Symptoms of pain in a cat:

Here at Animal Medical Center, we encounter the need for cat pain management on a daily basis. Whether it is from arthritis, surgery pain or bladder pain from a stone, we address it to give the cat relief. Cats are wired to hide pain symptoms so sometimes it is difficult to know if pain is present. Below is a list of common signs that we look for to evaluate possible pain:


  • Meowing
  • Growling
  • Purring
  • Hissing


  • Decreased activity level
  • Restless, won’t settle down
  • Shaking and pacing
  • Clingy with owners
  • Won’t jump, can’t jump as high

Self Protection

  • Lays on or protects painful body part
  • Hides
  • Limps
  • Reluctance to be held

Daily Behavior and Attitude

  • Sleeps more
  • Sleeps less
  • Won’t eat normally
  • Lethargic
  • Panting
  • Aggressive
  • Less grooming
  • Excessive licking of painful area
  • Won’t use litterbox


  • Feet tucked under with head down
  • Arched back


Once we diagnose pain, first we try to figure out the cause. Sometimes just removing or treating the cause is all that is needed. For example, a cat that is painful with a urinary tract infection usually finds relief in the first 24 hours of antibiotic therapy. Many patients, however, need pain medication for immediate relief. This can be short-term use (as in surgery patients) or long term (as in arthritis patients.) Below is a list of common medications we use at Animal Medical Center.

Onsior– Considered a Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), Onsior provides
quick relief and also reduces inflammation. Cats are unique in the way they process
NSAIDS so much care has be taken when using these drugs. It is for this reason that
Onsior is used for short term relief of pain.

Gabapentin-This medication is used for pain associated with the nerves. We commonly
use this in pinched nerve cases and painful neck/back cases. It sometimes causes
drowsiness but usually is well tolerated.

Tramadol– On rare occasions, tramadol is added to a pain medication regimen to help.
Research proving the effectiveness of pain control with this drug is limited. Still, we find
some patients benefit from its use.

Supplements– We have many patients that benefit from glucosamine chondroitin and/or
omega 3 fatty acid supplements. With long term use, these supplements can decrease
the amount of daily pain and limit the need for the drugs mentioned above.

Human Pain Medication

It is VERY important that human medications not be used in cats. Cats have different ways of processing drugs. Therefore, they can get very sick from taking some human drugs. Tylenol can kill a cat in 24 hours!!! Please consult our veterinarians for appropriate medication if your cat is in pain.


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