Assessing Postoperative Pain

Set a standard for feline pain assessment

Cats often experience pain after surgery, but don’t always get the treatment they need because it can be more difficult to assess pain in cats.

Cats can instinctively hide their pain

Consistently using a standard scale can help you spot pain that cats may be hiding.1

Feline Acute Pain Scale1


Not bothered by touch to wound or surgical site

Interested in surroundings

Content and comfortable


Less interested in surroundings, even withdrawn

May or may not react to touch to wound or surgical site

Doesn't engage in normal routine


Loss of normal brightness of eyes, squinting

Lays curled up or sits tucked up

Aggressive response when painful area is touched

Decreased appetite

Intensive grooming of painful area

Seeks solitude


Growls, yowls or hisses when unattended

May bite or chew at wound or surgical site

Reacts aggressively to any touch; pulls away


May be unresponsive or unaware of surroundings

Receptive to care (i.e., too uncomfortable to pull away)

May be rigid to avoid painful movement

Adapted from reference
*Reassess analgesic plan

Help cat owners recognize the signs of postsurgical pain

Let your clients know the signs of pain they should watch for once they get home. Advise them to contact you if they answer yes to any of the following questions.

  • Does the surgical incision look red or inflamed?
  • Is your cat less interested in playing?
  • Is your cat protecting, licking or biting the surgical site?
  • Is your cat hiding?
  • Are your cat’s eyes less bright than usual? Does the cat seem to be squinting?
  • Does your cat growl, hiss or moan when left alone, petted or moved?
  • Is your cat eating less than usual?
  • Does your cat’s coat look dull or matted?
  • Is your cat purring more than usual for no apparent reason?
  • Is your cat shedding more than usual?
  • Is your cat unusually silent?
  • Has your cat been urinating or defecating outside of its litter box?