What Is Acupuncture for Cats?

Acupuncture is a treatment that has been available for thousands of years and is often used with traditional/Western medicine. Veterinary acupuncture is used for a wide variety of conditions in many pets, including dogs and cats.

A veterinarian who has additional training or certification in veterinary acupuncture can help you to decide whether your cat would benefit from this treatment. It is often used for both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) conditions, but it may not be used as a primary form of care in emergencies.


What Is Acupuncture for Cats?

Acupuncture is a medical treatment in which very tiny, sterile needles are put into acupuncture points. These “acupoints” are spots on the body that each have specific effects on muscles, joints, and connective tissues, as well as internal organs and the central nervous system. Each acupuncture point often has more than one specific action. A trained veterinarian will develop a plan of acupuncture points specific to your cat and their condition. Research has shown that acupuncture point selection has a great effect on the outcome of treatment.

Acupuncture treatments are shown to increase circulation (blood flow), release hormones (like endorphins), relieve muscle tension/spasms, and stimulate nerves The results of treatment can be especially useful for pain control, decreasing inflammation (swelling), and reducing anxiety in your cat.

What Conditions Does Acupuncture Treat in Cats?

Acupuncture is helpful for a wide variety of conditions. Contacting a veterinarian trained in acupuncture can help you decide if acupuncture treatment is advisable.

Acupuncture can help cats with common conditions including:

How Acupuncture for Cats Works

If you think that your cat can benefit from acupuncture treatments, the first step is to find a licensed veterinarian who has acupuncture training. This often involves hundreds of hours of continuing education and hands-on experience after completing veterinary school.

Several schools have programs that  train and certify veterinarians, and a few of these programs are listed below. The veterinarian will help you figure out whether your cat may be helped and can explain their recommended course of treatments. Some veterinarians offer acupuncture in their clinic and others make house calls.

During an appointment, the veterinarian will perform a thorough exam and likely ask you many questions about your cat’s health, habits, medical history, and current concerns. Then, the veterinarian will come up with a treatment plan and place the acupuncture needles. There are several forms of acupuncture, including dry needle, aquapuncture, electroacupuncture, and laserpuncture.

  • Dry needle acupuncture involves very small sterile needles. These are not the kind of needles that are used for vaccines or injections (known as hypodermic needles). They have no opening into the needle and insert very quickly into acupuncture points.

  • Aquapuncture involves injecting a liquid substance into acupuncture points for prolonged stimulation of that acupoint.

  • Electroacupuncture involves connecting a few needles via leads and delivering a stronger stimulus to the needles. This is often very helpful in painful or paretic (paralyzed) conditions.

  • Laserpuncture involves using a cold laser device to stimulate acupuncture points and can be very helpful for animals that do not like needles.

Areas the veterinarian focuses on during an appointment will depend on your cat and their needs. The doctor may utilize acupoints along the cat’s back, on their limbs, or around their face. After a treatment, the veterinarian may make recommendations for changes you can make at home and will recommend a schedule for your cat’s acupuncture.

It depends on the individual cat, but many pets require several treatments to gain positive benefits from acupuncture. Often the first few appointments are more frequent, and then treatments happen less often over time. Veterinarians tend to see more and longer lasting results over time.

How Much Does Cat Acupuncture Cost?

Veterinary acupuncture prices vary greatly, depending on your location and the extent of treatment your cat needs. Some veterinarians offer packages that can save you money over time. A range of $50–$300 can be expected for each treatment.

Veterinarians that offer acupuncture often offer other services that may be included or in addition to this treatment price, so it is recommended to ask what the pricing includes prior to booking appointments.

Is Acupuncture Treatment Right for My Cat?

Before an acupuncture treatment, spend time researching veterinarians in your area that offer these services. It helps to consider whether your pet will do best in a clinic setting or whether you should try to locate a veterinarian who will perform acupuncture in your home. While many cats can be treated in a clinic, they can be more comfortable if the treatment is done in their favorite cat bed or chair.

When speaking with your veterinarian, it is important to give them a history of what your cat is experiencing as well as what your goals and expectations are for treatment. Acupuncture can work on many different types of cases, and the only time it may not be recommended as a treatment option is in an emergency setting.

If your pet is experiencing a medical emergency, bring them to the nearest animal hospital. Acupuncture may be offered in some emergency settings alongside clinical care, and you can always follow up with your veterinary acupuncturist after urgent care is given.

To help you find a veterinary acupuncturist in your area, here are a few resources to help get you started:

American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture

Featured Image: iStock.com/Liudmila Chernetska

Katherine Smith, DVM, CVA, CVSMT


Katherine Smith, DVM, CVA, CVSMT


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