You may be aware of the practice of acupuncture, but did you know it’s not just for humans? This form of Eastern medicine can be used on cats, too. As veterinarians, we want to find the best treatment options for each individual patient, and this can include Western medicine, Eastern medicine, or some combination of both (integrative medicine).
If you have questions about how cat acupuncture can be beneficial, it is important to reach out to your local veterinarian for personalized care.
What is acupuncture and how can it help my cat?
Acupuncture is the ancient science of using needles to move energy along the lines of 12 paired meridians that go through the body. The Eastern medicine understanding of acupuncture is that it helps to balance the body by allowing energy to flow more freely if there's a blockage, an excess, or a deficiency. Acupuncture's role is to bring the body back to homeostasis, or a more balanced place, and to ensure the health of whatever organ or tissues are being affected.
Just as in humans, acupuncture for cats helps to balance the meridians, bring about a healthier state, provide pain relief, and/or slow down the progression of disease (such as diabetes or kidney disease). Because Western medicine does not address everything and some medications may not be recommended for certain pets, acupuncture may very well help your cat’s condition.
Does my cat need acupuncture?
You may have noticed that cats actually have a tendency to be more yin than yang, meaning they're more of the quiet type. They can hide their illnesses until they can be quite severe, and it is often not apparent that they are experiencing pain. You might think they’re just getting older and they don't want to jump up anymore, or they're just sleeping more; however, they could be quietly suffering from a serious health condition.
If you think your cat may be in pain, you should have them examined in order to receive a Western diagnosis. This would help to find treatment options. More and more veterinarians, however, have realized that Eastern medicinal methods, such as cat acupuncture, may provide additional health benefits. Other Eastern medicine options include Chinese herbs and food therapy.
How does cat acupuncture work?
Many practices now offer integrative approaches to pet treatment, which would be the combination of Western medicine with the opportunity for clients to apply additional Eastern methods of care. During a cat acupuncture session, your pet will generally lie on a comfortable towel or rug on top of an exam table while a trained veterinary acupuncturist safely and carefully places the needles in anatomically specific acupuncture points for cats. The needles are very small, and most cats tolerate acupuncture extremely well. In fact, people are always amazed that their cats will just lie there quietly while the needles are placed. There are some areas that can be a little bit painful but, if they are, the cat acupuncturist will just remove the needle.
A secondary course of about two years is required for veterinarians to become Chinese medicine or veterinary acupuncture trained and certified. This training helps the acupuncturist to remain very present with your cat and know how to handle them well, so they're able to ensure very little discomfort. Most needles are left in between 10 and 20 minutes. Some cats may feel better right after acupuncture and show signs of improvement such as increased appetite, while other cats may take several weeks before experiencing any noticeable changes (especially with a chronic illness).
Will acupuncture cure my cat?
Using a combination of Western and Eastern medicine may provide the best outcome for your cat; however, it really depends on the cat, as well as on your cat’s condition. Looking at things from many viewpoints can be really helpful for the best patient care.
If you and your veterinary team have tried Western medicine and it didn’t help, sometimes another approach may help.
If you have questions about how cat acupuncture can be beneficial, it is important to reach out to a veterinarian near you for personalized care.