What Can I Give My Cat for Pain Relief?

Four Minutes
Sep 05, 2023

Cats can hide their pain. As a cat parent, it’s important to know the signs of pain in cats so you can give them the care they need. But even when you know the signs, what can you give your cat for pain?

Before raiding your medicine cabinet, call your vet. Most human over-the-counter (OTC) medications are toxic to cats, and your veterinarian can provide the right pain medication. You can treat pain in cats with veterinary NSAIDs, opioids, other medications, and natural alternatives. Let’s explore some cat pain meds and additional options for pain relief for cats.

Signs of Pain in Cats

Cats tend to change their behavior when they’re in pain — even if they try to mask it. Here are some symptoms of pain in cats to watch for:1

  • Hissing, meowing, or growling more than usual
  • Avoiding climbing or moving around as much as usual
  • Uncharacteristic aggression
  • Changes in their grooming habits
  • Joint or limb swelling
  • Strange postures

Can You Give Cats OTC Pain Medications?

The short answer is no. Even if your cat is yowling in pain, and you’re tempted to open up your medicine cabinet to see if you have anything to help, it’s best not to. Most human OTC pain meds are toxic to cats, so you should only give your cat human medicine if your vet has approved it. A single dose of OTC medicine could cause liver damage, ulcers, and death.2 Here are a few common pain relievers toxic to cats that you should avoid:2

  • Aspirin: This may cause ulcers, abnormal blood clotting, and damage to the nervous system.3
  • Tylenol: It may damage the liver and red blood cells.2
  • Ibuprofen and Naproxen: These may cause liver damage, kidney damage, and ulcers.4

Pain Relief Doesn’t Have To Cost a Lot

Pet Insurance Can Help

What Can You Give Your Cat for Pain?

Now that we’ve covered what to avoid, which pain medicines can you actually give your kitty? Here are some veterinary prescriptions and supplements that can help ease your cat’s pain. Be sure and talk to your veterinarian before administering any pain meds for cats.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help relieve pain and inflammation in cats by blocking the enzymes that lead to these symptoms. There are two common veterinary NSAIDs for cats your vet may prescribe:

  • Robenacoxib (Onsior): This NSAID is primarily used as a postoperative painkiller, but it can also be used to treat inflammation from musculoskeletal disorders. It can be administered as an injection or tablet.5
  • Meloxicam (Metacam): This NSAID is primarily used to treat pain associated with osteoarthritis, but it can also be prescribed for other pain and inflammation. It’s offered as a liquid or an injection.6


Your vet may prescribe opioids if your cat’s pain is especially severe. While there are many opiate options available, here are three commonly used to treat pain in cats:2

  • Tramadol: This opioid can help with acute or chronic pain. However, it may take a few weeks to make a significant difference in managing your cat’s pain. It comes as a tablet, capsule, or liquid.7
  • Buprenorphine: This opioid is often used to treat pain or as a preanesthetic for cats about to undergo surgery. It’s given as a liquid that’s squirted into the cheek pouch or under the tongue, or it’s administered as an injection.8
  • Duragesic: This is a fentanyl patch you can apply to your cat’s shaved skin. They can help give immediate pain relief and usually last 5 days.2


While steroids don’t directly help with pain, your vet may prescribe them to help reduce inflammation. There are two steroids often prescribed to cats: dexamethasone and prednisolone.9

Other veterinary prescriptions

  • Solensia: This relatively new pain medication for cats binds the nerve endings, blocking pain receptors. This is especially effective for chronic pain from osteoarthritis (OA). You’ll have to take your cat to the vet to receive monthly injections of this pain reliever.
  • Gabapentin: This medicine helps treat chronic pain in cats, specifically nerve pain.10 Only give your cat a veterinary prescription, since the human version of this drug may contain xylitol, which is toxic to pets.
  • Amitriptyline: This medicine is an antidepressant primarily given to pets with behavioral conditions. However, it can also be used to help relieve nerve pain in cats.11

What Are Some Natural Alternatives for Cat Pain Relief?

When pain medicines for cats aren’t cutting it, there are many natural remedies you can give your kitty for pain relief. Natural pain relief for cats can be used alongside medications to give cats the best quality of life possible. Talk with your vet before combining pain meds with natural alternatives to ensure it’s safe.

Joint supplements

Joint supplements are a great way to reduce inflammation and stimulate joint repair. Some supplements that promote joint health and may help eliminate some of your cat’s pain include:2

  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin
  • Adequan
  • Omega-3s

Cold and heat compress

Cold and heat can both provide immediate pain relief. You can apply cold or heat with hot water bottles, heat packs, heating pads, ice packs, or even a bag of frozen veggies. Never put something hot or cold directly on your cat’s skin. Instead, wrap the pack in a blanket or towel.

Heat is best for relieving chronic pain, and it can help improve your cat’s range of motion on a stiff joint. Meanwhile, cold is best for new injuries because it can help relieve pain and bring down swelling.

Acupuncture and laser treatment

Acupuncture and laser therapy both stimulate nerves, promote endorphin release, reduce swelling, and can help the body heal itself.12,13 Both can be used to help manage chronic pain in cats.


If your cat is in pain, they probably won’t be running, jumping, or climbing as much as they usually do. It may be time to rearrange their belongings to keep them all on the same level. Move their litter box, beds, and food and water bowls to an easier access point and prioritize accessibility for everything your cat needs.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Pain Relief?

MetLife Pet offers cat insurance that can reimburse you for covered pet care expenses — and this may include pain relief. Whether your vet prescribes medication or suggests a holistic treatment, like laser therapy, you may be covered under your policy.

When your cat’s in pain, not having to choose between affordable treatment and their well-being can make pet insurance worth it. Get started with a free personalized quote today.

Help Protect Your Cat From Pain


**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “How Do I Know if My Cat is in Pain?,” VCA Animal Hospitals

2 “What Can You Give a Cat for Pain?,” PetMD

3 “Aspirin Poisoning in Cats,” PetMD

4 “Ibuprofen Poisoning in Cats,” VCA Animal Hospitals

5 “Robenacoxib,” VCA Animal Hospitals

6 “Meloxicam,” VCA Animal Hospitals

7 “Tramadol,” VCA Animal Hospitals

8 “Buprenorphine,” VCA Animal Hospitals

9 “Safe Pain Medications for Cats,” Fetch by WebMD

10 “Gabapentin,” VCA Animal Hospitals

11 “Amitriptyline,” VCA Animal Hospitals

12 “Acupuncture in Cats,” Wag!

13 “What Is Veterinary Laser Therapy?,” American Animal Hospital Association

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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