Arthritis can affect cats at any age, but it usually occurs as they get older. Learn how to spot the signs and adapt your care.
What is arthritis?
Inside a cat’s joints, the surface of the bone is usually covered with a thin layer of smooth cartilage and lubricated with a small amount of fluid, which allows the joint to move freely and without friction.
Arthritis occurs when the joint is damaged or its naturally smooth surface changes, resulting in the rough bone rubbing together. Not only is this very painful for your cat, but it also further damages the cartilage and causes new bone to form around the joint, making it stiffer and limiting movement. This is called osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease.
When and where does arthritis develop in cats?
More than 80% of cats over the age of 10 suffer from osteoarthritis, but it often goes undiagnosed. This common problem refers to inflammation of joints, causing pain, discomfort, and stiffness. In cats it commonly occurs in stifles (knees), hips, elbows, the spine, and even feet.
What causes arthritis in cats?
Just like humans, cats generally develop arthritis as they get older due to general wear and tear on the joints. However, it can occur at an early age following an injury.
Arthritis is often under-diagnosed in cats due to their innate ability to hide pain. Owners are also less commonly watch their cat exercise, so less likely to see any signs of joint stiffness.
What are the signs and symptoms of arthritis in cats?
Arthritis is a progressive disease and symptoms develop and worsen over time. However, cats are very good at hiding symptoms of pain so it can be difficult to identify. You may notice that your cat becomes reluctant to play or use stairs. They may avoid jumping up or down from high ledges that previously wouldn’t pose a problem for them. It can often be an incidental finding when a cat is being x-rayed for another issue and can be surprisingly severe on x-ray yet not very apparent on clinical examination.
The condition becomes worse in cold weather, so if they appear stiff or slow during the winter months, this could be a sign of arthritis.
Other cat arthritis symptoms include:
- reduced movement
- difficulty jumping up on beds or moving up and down stairs
- reduced grooming with matting in hard-to-reach areas
- irritability and a change in attitude
- less activity (for example, bringing you fewer ‘presents’ indicates their inability to hunt).
If you think your cat may be showing signs of arthritis, speak to your vet for a complete health check and advice. They may recommend further x-rays or other scans to diagnose the condition.
Treatment for arthritis in cats
There’s no cure for arthritis however there are a number of ways to manage the pain.
- providing a balanced, high-quality diet and maintaining a healthy bodyweight
- gentle exercise can reduce pressure on the joints and keep them moving
- non-slip matting on slippery floors
- regular nail trimming
- warm soft bedding
- providing ramps for areas where they can’t jump up to anymore
- providing litter trays so they don’t need to try and go outside
- regular assistance with grooming if unable to groom itself properly any more
Supplements and therapies
- there are a number of natural supplements available for cats, some of which have scientific data supporting their claims. Our staff can advise on those available
- specially formulated diets for arthritis in cat with additives which help with arthritis
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
- pentosan injections
- other pain killers
When to see a vet
If your cat is showing some of the signs of arthritis causing pain in your pet cat, please seek veterinary advice from our trained professional staff at Anexa we can provide treatment options to better your pet’s quality of life and get them back to feeling like themselves again.