How can I tell if my cat has arthritis and what can I do about it?

Cats are a number of the most outstanding athletes on the planet, with their quick reflexes, versatile backbone, and highly effective muscle tissues. What’s extra, they’ve extremely coordinated paws, outfitted with retractable claws for enhanced traction and grip, and footpads that stretch into their palms and fingers that mould to almost any floor. In contrast to their canine rivals, they’ll rotate their palms to the sky. They will attain for objects and even grasp at them. These bodily attributes make them gifted climbers and knowledgeable hunters. It’s no surprise why cats strut about with satisfaction. However as they age, their motion begins to gradual, and so they lose that feline finesse. Have you ever ever questioned why?  

With growing older comes the insidious development of a debilitating and painful illness – osteoarthritis. Few notice how widespread osteoarthritis is in cats and the way painful it may be. In truth, as many as 92% of cats undergo from this illness1. 

Osteoarthritis, often known as degenerative joint illness, progresses with time. It begins with cartilage, discovered inside each joint. Cartilage prevents bones from rubbing collectively. With age, it wears skinny. New bone kinds, inflicting friction and irritation. Arthritic joints can really feel swollen and ponderous to the contact and infrequently have a shorter vary of movement. Knees, hips, elbows, and the backbone all fall sufferer to this deterioration.  

Ache from osteoarthritis tends to seem progressively, and it doesn’t normally trigger limping in cats like it might in canines. Cats additionally are typically stoic by nature and conceal their ache effectively. All these causes might, partially, clarify why the illness is troublesome to identify!  

The trick is to attract consideration to modifications in behaviour, by contrasting the way in which they presently act to how they as soon as acted as younger adults. However even that’s not as straightforward because it appears.  

For example, cats in ache might disguise or withdraw from social interplay. On the similar time, some grow to be extra affectionate, and this generally is a signal of discomfort as effectively. Some cats will start grooming their sore areas excessively, inflicting bald spots, whereas others might groom much less. Clumps of fur can accumulate in these hard-to-reach locations, such because the decrease again, as a result of osteoarthritis within the backbone limits their flexibility. Cats like to ship blended messages!  

Arthritic cats may play much less or hesitate earlier than leaping or utilizing stairs. They might have a “stiff” stroll. Generally they shift their weight from suggestions of their toes onto the palm of their paws, making them look flatfooted.  

Cats in ache may additionally cease utilizing their litter field as a result of they discover it difficult to leap in. Maybe the journey to the litter entails overcoming many flights of stairs. Or maybe it’s the litter. It might probably harm their arthritic paws as a result of it’s an uneven floor that may trigger uneven stress factors. As an alternative, cats might relieve themselves on tender surfaces, such because the sofa, mattress, or a blanket.  

With persistent ache, nerve endings grow to be extra delicate. Over time, this results in a change in mind chemistry. The method is named ache sensitization. In different phrases, as persistent ache units in, a cat can grow to be more and more delicate, very like a adverse suggestions loop.  

What’s extra, the buildings inside the mind accountable for detecting persistent ache occur to be people who additionally take care of aggression. Subsequently, we frequently see aggression and ache in tandem. Elevated or newly appeared aggression towards members of the family or different animals might point out persistent ache.  

If any of those indicators exist in your older cat, then you have to be excited about osteoarthritis.  

Whereas there isn’t a treatment, there are various methods to assist a cat address the illness and really feel extra snug. For starters, we all know that extra weight is a threat issue for osteoarthritis development, and we additionally know that 60% of cats are obese or overweight2. It’s a jarring statistic, however weight problems is an epidemic in cats.  

A wholesome weight is probably the most essential factor in managing degenerative joint ailments. Much less weight means much less put on and tear on the joints! Cats with perfect physique weight are additionally extra lively, making them much less inclined to muscle losing as they age. We wish muscle tissues to remain sturdy as a result of they stabilize and strengthen susceptible joints.  

Like in folks, weight reduction requires a mix of train and calorie management. To extend bodily exercise, we will use environmental enrichment methods, reminiscent of puzzle feeders or train feeders, encourage looking for hidden kibble, or present ample climbing alternatives with shelving and cat timber. For extra useful pet mother and father, constructing an out of doors cat patio (a.okay.a. “a catio”) can do wonders for exciting cats to maneuver. Cats may also go on supervised outings outdoor. Once more, we need to hold these muscle tissues sturdy by transferring them as a lot as attainable.  

Weight reduction in cats normally requires a specialised food regimen that may be safely calorie restricted whereas making certain acceptable nutrient consumption. These diets usually have a singular mix of fibres, which assist with satiety and cut back begging behaviour. The intention is a gradual and regular weight reduction, sustaining muscle mass within the course of. Your veterinarian will have the ability to assess your cat’s weight and, if wanted, implement an acceptable weight reduction program that’s secure and tailor-made to your cat.  

Elements reminiscent of inexperienced lipped mussel powder, glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) might help cut back indicators of arthritis and irritation and supply joint help. A secure and inexpensive mixture of those elements might be present in particular veterinary therapeutic diets.  

Some cats might profit from further veterinary steering when food regimen and train are inadequate for controlling arthritic ache. Prescribed drugs, reminiscent of anti-inflammatories, are significantly efficient in relieving arthritic ache. Many veterinarians provide complementary therapies reminiscent of laser remedy and acupuncture, each might be helpful for remediating ache. Don’t neglect the time-tested therapeutic massage! As with folks, massaging knotted muscle tissues might help cut back rigidity and be enjoyable.  

The underside line is that osteoarthritis is a standard, lifelong, degenerative illness of the joints affecting most cats. It invariably causes ache. Continual ache in cats usually seems as refined modifications to their regular behaviour. A wholesome weight will make every thing simpler on them. When that is inadequate, many complementary therapy choices can be found. Be proactive about your cat’s discomfort; they may really feel a lot better and thanks each step of the way in which.  


  1. AAFP, Degenerative Joint Illness in Cats Feline Arthritis, American Affiliation of Feline Practitioners, 2017, 
  2. APOP, “Press Launch and Abstract of the Veterinary Clinic: Pet Weight problems Prevalence Survey & Pet Proprietor: Weight Administration, Vitamin, and Pet Meals Survey”, Affiliation for Pet Weight problems Prevention, 2018,

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