How AI Helps Cat Owners Detect When They’re in Pain

App developers claim they are 95% accurate at predicting whether pets are in pain

The app was developed with the goal of letting owners know exactly when their cats are in pain
The app was developed with the goal of letting owners know exactly when their cats are in pain. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)

How do I know if my cat is in pain? It’s one of the most difficult questions for pet owners to answer. According to specialists from the VCA Animal Hospitals (VCAAH) in the United States, these pets often “mask” their suffering, which makes it difficult to make a proper diagnosis.

There are some signs such as changes in daily activities, vocalizations, unusual aggression or different facial expressions than usual that can serve as indications that cats are in some type of pain.

It’s exactly these signs that CatsMe!, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered smartphone app, leverages to tell when a cat is in pain.

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An effective ally for pet owners

The app is 95% accurate - according to its developers.
The app is 95% accurate, according to its developers.

The app helps owners get an indication of when they need to take their pets to the vet because they are suffering from a serious problem evidenced by pain.

Mayumi Kitakata, a Japanese citizen became one of the first people to use the app. In an interview with the Reuters news agency, he said that his pets are at the age when “more and more diseases are going to appear.”

“So being able to see the vet while also reducing the number of hospital visits is very important,” Kitakata said.

The minds behind the development of the application are researchers from Nihon University and specialists from the company Carelogy, who trained the AI with 6,000 photographs of cats, according to Reuters reports.

Since its launch, more than 200,000 customers have entrusted the health of their cats to the app, which its developers say is more than 95 percent accurate.

The AI was trained on 6000 photographs of cats
The AI was trained on 6,000 photographs of cats.

Kazuya Edamura, a professor at Nihon University, told the news agency that veterinarians like him have the knowledge to know if an animal is in pain or not, however, this is a difficult task for owners.

“Our statistics show that more than 70% of elderly cats have arthritis or pain, but only 2% of them go to the hospital. So, instead of a final diagnosis, we use the app as a tool for homeowners to know if the situation is normal or not,” Edamura added.

Kitakata uses the app daily to monitor the condition of Chi, his 14-year-old feline companion. The woman recalled what happened to Soran, an 8-year-old cat that used to be her pet and who died of cancer.

“If I had noticed, maybe we could have done cancer treatment earlier or something and it would have helped, but not even the vet knew. I could have saved him,” Kitakata said.

What is CatsMe!?

CatsMe It arose from the efforts of a team of researchers from multiple institutions
CatsMe! It arose from the efforts of a team of researchers from multiple institutions.

CatsMe! was born as a result of the work of Carelogy, the Animal Injury Research Group and the Department of Veterinary Medicine of the School of Biological Resources Sciences of Nihon University, according to information available on the website of the developer of the application.

According to its developers, a cat’s expression of pain can be “easily analyzed” by the AI by uploading a photo to the app.

Then, it will be classified into three levels of probability of pain expression: none, small, and large, which can be used as a reference to “estimate the cat’s feelings.”

Kitakata showed how the app works during his dialogue with Reuters. According to the woman, “yellow bars” are indicative that the cat was in pain. “If the behavior is repeated for several days, I will know that something is wrong,” he said.



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