A kitty in pain is famously difficult to deal with, for many reasons. Cats are known for hiding their discomfort — if possible a cat will proudly mask his symptoms and oftentimes his owner could go weeks without noticing anything is wrong. Another obstacle is that cats are allergic to a lot of the common pain meds taken by humans and dogs.
Therefore, the painkiller market is relatively limited for cats, so it’s important to educate yourself on some of the options, and what to avoid. It’s highly recommend to not medicate your cat on your own — seek professional care because cat pain is very serious and it could be the difference between life and death.
Why Treating Cat Pain Is So Important
Pain can be caused by a variety of factors and if not treated, can lead to negative consequences:
- If pain is chronic and ongoing, your cat will typically become more and more inactive
- Quality of life will suffer, often leading to depression
- Behavioral changes such as aggression or lethargy
- Loss of appetite leading to malnourishment
- Pain may limit your cat’s ability to recover from other illnesses or conditions
- Pain may become maladaptive, which means it has become its own disease, rather than the result of something. This makes treatment much more complicated and expensive
- The relationship you have with your cat will almost certainly change as a result of their mental symptoms
How to Know If Your Cat Is In Pain
Cats are proud and instinctive animals who hide their pain because they don’t want predators to know that they are weak. Even though your little fur baby lives a safe life at home, he still carries this instinct. Here are some things to help you notice your kitty is in pain:
- Loss of appetite
- Easily agitated or quick to become aggressive, especially when touched
- Increased heart rate
- Abnormal breathing (i.e. panting)
- Hiding or being withdrawn more than usual
- Changes in the way they move
- Personality changes or behavioral differences
- Random yowling or yowling when going to the bathroom
- Abnormal stool or urine characteristics
If your cat is not currently exhibiting these symptoms and he has a clean bill of health, that’s usually a good time to make note of their healthy behaviors. That way you’ll know how to spot the differences when they come up.
How Cat Pain Is Treated
Common Medications for Cat Pain
Since every medical case and every cat is different, each course of treatment will vary. However, there are certain things you can expect at the vet as well as a variety of different treatment methods typically prescribed.
The most commonly prescribed pain meds are called Metacam and Ketofen. In certain controlled situations, morphine and other opioids are used, but due to differences in their genetic makeup, opiates aren’t quite as effective and can have some serious negative side effects.
Alternative Treatments for Pain in Cats
Believe it or not, acupuncture is being used as of late to help cure kitty pain. It’s usually used in conjunction with pharmaceutical drugs – particularly when applied to physical injury of joints and muscles. Like in humans, muscle massages and other tissue strengthening techniques can be effective, especially when coupled with heat therapy.
Providing nurse-like care is another effective method. This includes frequent cleaning of fur and environment, a warm bed, relaxing petting, grooming, comfortable surroundings, etc. This all leads to decreased tension in the body – opening the door for quicker healing.
Sometimes the most effective healing method your doctor can prescribe is diet and exercise — it has a powerful ability to reduce inflammation in the body. This is especially effective if your cat is older or overweight and his joints are suffering.
What to Avoid When Treating Pain in Cats
Cat owners love their cats and will often be tempted to give their little friends a quick fix. Do not give into this urge, as it can be fatal. Avoid these common pain medications such as:
- Tylenol – Even one tylenol can kill a cat by destroying liver cells, damaging kidneys, and ultimately limiting oxygen flow within the bloodstream.
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories – Aspirin or ibuprofen) – The side effects on cats are extreme and these are only rarely used in a doctor-controlled setting when all other pain medications are no longer an option.
The best thing you can do as a cat owner is know your cat’s behaviors and tendencies inside and out. That way, even when your proud, instinctual kitty wants to hide his pain, you’ll know how to spot it. Always consult a veterinarian if you think something is wrong, and never put it off, because pain is usually a sign of something serious.
- “Pain Management for Cats.” CVA Hospital, Accessed 7 Oct. 2018. www.vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/pain-management-for-cats.
- “What Can I Give My Cat for Pain?” PetMD, 29 Mar. 2018, Accessed 7 Oct. 2018. www.petmd.com/cat/centers/nutrition/evr_ct_which-pain-meds-for-cats.
- “Pain Meds for Cats.” WebMD, Accessed 7 Oct. 2018. www.pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/safe-cat-pain-medications#1.
- “Cat Pain Relief | What to Do If Your Pet Is Hurting.” Mercola.com, Accessed 7 Oct. 2018. www.healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2012/02/03/how-to-know-if-your-cat-is-in-pain-and-what-to-do-about-it.aspx.
- Foster, Bethney. “What Do Vets Give Cats for Pain?” Pets The Nest, 14 July 2016, Accessed 7 Oct. 2018. www.pets.thenest.com/vets-give-cats-pain-7214.html.