Skip to Content

Acupuncture For Cats: The Complete Guide

Yes, you read that right — cats can be treated with acupuncture. Just like us humans! 

Ever since our fluffy boy Yoda was diagnosed with his FISS , we’ve been more and more interested in researching alternative holistic remedies for cats.

Whilst western medicine can work wonders for our kitties, we’ve learnt that traditional eastern therapeutic practices can offer just as many benefits. Especially when working hand in hand. 

That’s why today we’re very excited to talk to you about acupuncture for cats. So you can learn more about what it is, how it can help your kitty, and whether it’s a treatment you may want to try.    

Here’s what we discuss in this article: 

Acupuncture for Cats

  • Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and originated in China
  • It involves the insertion of thin sterile needles into identified acupuncture points (otherwise called acupoints)
  • Acupuncture can help cats with acute or chronic pain, including arthritis, musculoskeletal conditions and gastrointestinal conditions
  • It’s a largely non-invasive treatment and is considered completely safe for cats
  • The duration and cost of acupuncture treatments varies depending on your veterinarian, location and the ailment being treated

⚠️ Brittany, Paul, and the Fluffy Kitty team are not veterinarians. This article is based on facts, research, and personal experiences. We provide you with the best information we can but it is the reader’s prerogative as to what consequential action or inaction they may take. Paul and Brittany (and Yoda) shall in no event be held liable for any loss or other damages including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or any other damages.

So, are you ready to learn more about cat acupuncture? Then let’s dive in!

Acupuncture for Cats — What Is It?

To start at the beginning… What is acupuncture for cats?

The art of acupuncture is a treatment that has been used for thousands of years in eastern medicine. It originated from China and is traditionally used for therapeutic purposes, including pain relief. 

In fact, Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that acupuncture can help unlock Qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is believed by eastern medicine to flow through the body in balance, but this balance can be disrupted by pain and disease. Acupuncture can help in stimulating the Qi meridians, restoring flow and balance to the body.   

What’s super interesting is that acupuncture is beneficial for humans and animals alike!

Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin sterile acupuncture needles into acupoints. These are areas on the body with a high density of free nerve endings, mast cells, and small blood and lymphatic vessels. 

Fun fact: there are over 300 acupoints on your cat! And the typical acupuncture spots for cats include:

  • Along the spine
  • By all major joints
  • Around the head

By inserting acupuncture needles into acupoints on a cat, this stimulates the nervous system to induce therapeutic pain relief and healing. 

Through stimulating the nervous system, this can induce a chemical release of endorphins, including beta-endorphins, serotonin and other neurotransmitters. And as the nervous system runs throughout the body, this means that stimulating one acupoint can actually affect different organs and tissues throughout the body.   

In fact, acupuncture can also help to decrease inflammation, dilating blood vessels and increasing oxygenation to various tissues and organs.

You can also massage these common 44 acupoints to keep your cat healthy naturally.

If, like me, you’re a bit of a bookworm and are interested in learning more about the art of acupuncture for pets, you may want to check out this pocket atlas by Christina Eul-Matern called Acupuncture for Cats and Dogs

Cat being examined by vet

What Acupuncture Can Treat in Cats

For cats, acupuncture can be used to treat:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions (strains and sprains, muscle spasms, osteoarthritis, back pain, degenerative joint disease and post-surgical pain) 
  • Gastrointestinal diseases (such as diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, vomiting, and constipation)
  • Kidney disease (helping to slow down the progression)
  • Neurological diseases (such as seizures, nerve paralysis, and intervertebral disc disease)
  • Renal conditions
  • Lumbosacral disease
  • Arthritis (in the spine, back and lower neck)
  • Symptoms from cancer treatment (i.e. chemotherapy, radiation, or general pain caused by the cancer)
  • Chronic diseases (such as asthma, hyperthyroidism, skin conditions)
  • Acute pain

It can also be used for preventative purposes too, or can be used in end of life care for senior and elderly cats to help ease pain.

Cat sleeping in cat bed

Depending on your kitty’s ailment or condition, specific acupoints may be selected to stimulate different areas of the nervous system. Your qualified veterinarian will be the one to identify the ideal areas to administer acupuncture.

