Pain (Acute, Chronic and Postoperative) in Cats

By PetMD Editorial on Mar. 2, 2009

Sharp/Sudden Pain, Long Term Pain or Pain Following a Surgical Procedure in Cats

One of the biggest challenges in animal care is determining the source of your cat's pain. This is partly due to their limited ability to convey the pain. Cats vary greatly in their specific responses to pain, and the animal's age, species, experience, and current environment will also affect their response levels. There are numerous causes of pain; most are commonly associated with tissue damage. Treatment options are available that can help to reduce the amount of pain that your cat is experiencing.

The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects dogs please visit this page in the PetMD pet health library.

Symptoms and Types

The most common sign that a cat is in pain will be a vocal cue or a sign of significant agitation. Some cats will become extremely sensitive to touch and stimuli that would normally not cause them any discomfort. Cats that are experiencing long-term pain may exhibit signs of depression, reduction in appetite, trembling, and even biting/snapping when someone reaches out to pet them. Cats that are experiencing a sudden, sharp pain may experience rapid, shallow breathing, a rise in blood pressure and an increased heart rate.


Pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, including injury, degenerative issues in the animal's tissues, blunt trauma, or following surgery or medical treatment.


Since pain is challenging to diagnose, veterinarians will often complete a full physical examination to rule out biological causes for the pain.


There are a variety of medications that can be used to assist animals in managing their pain and responses to pain. If it has been determined that there is an underlying cause of the pain, it will be treated simultaneously. In some cases surgery is used to reduce the pain source. While the cat is recovering, limited movement and physical activity is recommended.

Living and Management

Padded bedding and a comfortable environment can help to reduce the cat's pain. Some bandaging may be used to reduce pressure and swelling, ultimately reducing pain for the cat as well. If the animal's weight is causing joint pain, a weight reduction diet may be recommended.

Each cat will react differently to the type and dosage level of the prescribed pain medication. Monitor your pet's response to the medication and talk with your veterinarian if you believe your animal is having a negative reaction or is still experiencing a high amount of pain. If the pain is severe and treatment is not helping, many owners choose to put their cats to sleep (euthanise).


If you know that your animal has been injured, it can be helpful to seek out a pain management treatment quickly. This can help reduce the pain.

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