Pain catastrophizing (PC) is a negative cognitive distortion to actual or anticipated pain. This study aims to investigate the relationship between pain catastrophizing, emotional intelligence, pain intensity, and quality of life (QoL) in cancer patients with chronic pain. Eighty-nine outpatients with chronic pain attending pain clinics and palliative care units were recruited. Participants were men (42.7%) and women (57.3%) with an average age of 56.44 years (SD = 14.82). Self-report psychological measures were completed, including a measure of emotional intelligence, a standard measure of PC, a scale assessing pain intensity, and a scale measuring QoL. The PC scale was found to assess three correlated yet different dimensions of pain catastrophizing (helplessness, magnification, and rumination). Moreover, as expected, patients with PC scale scores ≥ 30 had lower scores in functional QoL dimensions and higher scores in the fatigue, pain, and insomnia symptom dimensions. Regression analyses demonstrated that PC (B = - 0.391, p = 0.004), pain intensity (B = - 1.133, p < 0.001), and education (B = 2.915, p = 0.017) remained the only significant variables related to QoL, when controlling for demographic and clinical confounders. Regarding mediating effects, PC and pain intensity were jointly found to be significant mediators in the relationship between emotional intelligence and QoL. Results are discussed in the context of the clinical implications regarding interventions designed to improve cancer patients' quality of life and offer new insight, understanding, and evaluation targets in the field of pain management.