Types of Cat Acupuncture 

You may be surprised to learn that there’s not just one type of acupuncture that can be used on cats. 

Dry needleA very basic but effective form of acupuncture. This is where very small sterile needles are inserted at acupoints
Electro-acupunctureUses the same small sterile needles as those used in the dry needle technique. However, this technique includes electrical stimulation to produce a deeper response. This technique isn’t the best fit for aggressive, intensely nervous or agitated cats 
Aqua-acupunctureThe cat’s own blood or Vitamin B is injected into the acupoint, to produce a longer-lasting effect. Could be a better fit for cats that don’t tolerate well sitting with needles for long periods of time
Hemo-acupunctureA small amount of blood is released from a specific spot. Most commonly used for excessive heat conditions 
Laser-acupunctureA non-surgical laser is used to stimulate the acupoint. This is a non-invasive technique that can also better fit cats that don’t tolerate well sitting with needles for long periods of time
Acupuncture needles

Does Acupuncture For Cats Work? What Are the Risks?

For some, the very first acupuncture session can produce wonderful results. However, depending on your kitty’s source of pain or whether you’re dealing with a chronic condition, it could take a handful of sessions before benefits are more obviously felt. 

Acupuncture alone may not fully heal your kitty. Instead, it is a treatment that can be administered in combination with a good diet and nutrition, herbal medicines and supplements, other western medicines, and potentially surgery or other treatments.  

Regardless, some conditions have been reversed through a single acupuncture treatment! So it very much depends on the severity of your kitty’s condition.

Be aware that after a treatment, some kitties may experience a degree of lethargy, stiffness or soreness. This is usually minimal and lasts only for a short duration. Special aftercare is typically not required after acupuncture.

Many reports suggest that acupuncture is actually one of the safest forms of treatment, as it’s minimally invasive.

However, as is typical with needles, there is a risk that infection could occur at the site where the needle is inserted. Sources suggest that this is supposed to be very rare, and can be treated with antibiotics if necessary.

If your kitty has any tumors, acupuncture should likewise not be performed in these areas, as it could lead to further growth.   

Cat lying down during veterinary examination for acupuncture

Should My Cat Have Acupuncture?   

Acupuncture is considered as a highly beneficial treatment for most kitties. It’s believed to support the healing of bodies, as well as support pain and appetite management.  

If you’re worried by the idea of needles being inserted into your kitty, anecdotal evidence suggests that most cats tolerate acupuncture quite well. (Some even fall asleep during their treatments!) 

However, you know your cat’s temperament best to judge whether they’ll tolerate (or even enjoy) this treatment.

If possible, try to find a qualified veterinarian who has trained and ample experience in acupuncture. As this will mean the treatment is not uncomfortable or painful for your cat.

It’s not strictly necessary, but some veterinarians train to become certified as a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist (CVA) or join the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society. So you can keep an eye out for these credentials too.  

Cat relaxing after acupuncture

Qualified veterinarians will thoroughly assess your kitty before administering acupuncture. They may even take blood samples, test urine or take an x-ray of your cat, to aid their diagnosis and map a clear medical history. 

Before acupuncture, it’s important to tell your vet about:

  • any conditions your cat is currently experiencing (or has previously experienced)
  • any current medications your cat is on
  • any surgery or trauma your cat has experienced
  • any allergies your cat suffers from  

As all cat lovers are aware, each fluffy kitty is completely unique. Meaning the number of treatments or duration of acupuncture for your cat may vary.

The cost of cat acupuncture treatment can also vary, depending on your qualified veterinarian’s rates and your location. Sessions can range anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes, and typically cost between $25 to approximately $125.  

Sometimes one session is enough, other times your kitty may need several weeks of treatment.

Final Thoughts

There you have it — an overview of acupuncture for cats. Did you learn anything new? Did the potential benefits surprise you? 

If your cat has had acupuncture, we’d love to hear from you and learn more about how the experience was for you and your kitty. 

If there’s one thing we’d love for you to take away from this article, it’s that there are heaps of potential benefits from exploring alternative holistic therapies — in addition to western medicine.

It’s super important that you feel educated about your options when it comes to caring for your kitty’s health. And empowered to make a decision that feels safe and right for you. 

Remember, we’re always here to support you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments!