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It is after hours at your veterinary hospital, your cat had surgery and you suspect she might be in pain.  Do you spend the money to go to an emergency clinic? This issue is more common than you think!

Only a trained veterinary professional can absolutely answer that question.  But you can get some clues to your cat’s state of pain by looking at the following diagrams. Just like people, cat’s facial expressions change when they are feeling pain.  But instead of a human grimace, changes in ears and muzzles are more easily identifiable. The following diagrams are from a Scottish company called NewMetrica and were developed as part of a larger process of evaluating pain.  These diagrams are only helpful in diagnosing acute pain.  Acute pain is what occurs after surgery or trauma, for example.

In the diagram below, there is a caricature of a cat whose ears are in three different positions.  On the far left is a cat that is pain free. On the far right is a cat that is in severe pain.  And of course, in the middle, is a cat in an intermediate stage of pain. Notice how as the pain level increases, the ears become more “horizontal” in position. Don’t confuse the cat on the right with an angry cat whose ears are pinned back.

Cat ear position for evaluating pain

Cat ear position for evaluating pain

In the next diagram, there is a caricature of a cat whose muzzle is in three different positions.  On the far left is a cat that is pain free.  On the far right is a cat that is in severe pain.  And like the previous diagram, the cat in the middle is in an intermediate stage of pain. The second and third caricatures below are similar to the grimace a human in pain might make. As the cat’s state of pain gets worse, the muzzle flattens out and widens.

Cat muzzle position in pain

Cat muzzle position in pain

If your cat is exhibiting signs of pain based on the above diagrams, you should seek medical treatment for your cat.

There are other issues, besides pain, that a cat that has undergone surgery may be experiencing. Some of these problems may be serious and even life-threatening.  If you feel your cat is pain free based on the above diagrams, but still feel that something is wrong, contact an emergency service if your veterinarian is unavailable.

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