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Home > Cats > How Do Cats Feel Pain? Similarities With Humans & Signs to Look For

How Do Cats Feel Pain? Similarities With Humans & Signs to Look For

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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Felines can be pretty stoic creatures. We’ve all seen our cats hide somewhere when they’re not feeling well rather than giving us a heads up about it so we can help. Ever wondered why they do that? It’s because pain makes them seem weak, which makes them easier prey to predators (of course, there aren’t any likely predators in our households; blame those innate kitty instincts!).

You might have also wondered just how cats feel pain? Is it the same way we do? It is! Cats and humans physiologically process and feel pain in the same way since we both have receptors in the skin and other tissues that tell the brain when we come into contact with stimuli.


What Kinds of Pain Do Cats Feel?

Because cats and humans have similar nervous systems and brains, they feel the same types of pain we do: acute, chronic, and inflammatory.

Sick cat
Image By: Kachalkina Veronika, Shutterstock


Acute pain is the immediate sort of pain you experience when you step on a nail or slam the door on your fingers. It’s the right then and there, “Ouch, that really hurts!” type of pain. It’s meant to protect the body by reducing the amount of damage that can be done, which is why one starts limping or holding those fingers very still after an accident.


Chronic pain is the type of pain that continues for 3 months or more. Think arthritis pain or tendonitis; things like that.


Inflammation occurs in your body when the immune system is activated causing chemical and physiological changes in the tissue. This can happen in response to something like an injury, bacterial or other infections, surgery, or even when nothing is wrong.

sick cat with IV
Image By: Vladimir Gudvin, Shutterstock

How Can I Tell My Cat is in Pain?

Since our kitty friends are fond of hiding when they are in pain, it’s a good idea to know what signs to look for so you can get them to a vet. Here’s what you should be watching for:

  • Changes in their daily routines. Your pet may change the location of where they lounge for their afternoon nap because the old place is no longer comfortable. Or you might notice that your cat isn’t playing as much as they used to with you or other pets in the home. Your feline may also start to avoid stairs or jumping on furniture or cat trees because they’re too difficult to get up and down. Other daily routine changes to look out for include engaging less with the family, appetite changes, hiding more often, sleeping more, or going to the bathroom outside the litter box.
  • Limping or other unusual postures If your pet’s feet, legs, or hips are bothering them, it could cause them to limp. They could also change how they sleep to avoid pressure on an area that hurts or change how they walk to do the same.
  • They get louder. Your kitty may start meowing more often or even growl at family members unexpectedly.
  • Aggressive behavior. If your pet is suddenly hissing or growling at people they love or clawing and scratching when someone tries to handle them, there’s a good chance they are in pain and don’t want to be touched.



When it comes to the way cats feel pain, it’s pretty similar to humans. This is because our nervous systems and brains are nearly identical. So, cats are able to feel acute, chronic, and inflammatory pain like we do.

Since cats tend to hide when they’re in pain, though—as their instincts tell them it will make them look weak to predators—it’s up to us to figure out when they’re dealing with an injury. There are several signs that can tell you whether your feline pal is feeling pain, such as uncommon aggression, more vocalization, and unusual behavior. If your kitty is acting outside the norm, it might be a good time for a vet visit to ensure they’re feeling their best.

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Featured Image Credit: Jacco Rienks, Unsplash

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