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

Cats are a few of the most exceptional athletes on the planet, with their quick reflexes, versatile backbone, and highly effective muscular 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 mildew to just about any floor. Not like their canine rivals, they will rotate their palms to the sky. They will attain for objects and even grasp at them. These bodily attributes make them gifted climbers and professional hunters. It’s no marvel why cats strut about with delight. However as they age, their motion begins to sluggish, they usually lose that feline finesse. Have you ever ever puzzled why?  

With getting old 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 reality, as many as 92% of cats endure from this illness1. 

Osteoarthritis, also referred to 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 types, inflicting friction and irritation. Arthritic joints can really feel swollen and hulking to the contact and sometimes have a shorter vary of movement. Knees, hips, elbows, and the backbone all fall sufferer to this deterioration.  

Ache from osteoarthritis tends to seem step by step, and it doesn’t often trigger limping in cats like it might in canines. Cats additionally are usually stoic by nature and conceal their ache properly. All these causes might, partly, clarify why the illness is tough to identify!  

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

For example, cats in ache might cover or withdraw from social interplay. On the similar time, some develop into extra affectionate, and this is usually a signal of discomfort as properly. 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 would possibly play much less or hesitate earlier than leaping or utilizing stairs. They might have a “stiff” stroll. Generally they shift their weight from ideas of their toes onto the palm of their paws, making them look flatfooted.  

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

With persistent ache, nerve endings develop into extra delicate. Over time, this results in a change in mind chemistry. The method known as ache sensitization. In different phrases, as persistent ache units in, a cat can develop into more and more delicate, very like a destructive suggestions loop.  

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

If any of those indicators exist in your older cat, then you ought to be occupied with osteoarthritis.  

Whereas there is no such thing as a remedy, there are various methods to assist a cat deal with the illness and really feel extra comfy. For starters, we all know that extra weight is a threat issue for osteoarthritis development, and we additionally know that 60% of cats are chubby or overweight2. It’s a jarring statistic, however weight problems is an epidemic in cats.  

A wholesome weight is probably the most essential component in managing degenerative joint illnesses. Much less weight means much less put on and tear on the joints! Cats with preferrred physique weight are additionally extra energetic, making them much less prone to muscle losing as they age. We would like muscular tissues to remain robust as a result of they stabilize and strengthen susceptible joints.  

Like in individuals, weight reduction requires a mix of train and calorie management. To extend bodily exercise, we will use environmental enrichment methods, equivalent to puzzle feeders or train feeders, encourage looking for hidden kibble, or present ample climbing alternatives with shelving and cat bushes. For extra useful pet mother and father, constructing an outside cat patio (a.okay.a. “a catio”) can do wonders for exciting cats to maneuver. Cats can even go on supervised outings outside. Once more, we need to maintain these muscular tissues robust by shifting them as a lot as doable.  

Weight reduction in cats often requires a specialised food plan that may be safely calorie restricted whereas guaranteeing applicable nutrient consumption. These diets usually have a singular mix of fibres, which assist with satiety and scale back begging behaviour. The purpose is a sluggish and regular weight reduction, sustaining muscle mass within the course of. Your veterinarian will be capable of assess your cat’s weight and, if wanted, implement an applicable weight reduction program that’s secure and tailor-made to your cat.  

Components equivalent to inexperienced lipped mussel powder, glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) may also help scale back indicators of arthritis and irritation and supply joint help. A secure and inexpensive mixture of those substances may be present in particular veterinary therapeutic diets.  

Some cats might profit from further veterinary steerage when food plan and train are inadequate for controlling arthritic ache. Prescribed drugs, equivalent to anti-inflammatories, are notably efficient in relieving arthritic ache. Many veterinarians provide complementary therapies equivalent to laser remedy and acupuncture, each may be useful for remediating ache. Don’t neglect the time-tested therapeutic massage! As with individuals, massaging knotted muscular tissues may also help scale back stress 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 delicate modifications to their regular behaviour. A wholesome weight will make every little thing simpler on them. When that is inadequate, many complementary therapy choices can be found. Be proactive about your cat’s discomfort; they’ll really feel significantly better and thanks each step of the best way.  


  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, Diet, and Pet Meals Survey”, Affiliation for Pet Weight problems Prevention, 2018,


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