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feline health problems
Orange tabby cat sleeping

The essentials

  • There’s not enough evidence to prove that cats get headaches — Researchers can’t pinpoint primary headaches in cats, and it’s not like we can ask them if they have a headache.
  • However, cats can experience pain and discomfort — We do know cats can experience head pain associated with other diseases.
  • It’s up to us as cat owners to detect when our animal is in pain — You’ll want to know the signs and symptoms that your cat may display if they’re in pain.

There’s not enough evidence to prove cats get headaches

While you can easily complain of a tension headache, the same isn’t the case for our feline friends. It’s very possible that cats may get headaches, but there’s little to no scientific evidence to prove it. So, sure, it’s totally possible that your cat could have a headache. But, it’s more likely that they could have head pain as a result of a health condition or illness.

Cats can experience pain or become lethargic and sluggish when something’s wrong. They generally display telltale signs of pain through their actions and habits. Many cats try to hide their discomfort or pain, so it’s important for pet parents to be aware of what’s “normal” for their pet and what’s not.

How to tell if your cat is in pain 

Cats may be in pain because of many health conditions such as arthritis, dental problems, urinary tract infections, bone diseases, and cancers. Here are some telltale signs that you should always watch for to know if your cat is in pain:

  • Vocalizing. In the way we cry or moan, a cat in pain may meow, purr, hiss, or growl.
  • Increased agitation. Cats may withdraw from social interaction, stop grooming, and fail to use the litter box.
  • Panting. Cats only breathe heavily or with an open mouth when they’re stressed, in pain, or overheated.
  • Decreased appetite. They may stop eating regular food that they usually like.
  • Decreased thirst. Felines often stop drinking any water or using their water fountain when they’re uncomfortable.
  • Lethargy. Your kitty may sleep more than usual, rarely moving from the same spot or position.
  • Aggression. They may act out of character, hiss, growl, or bite family members.
  • Protective. They’re not putting weight on their paws and won’t let you pick them up or pet them.
  • Signs of distress. They limp, keep one eye shut, or tilt their head to one side.
  • Straining. They strain to urinate or defecate.
  • Hiding. They won’t come out from under the bed, a closet, or some other tight corner where you can’t reach them.

What to do if you think your cat is hurting

If your cat is experiencing any of the above symptoms and you believe they may be in pain, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your cat’s vet right away. A veterinarian will be able to determine what’s going on with your cat and what may be causing their discomfort. According to AVMA , a new scoring system can even help veterinarians use a cat’s facial expression to determine how much pain they’re in.

Your cat’s veterinarian will likely conduct an examination and run tests like blood work, X-rays, or scans. Remember, no sign is too small, so if you notice even the smallest thing off about your cat’s behavior, please let a vet know.

👉 Cats often try to hide the fact that they’re in pain. The habit may be an evolutionary holdover because felines in the wild who are sick or injured are vulnerable to prey.

Tips to keep your cat healthy

There are many ways cat parents can keep their felines happy and healthy. Here are a few ways to ensure you’re doing the best to keep your cat in tip-top health:

Check that your cat is eating — Are they eating all their food and not skipping meals?

Make sure your cat stays hydrated —  Water is essential to cats, and dehydration can cause many health problems. Cats should drink 4 ounces of water per 5 pounds of body weight  each day. Make sure you replace your cat’s water daily.

👉  Consider buying a cat water fountain to encourage your cat to drink more water 

Playtime contributes to your cat’s happiness — Make time to play with your cat using their favorite toy, string, or catnip. Playing chase a string or rolling a kitty ball keeps them active, enriches their environment, and helps them bond with you.

Provide parasite prevention — Parasite protection is easy to administer and effective in keeping your cat healthy and itch-free. It’s essential to protect your cat from ticks and parasites.

Keep their litter box spic and span — Cats are naturally clean animals and prefer a regularly cleaned litter box. What’s more, when you regularly maintain their litter box, you can keep tabs on digestion issues and urinary problems.

Don’t skip their annual exam — Just like humans need medical tests and exams, your cat needs to see the vet annually. This is especially important as they age so they can receive needed screening tests and vaccinations.

Frequently asked questions

How can you tell if an animal has a headache?

Since we can’t ask them, cat parents need to watch for signs that their kitty could have a headache or be in pain. Things like not letting you pet their head, pushing their head into the wall or whining, and acting sluggish or agitated could be signs of pain.

What should you do if you think your cat is in pain?

The best thing you can do if you suspect your cat is in pain is to see your cat’s veterinarian right away, or if it’s after hours, head to the emergency vet hospital. Different types of pain need different types of treatment and medication. Never administer pain medication without consulting a vet.

What are the signs of pain in cats?

Cats can display many different signs of pain including vocalizing, lethargy, decreased eating or thirst, panting, aggression, acting off or strange, and protecting some area of the body like a paw or their head.