By Courtney Prue | June 18, 2022

Is My Cat In Pain?

Feline Pain Scoring

If you see any of these changes in your cat, it may or may not be due to pain. This is a guide, and one tool of many to help us determine if a pet is experiencing pain. It must be used in conjunction with a thorough veterinary exam and history. If, after filling in this form, you are worried that your cat is experiencing pain, please reach out to our team or your veterinarian. We can help guide you on the appropriate next steps, including cat euthanasia if necessary. In many cases, we may be able to significantly improve comfort and quality of life.

How do I know if my cat is in pain?

Animals are incredibly good at hiding their pain and discomfort. In the wild, showing any signs of distress would be considered a weakness, and therefore it can be quite challenging to know if your pet is experiencing pain. Cats tend to exhibit slight changes in their behaviour and attitude rather than obvious signs like limping. To help you evaluate if your cat is in pain, you can use tools such as the BEAP scale, which is a pain-scoring tool that evaluates outward signs of pain. 

This pain scale is divided into sections of increasing levels of pain:

1-2 (mild pain), 3-4 (moderate pain), 5-6 (moderate to severe), 7-8 (severe), 9-10 (worst pain possible)

Within each one of these sections, you will see corresponding behaviours or physical changes that your cat may show if they are experiencing that level of pain. 

Score your cat for each of the following behavioural or physical factors (with a tick) within the associated pain section:

B: Breathing, E: Eyes, A: Ambulation, aka walking, A: Activity, A: Appetite, A: Attitude, P: Posture, P: Palpation, aka response to touch

Each one of these behaviours will change as the pain intensifies. For example, in the top left corner of each box, you will see the letter ‘B‘ which stands for ‘Breathing’. If your cat is breathing normally, you will score this behaviour as ‘No Pain’. However, if your cat has a faster breathing rate with more noticeable effort, you will score this behaviour as ‘Severe Pain’. Similarly, if your cat’s Posture is comfortable at rest and during play, then it is scored as ‘No Pain’, but if it is in the ‘Meatloaf’ position and/or has difficulty posturing to eliminate or cover waste fully, you will score this behaviour as ‘Moderate to Severe Pain’.

Whichever pain section most of your ‘ticks’ fit into, this is most likely the level of pain your cat is experiencing.  It is important to note that you do not have to tick every box for your pet to fall into that section. Pain is also dynamic, meaning the severity, during, and impact can change throughout the day. 

BEAAAPP Pain Scale in Cats

The pain scale was developed by Dr. Shea Cox, a certified Veterinary Pain Practitioner and certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian from Pet Hospice

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