As a cat owner, the health and well-being of your feline companion is priority number one, so when they start showing signs they may be in physical pain, bringing them comfort is vitally important.
Unfortunately, cats can be masters of hiding their pain, so it’s essential to know how to spot the often-subtle signs that they may be hurting.
If you think your cat may be experiencing discomfort, the next step is to contact your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian can make an assessment and advise you on what to give cats for pain.
Signs Your Cat May Be in Pain
Spotting signs of pain in your cat can sometimes be tricky but not impossible. If you observe your cats day-to-day activities, you may start to notice some tell-tale signs. Indicators your cat may be in pain include:
- Decreased appetite
- Stiffness or limping
- Loss of interest in playing
- Meowing, hissing or other vocalizations when they’re touched
- Aggression, such as hissing or biting when approached, touched, picked up or held
- Difficulty entering or exiting the litter box
- Disinterest in grooming or grooming specific areas of the body
- Repeated licking or biting a specific area of the body
- Difficulty jumping on or off furniture
- Loss of coordination
- Hiding or avoidance of social interaction with people or other household pets
If you notice any of these behaviors, it’s time to call your veterinarian for a diagnosis and find out if pain treatment options will be necessary.
Pain Treatment Options for Cats
If your veterinarian determines your cat is in pain, they will likely prescribe your cat analgesics to take the edge off while treating the root cause. It should be noted that cat owners should never administer pain relievers unless their veterinarian has prescribed them.
Analgesics are drugs used for the specific purpose of offering pain relief. There are a few different classes of analgesics, depending on the underlying cause of the pain. These include:
- Opioid-Based Painkillers: Demerol, codeine and morphine are all examples of opioid-based painkillers that are considered narcotics and are only used to treat severe or chronic pain. As such, these drugs cannot be purchased without a prescription. Cats suffering from surgical pain, advanced forms of cancer, or, less commonly, extreme arthritis pain are most likely to be prescribed opioids.
- NSAIDs: Cat-specific nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used to manage mild to moderate pain by reducing inflammation. These drugs are often prescribed for muscle aches, arthritis and to help reduce fever in cats. Be aware that aspirin can have unpredictable side effects for cats and should never be administered to a cat unless instructed by a veterinarian.
- Supplements: Supplementation can help prevent or at least lessen the pain caused by arthritis. Since arthritis is a common malady for older cats, many pet owners feel giving their cat supplements is a necessary part of keeping their cat happy and healthy. Among the most popular supplements for cats are omega-3 fatty acids, chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine.
Other Pain Management Options for Cats
While pain medications are often helpful for treating pain in cats, there are additional approaches. Some of these techniques can be used in tandem with medication or be used on their own if your veterinarian decides medication isn’t necessary. These include:
Massage Therapy: Yep, just like their human friends, cats can benefit from a massage. Whether this means visiting a feline massage practitioner or learning a few cat massage techniques on your own, many pet owners believe massage therapy has helped with pain. Whether helping improve their range of motion by moving their joints or applying a medium touch to sore muscles, massage therapy may ease discomfort while giving you and your cat some quality bonding time.
Acupuncture: While some cats may be a tad suspicious of an acupuncturist, the ancient Chinese art of acupuncture can be effective for soothing soreness. Acupuncture involves gently and painlessly inserting needles at energy points throughout the body. This treatment helps reduce pain while helping their cats become more relaxed, social or alert.
Physical Rehabilitation: In some cases, physical rehabilitation may be beneficial for your cat. Through the use of therapeutics and certain exercises, a certified professional can alleviate pain and strengthen the body. Purina Senior Veterinarian RuthAnn Lobos, DVM, CCRT, CVAT is certified in physical rehabilitation for pets and emphasizes its benefits. “Physical rehabilitation can help the pet build muscle, stretch tight areas, and restore their confidence in using the affected area comfortably again,” she notes. A personalized plan for your specific pet combined with home exercises can help your cat return to bouncing and pouncing as quickly as possible.
Using warm and/or cold compresses can be another way to alleviate pain. Talk to your veterinarian about which might be more helpful for your cat and their specific condition.
Pain, illness and injury are sometimes an unavoidable part of the life of every living creature. Fortunately, by keeping a close eye on your cat and being proactive about calling your veterinarian, you can do your part to comfort them and keep their suffering to a minimum.