Experts offer consensus on 25 behavioral signs of pain in cats

Published on March 16, 2016
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​A new paper from the University of Lincoln in England offers a consensus from 19 international veterinary experts in feline medicine on signs of pain in cats.

“Behavioural signs of pain in cats: an expert consensus” appeared Feb. 24 in PLOS One, a multidisciplinary online journal of the Public Library of Science. 

According to the abstract, “Twenty-five signs were considered sufficient to indicate pain, but no single sign was considered necessary for it.” The signs are as follows:  

1. Lameness
2. Difficulty jumping
3. Abnormal gait
4. Reluctance to move
5. Reaction to palpation
6. Withdrawn or hiding
7. Absence of grooming
8. Playing less
9. Appetite decrease
10. Overall activity decrease
11. Less rubbing toward people
12. General mood
13. Temperament
14. Hunched-up posture
15. Shifting of weight
16. Licking a particular body region
17. Lower head posture
18. Blepharospasm (eyelid contractions)
19. Change in form of feeding behavior
20. Avoiding bright areas
21. Growling
22. Groaning
23. Eyes closed
24. Straining to urinate
25. Tail flicking 

The study concludes: “Twenty-five behavioural signs were considered by experts to be reliable and sensitive for the assessment of pain in cats, across a range of different clinical conditions. Some of these signs have been highlighted in previous scientific literature, but some arose from the experience and knowledge of experts. These results improve our knowledge of this topic, but further studies are necessary in order to evaluate their validity and clinical feasibility (especially in relation to different intensities of pain) to help vets and caregivers of cats recognize pain in this species effectively and as early as possible to maximise cat welfare.”

The study is available here.  

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