Common Cat Pains That Are Hard to Notice

Learn these common sources of pain in cats.

Cats are masters at hiding pain and discomfort. They do that because, in the wild, if they acted sick, they'd be vulnerable to predators. This trait means that it's sometimes hard to tell when cats are having a hard time with something.

It's good to know some of the common things that occur with cats that can cause pain or illness, so you'll know what to watch out for and where to look for a problem. Below are some common cat conditions that can hide, along with their main signs.

Cat Bite Abscess

When a cat bites another cat, the tooth punctures the skin and deposits bacteria under it. The skin heals over quickly, sealing the infection inside. Over the next few days, pus develops as the infection worsens.

Abscesses can be hard to find on cats because their fur easily hides the telltale soft bulge until it bursts and drains or the kitty licks off the fur from the area. Here are some of the signs to watch out for that can indicate an abscess wound:

  • Fever
  • Inappetence
  • Lethargy
  • Grumpiness when approached
  • Limping
  • Swelling of some area of the body, which can be hard to find. Common spots are the face, paws, and over the tailhead

Ingrown Claws

A cat's claws grown continuously unless they are constantly worn down or trimmed. As a kitty gets older and doesn't use the claws as much, they can sometimes curl all the way around and puncture the pads under the toes or feet. The result is pain and, eventually, infection.

The signs of an ingrown claw in a cat can include:

  • Limping
  • Inappetence
  • Lying around more

Urinary Tract Obstruction

This is an extremely dangerous condition that occurs in male cats. It can sometimes happen in females as well, but it's much more common in males because they have a longer, narrower urethra (the tube from the bladder to the outside world). When the urethra becomes clogged by bladder stones, crystals, bacteria, blood, and/or cells, it's impossible for the bladder to empty. Urine backs up into the kidneys, causing them to fail rapidly. A cat can go into shock and die from a urinary tract obstruction shockingly quickly.

The signs of this condition include:

  • Crying, yowling, and pacing
  • Getting in and out of the litter box without producing urine
  • Not eating
  • Collapse
  • Panting

If your cat is crying and getting in and out of the litter box, it could be a life-threatening emergency, so it's crucial that you call a vet right away.

Dental Conditions

Dental problems can be a hidden source of pain and infection in cats. From loose and rotting teeth to tooth root abscesses and stomatitis (a painful inflammation of the soft tissue in the oral cavity), mouth problems are common in cats. However, because most people don't often look inside their cat's mouths, problems there can hide for a while.

Signs of dental problems in cats can include:

  • Foul mouth odor
  • Dropping food
  • Passing food from one side of the mouth to the other
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth with a front foot
  • Food avoidance
  • Lethargy

Be sure your vet checks your cat's mouth at every visit so dental issues can be addressed early.

Healthy Paws Pet Insurance and Foundation.
Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.