Cats are masters of disguise. Identifying signs of pain can be a challenge to pet parents.

For centuries, wild cats have masked their pain, so they're not seen as weak and vulnerable.

As kitties have become domesticated royalty, they still hold on to their desire to maintain a brave face.

So it can be a challenge managing your pet's discomfort and knowing which medication to give them for relief.

Signs Your Cat is in Pain

While you may not understand every meow and your pet cannot report their specific pain, it is essential to know your cat's health history so that when there is the slightest change, then you're aware of it.

Reporting minor behavioral alterations and comparing it to their history will help you and your vet to identify pain and manage it.

Here are some signs that you can look out for that might indicate that your favorite feline is in pain. 

  • Loss of appetite

  • Withdrawal and hiding

  • Reduced mobility

  • General reluctance for their usual exercise or activities, including jumping on counters etc. 

  • Difficulty walking

  • Inflammation or a protrusion on their body

  • Reduced grooming habits, or excessive grooming in a particular area

  • Changes in urination and defecation

  • Fast-paced breathing

  • Squinting, bloodshot eyes, or other changes to the pupils

  • Hunched sleeping posture

  • Sensitivity to touch; will bite, hiss, or cry when touched in certain areas

  • Behavioral changes - depressed or grumpy

  • Increased purring

  • Tail flicking

Reading your cat's body language and facial expression can indicate a lot.

A helpful and straightforward pain scale by the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh can help you to do a home assessment of your kitty's composure.

Ears down and a tense muzzle are indications of a painful expression.

What Causes Pain in Cats?

Pain in your cat is classified into three types: acute, chronic, or persistent.

Acute pain is sudden and short-lived. Acute pain exists during inflammation and healing. It is usually brought on by:

  • Injuries - such as a broken bone or an exposed wound

  • Trauma

  • Recovery after a surgical procedure

  • Acute medical conditions or diseases

  • Urinary Tract Infections

  • Feline Dental Disease

  • Constipation could cause pain when your cat tries to go to the toilet.

  • Ear Infections can be excruciating for cats and dogs, mainly if the infection has spread to the middle or inner ear. 

  • Urethral Obstructions are life-threatening and need immediate emergency care. 

  • Kidney stones

Chronic pain continues past the expected period of healing, or in parts of their body where healing will not occur. Chronic pain needs careful management.

Persistent pain in a cat is pain that is experienced due to a non-response to curative treatment.

Palliative care seeks to improve comfort even though an illness, and the accompanying pain, cannot be cured.

Palliative care is often instigated at the end of a cat's life. It can include pharmacologic (medications) as well as nonpharmacologic care to put your pet at ease and make them comfortable. The type of care can consist of massage, feline acupuncture, therapeutic laser, and more. 

Over-the-Counter Medicine

Never give your cat medication without first consulting your veterinarian.

Stay away from your human first aid box when it comes to treating your cats or dogs. Giving your pet the incorrect drugs can lead to toxic poisoning and even death.

The same goes for administering incorrect dosages. Follow your vet's prescription and monitor your pet for any side-effects. Report any concerns to your veterinary emergency center. 

Over the counter medications and products, such as Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, or NSAIDs, are medications that relieve pain. Avoid the following NSAIDs and other pain-relieving medications:

Ibuprofen - Found in Advil, Motrin and Nuprin

Ibuprofen is the number one common toxicoses for cats and dogs.

Overdose of this anti-inflammatory NSAID can cause gastrointestinal, renal, and central nervous system effects in cats.

Acetaminophen/Paracetomol - Found in Tylenol, Benadryl, Panadol

Acetaminophen dosages for humans can be lethal if given to a cat for pain relief.

Asprin

Aspirin can sometimes be safely administered for cats and dogs if you obey the lowest effective dose.

However, it needs to be given with extreme caution and with close supervision. Salicylates are the active ingredient in aspirin, and since cats metabolize the drug very slowly, the effects can lead to severe problems. 

Potential side effects of NSAIDs in cats include depression, vomiting, swollen face and paws, salivation, coma, liver damage, anorexia, diarrhea, and death.

It is not worth the risk to help your cat by administering some of your human paracetamol. Instead, use a holistic treatment that is safer until you can contact the vet to discuss further pain relief options. 

Prescription Medicine for Pain in Cats

The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery suggests "a careful selection of NSAIDs and their dose" for addressing the pain in your cat. They also state in their journal that "patient selection, dose titration, and ongoing monitoring for the early signs of toxicity are essential."

The problem is that your cat's reaction to a drug is unknown until they take it. Drug tests have been more extensive for canines than it has been for felines, so the full side-effects are still being researched. If, at any point, your pet displays the side effect to a drug, stop it immediately and intervene with a call to your vet.

Your vet might prescribe one of the following painkillers for your feline companion:

Licensed Short-Term NSAIDs for Cats

Carprofen (also known as RIMADYL) is a canine product that is rarely prescribed for cats. 

Tolfenamic Acid relieves pain and shows anti-cancer activity for pets. It can also be an adjuvant treatment of upper respiratory tract disease. 

Robenacoxib is used for the control of inflammation and chronic pain in dogs and cats. 

