Cats are very good at hiding their pain. It can be difficult for owners and vets to determine the severity of a cat’s pain, and many often look to body language as a key.
Besides the position in which they hold their bodies, a cat’s face can also show signs of pain. A cat’s facial muscle structure does not allow for the kind of facial expressions seen in dogs, but there are ways to read signs of pain.
Veterinarians at the University of Montreal have developed a “Feline Grimace Scale” which allows vets to examine and rate 5 facial actions to determine pain on a scale of 0 to 10. The actions are:
- Ear position
- Eye tightening
- Muzzle tension
- Whisker position
- Head position
Vets can assess each element to determine the level of pain. For example, ears perked upwards and facing forward indicate no pain while ears flattened and rotated outwards indicate some degree of pain.
Check out this summary of the Feline Grimace Scale (including helpful visual aid illustrations) published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.