You Make The Diagnosis: Owner Thinks This Cat Is In Pain

A client brought their 8 month old female kitten in for an examination because they thought she hurt her back. Two days ago, Blackie (not her real name) started arching her back and meowing loudly. Sometimes, she rolled around on the floor as if she couldn’t get comfortable. The behavior continued all day and all night keeping everyone in the family awake. The family fears she may have fallen out of her cat tree while playing with their other cat.

Prior to this, the kitten was a healthy happy girl. She was adopted at 8 weeks of age from a neighbor whose cat had kittens. She is FELV/FIV negative, fully vaccinated (rabies, FVRCP and FELV) and no ova or parasites were observed on the last fecal check.

Click here to watch the video of the kitten


Diagnosis: Heat (Estrus)

Female cats are called queens.  They typically go into heat around 10 months of age. Short-haired cats tend to start at younger ages than long-haired cats. Vocalizing, arching the back (lordosis), rubbing on objects and restlessness are all signs of heat. I recommended an emergency spay to stop the behavior and prevent unwanted pregnancy.

Cats have a different reproductive sequence then dogs. Cats are called “Induced Ovulators” which means eggs are released from the ovaries in response to breeding. This is different from dogs who are “spontaneous ovulators”. They release the eggs without vaginal stimulation. Because of this difference, queens will breed many times with several tomcats when in heat.  This results in littermates that look nothing like each other.


Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.