Measuring Pain in Cats

Feline activity monitors may become pain detectors

We have always known that a cat in pain is less active, especially if she is battling orthopedic issues. It can be difficult, though, to detect a cat’s initial subtle increase in pain or to tell if the pain is worsening. A new study shows that an activity monitor has the potential to objectively monitor chronic pain.

A study published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research looked at the jumping behavior for 13 normal cats, ages 2 to 13 years with body-condition scores of 5 to 8 (on a scale of 1 to 9). None of the cats had known orthopedic problems. Each cat wore a 1.3-cm-wide collar set to record raw data positioned under the neck. The researchers characterized jumping activity by the cats during a period of five to eight hours, two to four hours of which included human intervention (a veterinary technician encouraging cat activity using toys and treats).

In addition to the collar monitors, the cats were videoed so that a comparison could be made between what the monitors registered and what activity was seen.

Of 731 recorded jumping events (median average was 43 jumps per cat), 29 jumps were misclassified for reasons such as the data collar shifting position. Overall, the mean misclassification error rate per cat was 5.4%, indicating a correct classification rate per cat of 94.6%.

The researchers concluded that the evaluation of jumping behaviors could be used to monitor cats for pain and to assess treatment analgesic efficacy. These monitors may become useful to aid in early detection of osteoarthritis and other underlying causes of joint pain in cats.n