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At the 2019 AVMA Convention in August, Dr. Paulo Steagall, an associate professor of veterinary anesthesia and analgesia at the University of Montreal, presented the Feline Grimace Scale or FGS, which is a method of evaluating a cat’s pain using facial expressions.

Using the FGS, researchers looked at ear position, tightening of the eyes, tension of the muzzle, how whiskers were held, and head positioning see if they varied with pain status. The status of each of these five features was rated 0 to 2, with 2 indicating an obvious problem and 0 meaning none.

Any cat with a score over 4 was determined to be showing discomfort. A cat in severe pain would hold her ears flattened and out to the side, squint her eyes tightly, keep her muzzle tensed and tight, maintain her whiskers straight out to the side and tipped a bit forward, with her head down below her shoulder height.

Use of this new scale will require some careful observation for consistent evaluations and additional research. Still, this could be an easy way for veterinarians and veterinary technicians to evaluate hospitalized cats without adding the stress of handling. Since cats are notorious for hiding signs of pain or illness, the more ways we can use to evaluate them, the better. For more on pain, see “Your Guide to Pain in Cats,” May 2019, at catwatchnewsletter.com.