Research Output

Evaluation of facial expression in acute pain in cats.

To describe the development of a facial expression tool differentiating pain-free cats from those in acute pain.
Observers shown facial images from painful and pain-free cats were asked to identify if they were in pain or not. From facial images, anatomical landmarks were identified and distances between these were mapped. Selected distances underwent statistical analysis to identify features discriminating pain-free and painful cats. Additionally, thumbnail photographs were reviewed by two experts to identify discriminating facial features between the groups.
Observers (n = 68) had difficulty in identifying pain-free from painful cats, with only 13% of observers being able to discriminate more than 80% of painful cats. Analysis of 78 facial landmarks and 80 distances identified six significant factors differentiating pain-free and painful faces including ear position and areas around the mouth/muzzle. Standardised mouth and ear distances when combined showed excellent discrimination properties, correctly differentiating pain-free and painful cats in 98% of cases. Expert review supported these findings and a cartoon-type picture scale was developed from thumbnail images.
Initial investigation into facial features of painful and pain-free cats suggests potentially good discrimination properties of facial images. Further testing is required for development of a clinical tool

  • Type:


  • Date:

    30 October 2014

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  • Publisher


  • DOI:


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  • Library of Congress:

    QH301 Biology

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    573 Specific physiological systems in animals


Holden, E., Calvo, G., Collins, M., Bell, A., Reid, J., Scott, E. M., & Nolan, A. M. (2014). Evaluation of facial expression in acute pain in cats. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 55, (615-621). doi:10.1111/jsap.12283. ISSN 0022-4510



Facial expression; Cats; facial features; pain assessment;

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