Internet sensation “Grumpy Cat” is legendary for his grimace. Who knew that pulling a face is actually a clue for pet parents who are trying to assess their kitty’s comfort level? A team of researchers at the University of Montreal’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital has developed a pain assessment tool called the Feline Grimace Scale (FGS). It’s a good topic to explore in September, which is IVAPM’s Pet Pain Awareness month.
Pain management is often overlooked in cats and they are prescribed fewer analgesic drugs compared to dogs, according to the study.
“Cat pain can be caused by arthritis, dental problems, urinary tract infections, bone disease, and cancer. Pain is also common following a medical procedure,” said Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.
“The FGS offers pet parents a great way to help us – and pet parents – evaluate and manage pain in their kitties.”
The research article, first published in December 2019 by a team led by researcher Paulo V. Steagall, summarized the findings of the study wherein thirty-five client-owned and twenty control cats were recorded. Painful cats received analgesic treatment and videos were repeated one hour later.
The FGS has been validated and offers a reliable, repeatable evaluation for veterinarians as well as pet parents, especially those caring for aging kitties at home.
Identification of pain involved the following “Action Units” of measurement:
- Ear position
- Orbital tightening
- Muzzle tension
- Whiskers position
- Head position
The scale ranges from 0 (absent) to present (2) and is then averaged (divided by 5). Pain relievers are recommended when the final score is 4/10 or greater.
Signs of Moderate Pain:
You may notice your cat’s ears are slightly pulled apart. The eyes may be partially opened, and the muzzle may seem tense. Whiskers will be slightly curved or straight, and the head is aligned with the shoulder line.
Signs of Substantial Pain:
In this scenario, Kitty’s ears are flattened outwards, her eyes will be squinted, and the muzzle will seem tense (elliptical shaped.) Whiskers are straight and moving forward, and the head will be below the shoulder line or tilted downward toward the chest.
If you have an aging kitty and would like to learn how to use the FGS, get the free download here.