Screaming in Pain

This morning, as I was getting ready to go to work, I put the kitten that has recently adopted me outside on my patio so that she wouldn’t use my living room as her bathroom and, while I was closing the door, she tried to dart back in only to get caught which, obviously, made her yell out in pain.

After making sure she was okay, I got to thinking about why it is that animals, including humans, scream, yell, or otherwise vocalize their pain when getting hurt. What’s its purpose? I do it just like everyone else but it’s never made me feel any better, which is the only possible reason I can think to explain it.

Tangentially, wouldn’t it even be dangerous in the wild as it would allow possible predators to know you’re wounded and somewhere nearby?

Or to call for help and let people know your injured?

If screaming has developed to summon help, you might expect social animals to scream that much more than loner animals, who wouldn’t have anyone about to help. Now I just need a range of critters and a patio door to test my hypothesis…

another possible reason for reflex screaming is to scare away the animal that is biting you or enemy that has just hit you

Screaming also notifies the inflictor of pain to stop. In your example, you were inadvertently causing the kitty pain, and when it cried out, you stopped hurting it.

There also doesn’t seem to be a down side to screaming from pain. If a lion is eating you, you don’t have to worry about giving away your position by screaming, because your position is in its mouth. So you might as well have a good scream, cause it’s so crazy it just might work.

I’m screaming with the pain
Just screaming with the pain
What a horrible feeling
It’s driving me insane…

I dont know about you, but screaming really makes me feel better.

I’d think in the animal kingdom it would be a disadvantage to scream or yowl when injured. I’d think it would send a signal to it’s enemies “I’m injured, if you want to eat me I’m right here and in no condition to fight back or flee.”

As madmonk28 said, if you’re already being eaten, it doesn’t really matter.

I don’t know many people who actually scream after the inital shock of the pain. After the scream, most people moan (or bitch in the case of humans :smiley: ). I know when I get hurt I might start screaming/swearing but after that, I normally moan to my GF to make it all better :smiley:

There are animal distress calls sold for the purpose of bringing in predators, so you can shoot them. :eek:
See here:

No cite, but I distinctly remember at least one of my pregnancy books saying that screaming releases endorphins. I took that as permission to emit a few window-rattling Bmovie queen quality screams during a few of the really intense moments of my labor. I sure felt better at the time, but that might well have been just the fun of scaring the nurses with sheer volume. :slight_smile:

This fits in with something I once read, and wish I could find a cite for (I’ve been combing through my bookshelves.)

One author speculated that a screaming animal has a slight chance of attracting other predators which might distract their attacker long enough for the animal to escape.

I would be really surprised if screaming and cursing didn’t release endorphines. The thought of offering a blessing on a piece of furniture when I stump my toe gives me no comfort at all. Condemning a hardwood desk to eternal damnation sort of sets up a little bit of a block to the pain before it can hit full force. I have no cite for that. Just instinct.

And I have also experienced helpful screaming. When I could feel gall bladder attacks coming on, I used to excuse myself with a warning to my husband that went something like:

“I’ll be back. It’s the gall bladder again. I have to go scream for a while. Don’t worry. It will pass.”

Then I would get on my hands and knees on the bed and scream into a pillow for about ten minutes – or however long it took.


Try looking through your Jared Diamond books. I know that is where I read it, but I do not remember which one.


Not to mention serving as an urgent warning to any of your fellow prey animals who didn’t see the ocelot clamp onto your cottontail that they should probably vacate the area forthwith.