understand why we are in pain and blame it on something outside of our body. For example, if it is painful to urinate, we may believe the litter in the box caused the pain. After all, we do not deliberately cause such a thing to ourselves. It must be that box that has somehow caused the problem. Now we want nothing to do with that harmful box.
I am fortunate to be such a well-read cat, because I’ve learned that’s not the case. But try to tell that to a cat who thinks the box caused the problem. He will not believe you.
Though we fear the cat torturer, sometimes you have to take us to him, because he is the only one who can figure out our problem and help us. Not many of us cats think of the cat torturer in a positive light, but I am one of the few cats who understands that he aims to help us.
Now, you get a special bonus. My CCL gave this article to our go-to expert, Wendy Christensen, who wrote the excellent book, “Outsmarting Cats,” and she added a couple of suggestions. Here they are:
1. Besides hiding, another common behavior we cats adapt when we are in pain: We will stand facing a wall, or maybe facing, or crouching, in a corner, facing inwards. Also, that “meatloaf pose” could be a sign of distress.
2. Watch your cat’s breathing. If it’s rapid or forced-looking, that’s a bad sign, and time to call the vet.
3. In general, get to know your cat’s usual healthy behavior, habits, routines, gait, body position, size and weight, appetite, sleeping positions, sleeping locations…all his normal routine. Then, pay attention if you see anything that deviates from that norm. (Didn’t I tell you once that it’s important to get to know our routine?)
4. Get a cat scale and weigh your cat regularly. Keep a record of his weights, and if you see a major loss or gain in weight, your kitty may be having a problem. You might consult your vet.
Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your thoughts with us. You’ve added valuable information.
I hope this post has helped you understand us a bit better, and that you will remember to help us keep our lives in balance.
Reference used for this post:
Christensen, Wendy, “Outsmarting Cats,” Lyons Press, Guilford, CT, 2004