Ketoprofen and Meloxicam are also NSAIDs for cats that you might come across.

The side effects of these NSAIDs may include:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Aggression

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Ulcers

  • Kidney Damage

  • Liver Damage.

Opioids for Cats

Opioids for cats include Tramadol, Hydrocodone, Codeine, Hydrochloride, Oxycodone, Fentanyl for the management of pain, and cough in animals.

They can also be prescribed after surgery for chronic conditions.

Side-effects for Opioids may include hypersalivation, nausea, vomiting, respiratory depression, and postanaesthetic hyperthermia.

Steroids

Corticosteroids can be applied topically, orally, or injected for the relief of inflammation, especially for join pain. 

Prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone, and triamcinolone are some steroid medications. These medications require a prescription.

Side effects may include stomach ulcers, immune suppression, delayed wound healing, thyroid hormone suppression,  increased appetite, fluid retention, weak bones, and thinning hair/hair loss.

Gabapentin

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant used to treat seizures. It is also used to treat chronic pain in cats and dogs. Side effects include mild sedation, ataxia, and occasional diarrhea.

Our Top Tips When Medicating Your Kitty:

  • Only give the lowest effective dosage.

  • Always medicate your pet during mealtime unless otherwise advised. If your pet won't eat, skip the drugs and contact your vet.

  • Ensure adequate water intake. 

  • Ask your vet what side-effects you should look out for with the drug they're prescribed. Understand your role in monitoring safe medication use. 

  • Always disclose other medications that you're giving your pet to make sure that the combination of drugs won't have undesirable reactions. 

  • Always visit the official website of any drug you're prescribed for your pet for the most up-to-date information on the medication as well as the latest reported side effects.

8 Natural Pain Relievers for Cats

As their closest companion, you need to assess the degree of your pet's pain and consult your veterinarian.

Minor pain and discomfort may be assisted and relieved with holistic pain relief. 

Holistic options are becoming more and more popular, and today you can find natural products with herbal and plant-based ingredients, commonly referred to as nutraceuticals. 

Nutraceuticals describe any product from a food source that happens to have health benefits. Side effects are typically less than they would be when using pharmaceuticals.

Nutraceuticals are also more easily accessible, thanks to the growing prevalence of holistic retailers both online and offline.

Always administer small doses and monitor any changes or side-effects, even with homeopathic options. 

When it comes to offering your fluffy cat holistic alternatives for their pain, here are some options:

1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Adding some oily fatty acids to your feline's diet can reduce inflammatory mediators involved in causing pain and inflammation, especially for joint pain.

Fish oil and flaxseed oil are great sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids. 

2. Green Lipped Muscle Extract (GLME)

Also rich in Omega 3, GLME also contains glucosamine sulfate, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants.

Nutraceuticals with Glucosamine help maintain cartilage structure and slow deterioration, thereby reducing pain. 

3. Turmeric

Tumeric is well known for its ability to promote a healthy inflammatory response in both humans and animals. It can also relieve occasional discomfort or stiffness associated with exercise or normal aging.

Tumeric can be administered in many ways, by making a paste, buying products that contain it, or buying pre-made turmeric oils. 

4. Licorice Root

Licorice root assists the body's production of cortisol, a natural steroid.

The phytosterol compounds in this natural ingredient regulate inflammation in joints and can also help with allergies

5. Ginger

This common household root has excellent properties that can help with occasional discomfort and stiffness associated with normal aging.

You can make a ginger tea to add to your cat's food, sprinkle their food with powdered ginger, or source products that contain it. 

6. Microlactin

Microlactin is a name given to the milk protein from the milk of hyperimmunized cows. The unique proteins in this milk appear to decrease joint pain and stiffness.

This natural option is becoming more popular in veterinary medicine. Duralactin is a supplement with this ingredient. 

7. Yucca

A great natural choice for both canines and feline friends, Yucca helps with arthritis and joint pain and reduces inflammation. 

8. Devils's Claw

This herb contains chemicals that reduce inflammation and swelling that causes pain.

It is safe for cats and dogs and can be found in many holistic supplements. 

Physical Comfort Measures

Make your cat's life comfortable by raising water and food bowls, limiting their movement, and lifting them if they seem to want to reach higher surfaces. These are all things you should especially do if your cat is recovering from any type of injury or surgery.

In addition to holistic measures, palliative care such as acupuncture, physical therapy, massage therapy, hydrotherapy, and aromatherapy can assist in making your kitty comfortable.

Always speak to your holistic vet about these options and heed their advice if your cat requires prescription medication.  

No one likes to see their furbaby in pain, but with the guidelines covered above, you'll be well on your way to changing your cat's "me-OW!" to a purrfect and pain-free recovery. 

Sources

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17451496/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5003001/

http://www.petmd.com/cat/centers/nutrition/evr_ct_which-pain-meds-for-cats

https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/AAFP-How-do-I-know-if-my-cat-is-in-pain.pdf

https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/palliative-care-for-cats

https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/osteoarthritis-cats-more-common-disease-you-might-expect

https://www.1800petmeds.com/education/pain-relief-steroids-dog-cat-2.html