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Is Your Cat In Pain? New Signs To Tell

Feb 26, 2016 12:02 PM EST

Is your cat in pain? Many people are familiar with their pets' individual personalities, habits and preferences, and can even tell when something is wrong. However, an international team of veterinary scientists have created a list of 25 important behavioral signs they believe will help pet owners quickly diagnose problems, treat illnesses, and ultimately reduce any pain or suffering their feline friend is experiencing.

"Both owners and veterinarians are clearly able to recognize many behavioral changes in cats which relate to pain. However, owners may not always recognize the clinical relevance of what they see," Daniel Mills, professor of Veterinary Behavioral Medicine at the University of Lincoln's School of Life Sciences, said in a news release. "For example, they may view the changes as an inevitable part of natural ageing and not report them to the vet as a concern, or at least not until the behaviors become quite severe. We hope that having an agreed list of more objective criteria, which relates to specific signs of pain, could improve the ability of both owners and vets to recognize it." 

With repeated behavioral analyses, researchers revealed 25 key "sufficient" signs, which indicate a cat is in pain. This includes the absence of grooming, hunched-up posture, avoiding bright areas, change in feeding behavior and difficulty to jump, for example. Their study suggests being able to evaluate a set of behaviors, rather than a single symptom, is much more reliable for assessing your pet's pain. 

"Throughout the study, we consulted a variety of international experts so that we could be sure the signs were universal indicators of pain," Mills added in the University of Lincoln's release. "By creating this core set of signs, we lay the foundation for future studies into the early detection of pain in cats, using scales which are crucially based on natural, non-invasive, observations."

"Cats are notorious for not showing that they are in pain, and the more that we can find out what the signals are, then the sooner we can get them to the vets for diagnosis and treatment," Caroline Fawcett, Chairman of the cat charity Feline Friends, which supported the study, added. "There is a long way still to go before the more subtle signs can be identified, but we are really excited about progress to date. The team at Lincoln is highlighting its dedication to cat welfare by tackling this extremely difficult project."

Their findings were recently published in the journal PLOS ONE

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