To close your eyes will not ease another’s pain - Investigating behavioural indicators of pain in cats

Author: Waran, Nat; Farnworth, Mark

Date: 2013

Type: Conference item

Link to this item using this URL:


Animals being non-verbal, express their experience of painful conditions and procedures through their behaviour. In humans, pain is what the patient says it is, and we know that the subjective experience varies from individual to individual, and doesn’t necessarily relate to the size or seriousness of the wound or illness. In animals, pain is what we say it is and it is recognized that traditionally pain management for cats has been described as seriously under-provisioned, with a number of studies demonstrating that cats appear to be under treated for pain as compared with how dogs are managed for similar procedures. Overall it is postulated that under-provision of analgesia arose because of the difficulties in detecting pain behaviour in cats, from perceptions about the unique physiology of the cat and an associated lack of approved analgesics such as NSAID for use in cats as well as a general caution amongst veterinary practitioners when using certain drug types (such as opioids). Because good pain management relies on good recognition of pain, it is essential that research to identify reliable indicators of a painful experience be carried out and the results properly disseminated and used in practice. There is an old Chinese proverb that says ‘to close your eyes will not ease another’s pain’, something that we must be conscious of when dealing with animals, such as cats who can only express their pain in less overt and subtle ways.

Subjects: cats (Felis catus), pain management, analgesic, veterinarians, 0707 Veterinary Sciences

Copyright: The Authors