As your cats get older, they become more apt to develop health issues. Behavioral changes can mean lots of different things, and it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint the problem. As a disclaimer, I’m not a doctor nor do I have any medical training. This article is meant to be helpful, but if your cat seems to be hurt or ill, please consult your veterinarian.
Cat Arthritis – What is It
Arthritis or Osteoarthritis in cats occurs when the cartilage begins to break down in the joints. Cartilage is the firm, flexible tissue located in the joints between the bones such as the elbow and knee. Cartilage provides cushioning between the bone joints. When this cartilage breaks down, it can be painful and causes inflammation in the joints. The joints aren’t able to move as fluidly because with the absence of or decreased amount of cartilage, the hard bone rubs on other hard bone.
Cat Arthritis Symptoms
The symptoms your cat displays may vary and in some cases be similar to people with osteoarthritis. Here are a few to look for if your suspect your cat may have arthritis.
Common signs of arthritis in cats include:
- Limping or favoring one side
- Hesitancy to jump up on window nappers, chairs, beds, couches and/or switching to sleeping on the floor or lower areas than previously
- Difficulty standing up especially after lying down for awhile
- Harder time going up stairs, “bunny hopping” up steps or moving more slowly
- Decreased Flexibility
- Lethargic behavior
- Appearing uncomfortable being held in some positions or from petting them with too much pressure
In addition to the above signs, you may notice your cat is acting differently than normal.
Possible Behavior Changes:
- Activity level decreases
- Not using litter box because it’s become difficult or painful to get over the box edges
- Seems to be hesitant to do certain actions such as jumping, running, climbing up stairs
How Old are Cats with Arthritis
From my research, I’ve found some conflicting information on what age a cat starts to develop arthritis. Cats as young as 2 or 3 may start to show signs of arthritis from all the jumping around and aggressive play. Outdoor cats typically have more wear on the joints from climbing trees
Some say older cats are more susceptible which makes sense. By approximately seven years old, the average cat begins to show signs of degenerative joint disease in the hips. You may think your cat is slowing down because they are getting older, but it can also be due to them starting to experience joint pain.
We know as people age, our chances of getting arthritis increase. The joint degeneration is a natural part of the aging process for cats also.
Sometimes arthritis can occur due to some kind of trauma or from an infection. If this is the cause, then age is irrelevant as it can affect felines of all ages.
Preventative Care for Feline Arthritis
Keep toenails trimmed so they aren’t getting caught on things. You don’t want them getting a claw snagged on or in something, and pulling aggressively to free themselves.
Make sure your cats get exercise. As cats get older, they can become more prone to gain weight because they are less active. The heavier your cat, the more stress it puts on their joints.
Again, this is the same concept for people. If you have knee problems and lose a bit of weight, often you feel some relief in your knee joints when you are walking around.
If your cat is overweight, losing weight can be beneficial. Try a diet cat food. For finicky eaters, start by mixing in the lower calorie food with their normal food.
Losing weight reduces strain on your cat’s joints. Being at a lighter weight can help your cat be more comfortable, get around easier and be more active.
Cat supplements are another preventative measure for cats starting to show signs of joint pain. There are products which help reduce inflammation, decrease pain and contribute to improving joint health.
Cat Arthritis Treatment
Although there is not a cure for arthritis, there are several options to help minimize the pain and discomfort for your pets. Cats with arthritis can still continue to live healthy lives. There are medications for arthritis which can improve their quality of life. Supplements are also available to help replenish some of the cartilage.
Glucosamine for Cats
Glucosamine is a popular ingredient in arthritis medicine prescribed for cats, dogs, and people. There have been lab tests where glucosamine helped with inflammation and regeneration of cartilage. There have also been studies that say it doesn’t work. Many people take it and say it works. Many pet owners give to their dogs and cats and have reported improvement too.
Years ago I had a cat with an injured knee and I gave her a glucosamine supplement. A lot of people use products with this supplement for their pets. One supplement which has been around for awhile and has a lot of positive reviews is Flexpet. You can find out more about it by checking out my Flexpet review.
Ways to Help Comfort Cats with Arthritis
There are some options of things you can do for your cat to help decrease their pain. Below are some simple ways to make your cat feel more comfortable.
A warm blanket, cozy cat bed or even a heated cat bed with help alleviate some discomfort. Sore joints feel worse when you are cold. There are many heated cat beds available and all the cats I know with them. Mine have them, and some of my relatives and friends do too. All of them seem to really take to them.
You can try giving your cat a gentle massage. You want to do this when your cat is settled and relaxed. Be gentle and if your cat reacts well to it, this is a nice way to pamper your kitty.
Other Considerations for Cats with Arthritis
Be aware of your cat’s surroundings and make adjustments as necessary. You want your cat to be able to do as many of it’s normal activities as possible.
Litter box tips
Make sure the litter box has lower walls and even a ramp to enter, so your cat doesn’t have to struggle to get in and out. Also, make sure the box is larger enough for your cat to maneuver in and out easily.
Locate the litter box in the areas your cat typically hangs out. Don’t make your cat climb up and down stairs to get to their litter box. For cats who spend time on different floors throughout the day, put a box on each floor near the vicinity where your cat typically goes on that floor.
The opposite is true for food and water bowls. You may want to raise them a bit, so your cat doesn’t have to bend too low to eat or drink. There are elevated bowls you can buy for your cat.
Access to Favorite Spots
For a cat who like to get up on beds, chairs or sofas, you can get a pet ramp, or your can use other items such as a low ottoman or stiff cushions to help your cat get up and down without having to jump in one leap.
How to Know if Your Cat has Arthritis
The only sure way to know is to have your vet exam your cat. Veterinarians can take radiographs and have other diagnostic tests they can complete to help them figure out of if your cat is arthritic.