Stealth Pain


Like most cats, Maggie is great at hiding pain. At her annual physical, the doctor checked her mouth and noticed an angry, red sore on her lower gum. Ouch! I had no idea there was a problem causing her pain and since it was towards the back of her mouth I had not seen the sore. Because of this, Maggie had a dental that included extracting a tooth.

Now that the tooth is out, I realize it was bothering her. She sleeps on the bed with me, and she now snuggles when she gets up there. Before the extraction she did not like her face being touched. Now she wants her ears, chin, and cheeks scratched. Maggie was sending me little clues but I was not catching on.


So why do cats hide pain so well? If we think about it from their point of view it makes sense. At home we often see our little hunters stalking their toys and pouncing on bugs. In fact, in nature they are also the hunted. Cats are one of the middle species in nature’s food chain, predators to smaller animals like mice but prey to larger animals like coyotes.

Showing pain is a great way for animals in the wild to be targeted. I think of it as Mother Nature painting a bull’s eye on the painful one. Our kitty gene pool is made up of cats whose ancestors survived. Those were the cats that were stoic, hiding their pain and avoiding their predators. It is not in their character to come whining to us that they have a little boo-boo. So we frequently don’t know our fur baby is hurting until it is bad.

It is not always fun trying to get a cat to the veterinarian. When we do manage to complete the visit amid all the kitty drama and receive a clean bill of health, it is hard not to wonder why we bother. The truth is, getting that clean bill of health is a good thing. It means your fur baby is healthy and you are doing what you can to prevent problems.


If you cat is a drama queen when it comes to visiting the vet, let us know when you book your appointment. We can explain methods to help acclimate cats to their carriers, we can send home pheromones to help calm your kitty, and in extreme cases we can even give your kitty anti-anxiety medication to help get through the trauma. Problems are typically easier and less expensive to treat if diagnosed early. When dealing with experts at hiding pain, a full physical performed at least annually may be the only way a problem will be noted before it is serious. For Maggie, I’ve stepped up her reminders so that she will be seeing a veterinarian at least every six months.