Your Cat Has Chest Pain – What is the cause?

What is the posture of a cat with chest pain?

When a cat has chest pain, it will probably walk very cautiously. Every movement with his forelimbs causes his ribs to be pulled by the muscles of his forelimb. And pulling on your chest hurts in that case. So he takes short steps. He often also holds his head a bit lower than he usually would hold it.

But in most cases they settle down on their bed and hardly leave that place again. Unless they are really hungry or thirsty. But even then they spare their chests in every possible way. Also, is their bed on top of something they have to jump on? Then they might go lay down somewhere else. Or they meow in the hope that you will lift them up carefully. 

But when you’re ready to pick your cat up to put him on his bed, you’ll probably grab his sore chest. And therefore he possibly will scream.

What does a cat in pain sound like?

When your cat is in a lot of pain, he or she will scream. But a cat with moderate chest pain will hardly make a sound. You mainly see it. Unless you pick him up. But you can also hear it if he has a problem with his lungs or airways. Then you may hear wheezing or gurgling breathing.

a cat fight is a common cause for an abscess, which in turn is a common cause for chest pain in a cat.

Why does your cat have chest pain?

There are of course several possibilities for chest pain. For example, an accident may have occurred in which a hard force like a car hit his chest. Or maybe he has an abscess in his chest. Usually as a result of a fight with an other cat.


If your cat has been hit by a car, bicycle or moped, the blow may have hit its chest. Luckily your cat didn’t die on the side of the road! In most cases you have not seen this happen. However, you can get some more certainty about this. Just look at the tips of his nails. If a cat is hit by a car or something, it will reflexively kick out its claws because of the fright. If he is moved by the impact, his nails will scrape the ground a bit. In that case, split nail tips occur.

So look at your cat’s nails, without causing him extra pain in the chest. You can examine his nails by grabbing his paw and pressing the top of the foot with your thumb while keeping your other fingers on the bottom of the foot.

A cat's nails become ragged when the cause of their chest pain is an accident. In this photo they are razor sharp and therefore not damaged.
A cat's nails become ragged when the cause of their chest pain is an accident. In this photo they are razor sharp and therefore not damaged.

Does your cat have frayed tips at the ends of his nails? Then there is a good chance that it has been in a collision and that is the cause of your cat’s chest pain. His muscles and ribs are bruised. In that case, it is important that you check carefully whether he is breathing normally and whether there are any fractures in his ribs. Also look at the color of his gums. After all, your cat may also have suffered internal bleeding as a result of the blow. In that case, you will notice very pale gums in your cat. If you have any doubts about the color of his gums or possible fractures in his ribs, it is best to visit your vet. Better safe than sorry.


If your cat has been in a fight, bacteria may have gotten under his skin through a nail or tooth from another cat. The bacteria will find that a nice spot, there under the skin. It will therefore multiply quickly. In response, your cat’s immune system will send pus cells to that area to attack the bacteria. After about 2-3 days, so many bacteria and pus cells have formed where the little wound was that a whole bump has formed. In fact, it is a cavity filled with pus. And that bump is very painful. So if that abscess is on his chest, your cat will have pain in his chest.

In that case, your cat usually also has a fever and does not want to eat as much. And you will feel a swelling on your cat’s chest that will feel very painful to your cat when you touch it. The rest of the chest isn’t painfull. And you can also press the underlying rib at the bottom or top, but not on the abscess, without your cat reacting painfully. The bump usually also feels very warm to the touch. In this case it is best to give your cat some antibiotics that you will get from your veterinarian after you consulted him or her. 

Relieve pain for your cat if he has a sore chest

Does your cat seem to be in a lot of chest pain? And there is no abscess? And you don’t think it’s necessary to take him to your vet? In that case, you can give your cat a painkiller. However, cats lack a specific mechanism for removing drugs from their bodies. As a result, for example, they can die from being given paracetamol or ibuprofen.

It is best to ask your vet if you can pick up a painkiller for the pain in your cat’s chest, without having a consultation. However, in most cases this is not allowed. Unfortunately, the legislation does not allow this, so it is not due to unwillingness of your vet. But some vets will still prescribe a painkiller  if you explain to them what is going on. Or maybe you have some painkiller left over from a previous operation.

Weren’t you able to get a painkiller specifically for cats? Don’t worry, there is still a solution. Cats can tolerate aspirin, but in low doses. So no painkillers other than aspirin!!! NO PARACETAMOL OR IBUPROFEN OR ANYTHING!!! Only aspirin. You can give 10mg of this per kilogram of your cat’s body weight once every 2 days (so not twice a day!). Most cats weigh about 4kg and so your cat can receive 40mg once every 2 days. That is half a tablet of the low dose aspirin tablets below. This should resolve your cat’s pain in his chest. 

Would you rather give your cat natural painkillers?

If you prefer to use natural painkillers, you can also use CBD oil to relieve your cat’s pain in his chest. This has an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and wound healing effect. Give 1 drop of this to your cat twice a day. It is not as analgesic as a normal painkiller, but it does take the edge off the pain.

If the pain in his chest is very localized, you can also use lidocaine cream. Lidocaine is often found in tattoo creams and sometimes also in hemorrhoid ointment. It provides a local anesthetic to the skin. For example, the following ointment contains lidocaine. However, do not use this on a surface larger than 5 by 5 centimeters. In that case, your cat could be getting too much lidocaine in his body. Also make sure that your cat cannot lick it, otherwise he will get a numb feeling in his tongue. So use a medical pet shirt!

What else can you do to relieve your cat's chest pain?

Your cat is mainly in pain when he moves. So make sure that he can recover in a quiet place for a couple of days. Make sure he can easily reach his food and water and that he can easily get into a litter box without having to turn or jump. In most cases it is more convenient if you (temporarily) remove the top of the litter box so that your cat can get in and out easily.

Good luck!

Hopefully your cat is painfree within a few days. If you are in doubt, please contact your veterinarian for help. We wish you and your cat good luck!