Does acupuncture work for cats?

My research indicates that acupuncture for cats works provided the cat accepts it and provided it is used to help resolve an appropriate health condition such as nerve damage and the treatment is carried out by a veterinarian or associated professional.

Dr Bruce Fogle

Dr. Bruce Fogle provides us with a veterinary opinion on acupuncture for cats. He is a top UK vet and author (he calls declawing ‘barbaric by the way). He immediately makes a good point which supports acupuncture namely that when you give a cat a painkilling drug, it mimics the brain’s painkilling chemicals, the endorphins. Acupuncture stimulates the release of the brain’s endorphins. Therefore, the method is similar. The end chemical process appears to be the same. He states that in 1996, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) announced:

“Veterinary acupuncture and acutherapy are now considered an integral part of veterinary medicine.”

Acupuncture for cats is often used for health issues such as: arthritis, back pain, tendon injuries and physical problems of the nervous system according to Dr. Fogle. Also, some veterinarians use acupuncture to enhance and promote the healing of damaged tissue.

He says that some cats accept the insertion of acupuncture needles well and become relaxed and tranquil. Some even fall asleep. However, if a cat doesn’t like it, the procedure should not be used as it is likely to cause more harm than good.

Acupuncture for cats
Acupuncture for cats. Montage: MikeB based on images deemed to be in the public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats


First-hand experience – Tallyrand

About 4 years ago there was a big cat story going around the internet which positively told us that acupuncture does work for cats. But – there is always a ‘but’ – its efficacy must depend on the nature of the injury or illness and the competence of the veterinarian.

The story concerns a young cat, Tallyrand. She was found in a storm drain. She was paralysed. She had a broken back (L3 vertebra fracture). She could not walk and was not responding.

Humane Rescue Alliance started acupuncture on her. It is interesting that it seems that their first choice was acupuncture. This alternative therapy appears to be more acceptable for certain injuries amongst vets than amongst doctors.

Tallyrand started to show progress after a month of treatments.

Niki, vet nurse at the Humane Rescue Alliance said:

“She could not walk at all. She just wasn’t responding. We started acupuncture on her. We were holding her and we just decided to let her go, it was the most exciting thing.”

She fully recovered. From broken back to full recovery seemed remarkable and extremely satisfying for the team who treated her.

She must have been adopted. She was at the Oglethorpe Humane Rescue Alliance shelter. The video tells her story:

Note: The videos above and below are from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

There are other examples of successful acupuncture treatment for nerve injuries – see Stewie’s story below.

This treatment is also indicated for arthritis, pain and inflammations of the neck and back, lack of coordination and gastrointestinal problems. There are probably others.

It would appear that acupuncture has acquired a reputation for success in treating spinal injuries and paralyses considered incurable using standard veterinary means. This is where its reputation as a treatment has been established, I would suggest.


Stewie had radial nerve damage due to a surgical complication. You can see in the video that he was unable to place his left foreleg on the ground. It looked dead. His treatment with acupuncture and splinting was successful in fully restoring nerve function.

Cats generally accept it

Another plus is that the reports tell me that cats accept acupuncture readily. They have no problem with it. Clearly it is not painful or distressing for the domestic cat.

It should go without saying that the treatment must be carried out by a trained and experienced veterinarian. My research brings me to the conclusion that acupuncture does work for cats under the right circumstances and when administered by appropriately qualified specialists.

Do you have first-hand experience of treating your cat with acupuncture?

How it works

It’s appropriate to add a little bit about how it works. Acupuncture developed out of the philosophy behind the dynamic interaction between yin and yang. An imbalance results in illness. Veterinary acupuncture is probably as old as acupuncture for people. There is a document on the use of acupuncture on elephants written 3000 years ago. Soldiers applied acupuncture to horses 2000 years ago according to a rock carving in China.

Apparently, Westerners and the Chinese have different theories on how it works. Traditional Chinese medicine states that life energy flows along meridians or channels through the body. This vital life force is called qi and it is maintained by yin and yang which are opposite and the complimentary forces. Along the meridians are points where qi is concentrated.

In cats there are 112 traditional acupoints while in humans there are 670. When a needle is inserted at one of these acupoints it stimulates or suppresses the flow of energy. The acupuncturist or in the case of cats the veterinarian determines the imbalance of qi and then decides to use the appropriate acupuncture points to stimulate or suppress energy flow.

Western veterinarians diagnose using conventional means such as x-rays, laboratory tests and physical examinations. After the diagnosis, acupuncture is performed at points individually selected to treat the disease. The Western veterinary approach is to insert the needle in the region where the cat feels chronic pain rather than selecting a classic acupoint.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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