IS MY CAT INJURED OR IN PAIN?
Cats are notoriously independent. Often this is considered a positive reason to choose a cat as a pet over a more dependent animal. Unfortunately, there is a downside. Cats don’t like to show when they are injured or in pain and will go to great lengths to hide it. Thus, it is important for owners to be aware of their cat’s condition and cat injuries. James Wellbeloved has published the 10 most common injuries that cats endure. By understanding these injuries and how they impact cats’ behaviour, it is possible for owners to more easily spot whether a cat might be suffering.
Bleeding and scratch marks
Let’s begin with the most obvious sign of injury: bleeding. Cats, especially outdoor cats, are curious creatures who like to explore. This can result in a jump leading to a fall, catching on something sharp during a tight squeeze, or encountering a territorial animal. Generally, bleeding is obvious because the fur will be stained and the cat may leave marks around the house. Large wounds, especially bites from large animals, should be attended to by a vet urgently, while smaller wounds can be cleaned at home. Similarly, cats that are winking more or have bloodshot eyes may have a suffered an eye scratch. These can lead to long-term sight problems and infection, so should be treated quickly.
The “grooming” inspection
While different cats like varying levels of grooming and cuddles, few cats avoid them completely. Owners can use the opportunity to run their fingers through their cat’s fur and feel for any wounds. Also, bite marks from animals with smaller teeth, like other cats, tend to close up faster. This means they are less likely to bleed but bacteria can get trapped in the skin, eventually forming painful abscesses. Owners should check for broken nails, too. Breaks can lead to tears when they catch on a twig or a piece of carpet. Limping and/or bleeding are signs of obvious injury, but lesser tears are still painful and susceptible to infection.
Lastly, owners should use this opportunity to check cats’ teeth and gums for decay, breakages and bleeding. Periodontal disease affects 85% of cats at some point in their lifetime. It is more common in older cats who suffer a larger build up of plaque, but can also affect younger cats, especially if they suffer a broken tooth.
Awkward movement and poses
The most obvious sign a cat has damaged a bone or joint is with a limp. However, cats try to hide this by shifting their weight onto other limbs or avoiding walking and running as much as they can. Fortunately, there will be other clues: a change in their usual gait; reduced activity; and lying down in awkward positions.
Change in habits
Cats are creatures of habit. So, if a cat suddenly changes these habits, it may be the sign of injury or pain. For example, a cat that suddenly stops resting in a high space they normally enjoy might be struggling to jump because of an injury. Or a house trained cat that is drinking more and is unable to hold its urine could be suffering from kidney disease. No-one is better to able to spot this than an owner and there is no such thing as being too worried. Owners suspecting their cats have suddenly changed their habits should visit their vet for a more thorough inspection. Lack of appetite, lethargy and vomiting Few signs of illness or injury are more concerning than when a cat stops eating or drinking. Frequently, this is accompanied by lethargy and weight loss. Vomiting is also a common sign if cats have developed sickness or consumed something poisonous. In all cases, a trip to the vet is essential as some diagnoses can be serious. These same signs can also be exhibited by another common problem in cats: heat stroke. If a cat is hot to touch, has a redder-than-usual mouth or tongue and is breathing rapidly, they should be brought into a cool area and given plenty of fresh water to drink until their behaviour returns to normal. Forcing a cat to stay in a restricted and controlled space will only result in him or her becoming unhappy. Instead, owners can best help their cats by watching them carefully, having regular “grooming” inspections and reporting any changes in their habits to the vet. This allows the cat to maintain his or her independence while giving owners some power over their pet’s wellbeing.