Skip to content

What Can You Give a Cat for Pain?

cat lying on a pillow

Fact checked by a Hello Ralphie expert veterinarian

Nobody wants their pet to be in pain, which is why we put together this useful guide to tell you how you can recognize if your cat is experiencing pain and explain what you can do to help.

How Do I Know if My Cat is in Pain?

Cats are often very stoic creatures and do not always show pain in obvious ways. If your cat is experiencing pain or discomfort, it may just seem more lethargic and move around much less than it usually does.

A hunched back and arched posture can be another sign that your cat is uncomfortable. Unusual growling and hissing when you try to pick your cat up is another sign that it could be in pain.

If your cat is noticeably less active, keeps its eyes closed more than usual, or does not open them all the way, most people assume it is simply tired, but the truth is, these are common signs of pain in felines.

If you have reason to suspect that your cat is experiencing pain, a Hello Ralphie veterinarian can conduct a thorough online vet consultation and advise you about the possible causes. They will also help advise you on next best steps suited to alleviate that pain.

cat in cone collar after surgery on a blue blanket

What Medication Can I Give to My Cat if They are Experiencing Pain?

Unfortunately, many over-the-counter painkillers that are for humans are very toxic when ingested by cats. In some cases, many of these painkillers can even be fatal to cats.

Your cat’s metabolism is very different from yours, which means that it will not break down human medication appropriately. Some drugs can affect your cat’s liver and kidneys, which will only make them even sicker.

One particularly dangerous pain reliever for cats is acetaminophen, more commonly known as Tylenol. Under no circumstances should you ever give cat acetaminophen. While it is a great pain killer for humans, cats are extremely sensitive to this medication, and even small doses of acetaminophen can quickly kill your cat.

If you have given your cat acetaminophen, please contact a Hello Ralphie veterinarian as soon as possible! If you are wondering if it is safe to give any medicine to your cat that you have in your medicine cabinet, ask one of our Hello Ralphie veterinarians before administering anything. For other household medications that may be toxic or even fatal to your cat, check out our Pet Poison Blog.

Which Types of Medications are Given to Cats for Pain?

After a thorough online vet consultation, a Hello Ralphie veterinarian will help determine the source of your cat’s pain and may discuss with you and advise you on the option of several types of pain medication to treat your cat’s issue.


The recommended type of pain medication depends on the cause of your cat’s pain. Nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are one of the most common drug classes used for pain control in animals. These prescription medications can only be prescribed by a veterinarian. These are effective but can be dangerous if not administered correctly, which is why it is so important that you speak with a vet if you suspect your cat is experiencing significant amounts of pain.

A nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drug is designed to help treat inflammation caused by arthritic pain, musculoskeletal pain, or just general chronic pain.

This drug class is typically used for soft tissue injuries, like physical trauma, pain after surgery, or joint pain related to arthritis and other joint and bone issues. NSAIDs are typically given by mouth with food, and they are usually administered once per day. However, cats are very sensitive to these drugs and they need to be used with caution.

A Hello Veterinarian can help advise you on these options to treat pain in your cat. An NSAID is not ideal for all animals, especially older senior cats and those with underlying liver or kidney issues. If your cat has pre-existing medical issues or ongoing kidney problems, a Hello Ralphie online veterinarian can advise you on the pros and cons of these medications.


Gabapentin is another option for cats who cannot take an NSAID. This medication comes in the form of a tablet, liquid, or capsule. This drug is almost usually administered orally. A virtual vet appointment through Hello Ralphie can answer your questions and discuss all of the pros and cons of each type of painkiller. Booking an online vet appointment today is one of the easiest ways you can determine which medication is the best fit for your cat.

Other Pain Medications:

Other types of pain medication can treat generalized pain. In cases where the pain is more severe, a Hello Ralphie online veterinarian may discuss stronger medications with you. These medications are typically not given long-term and are more suited for acute and very severe forms of pain. Buprenorphine is another medication that you can give your cat for pain control. It is a liquid medication that is absorbed through the gums.

man giving pill to sick sad domestic cat

What are the Side Effects of Pain Medications?

Side effects of pain medication in cats will vary depending on the type of pain medication you are using. The most common side effects of painkillers in animals are gastrointestinal-related issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Some pain medications can make your cat feel sleepy and even somewhat sedated.

A Hello Ralphie veterinarian will discuss all of the possible side effects that your cat’s particular pain medication could trigger. You’ll learn everything you need to know about managing pain, including potential side effects and treatment schedules. Best of all, you can discuss it during a virtual vet appointment conducted from the comfort of your own home.

One of our veterinarians will ask about any previous history of kidney, liver, or heart disease that your cat may have. These are important parts of your cat’s medical history, and they will help inform the vet’s decision when advising you on the best and most appropriate pain medication for your particular cat.

If you suspect that your cat is in extreme pain or requires emergency assistance, please contact a Hello Ralphie virtual veterinarian immediately and talk to a vet online for further guidance on how to proceed.

Share this post: