Categories: hiding pain

Biased veterinarians give one third of spayed cats post-operative pain killers compared to three-quarters of dogs

There is strong evidence that UK veterinarians (it may be the same in other countries) are apparently acting in a biased way in giving cats postoperative pain killers after a spaying operation far less frequently than for dogs.

Do vets believe that cats don’t feel pain after such a major operation but dogs do feel pain? This is illogical. There is no justification for it. When you think about it, it is shocking actually. How can vets get it so wrong?

Perhaps veterinarians are being naive and/or ignorant. Perhaps they tell themselves that as cats don’t always show symptoms of pain they are not feeling pain. Yet everyone and their dog know that cats hide pain.

Fortunately one vet has highlighted this glaring oversight; Jo Murrell, reader in anaesthesia at the University of Bristol. She has caused The International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) to campaign for the need to give post-op pain relief to cats.

In fact, studies have found that cats do show signs of pain when at home after the spaying operation.

Jo says that cats recover quickly in the vet’s clinic which gives the impression that they are not in pain but surely a decent vet will or should know that it is more than likely cats are feeling pain. Surely the default procedure should be to administer a course of pain killers at home on the commonsense presumption that cats are in pain.

Apparently, as recently as 1996, only 25% of cats where given analgesia “at the point of surgery”. I presume this means immediately after surgery. Now 95% of cats receive pain killers at this time. The oversight in respect of pain management concerns the following several days at home recuperating.

Also apparently, cat owners look for the cheapest vet for the spaying operation. The cheap price excludes post-op painkillers. That is also a very poor state of affairs as no vet should be offering a price for spaying that stops them from giving a course of post-op painkillers over three days. It is just bad practice as far as I am concerned as it is failing to be properly concerned about patient welfare.

Elisa Black-Taylor wrote on this subject years ago.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • I had read about this on a professional veterinarian's site over a year ago. It made me realize even more how important it is to be informed and aware so we can advocate for our cats.

    If a vet doesn't include pain management part of any treatment, I'd find a new vet. We really need to be investigative by knowing what questions to ask of a potential new vet.

    A good vet needs to be evaluated in terms that go beyond their smile and way with animals....far beyond!

  • I had to demand it for Kitten. We had a long trip home and bumpy roads. My new vet considers pain management part of any treatment.

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