2022 ISFM Consensus Guidelines on the Management of Acute Pain in Cats

J Feline Med Surg. 2022 Jan;24(1):4-30. doi: 10.1177/1098612X211066268.


Practical relevance: Increases in cat ownership worldwide mean more cats are requiring veterinary care. Illness, trauma and surgery can result in acute pain, and effective management of pain is required for optimal feline welfare (ie, physical health and mental wellbeing). Validated pain assessment tools are available and pain management plans for the individual patient should incorporate pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapy. Preventive and multimodal analgesia, including local anaesthesia, are important principles of pain management, and the choice of analgesic drugs should take into account the type, severity and duration of pain, presence of comorbidities and avoidance of adverse effects. Nursing care, environmental modifications and cat friendly handling are likewise pivotal to the pain management plan, as is a team approach, involving the cat carer.

Clinical challenges: Pain has traditionally been under-recognised in cats. Pain assessment tools are not widely implemented, and signs of pain in this species may be subtle. The unique challenges of feline metabolism and comorbidities may lead to undertreatment of pain and the development of peripheral and central sensitisation. Lack of availability or experience with various analgesic drugs may compromise effective pain management.

Evidence base: These Guidelines have been created by a panel of experts and the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) based on the available literature and the authors' experience. They are aimed at general practitioners to assist in the assessment, prevention and management of acute pain in feline patients, and to provide a practical guide to selection and dosing of effective analgesic agents.

Keywords: Acute; analgesia; anti-inflammatory drugs; behaviour; dental; facial expressions; opioid; ovariohysterectomy; pain assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Pain* / therapy
  • Acute Pain* / veterinary
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Pain Management / veterinary