Acute and Perioperative Assessment of Pain in Cats

Best practices for assessment of acute pain in cats in the hospital setting and at home.

For assessing acute pain and postoperative comfort in the clinic, response to palpation and clinical metrology instruments should be employed. The use of a standardized scale allows consistent monitoring and response to additional analgesic interventions. The Colorado State University Acute Pain scale, Glasgow short-form pain scale, and UNESP-multi-dimensional pain scale are the most commonly used tools. A Feline Grimace Scale that relies on facial expressions as an indication of pain has been recently introduced. Although initial training is needed, the Feline Grimace Scale can be used by veterinarians and technicians to quickly assess pain without palpation. Owners may also bring videos of their cat’s behavior at home for assessment. A version of the Feline Grimace Scale for owners is available as an app and online ( Conversations with owners should focus on changes that they have seen in the cat’s behavior, affect, and activities of daily living; these may reflect more sudden changes occurring over a brief period of time, compared with the progressive changes of chronic pain that occur over a period of months. More information can be found in the ISFM’s Guidelines on Acute Pain Management in Cats.

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