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Gray cat stretching from arthritis

Easing the Ache: Understanding Arthritis in Cats

Based on an article that first appeared at

Do you notice your silver-snouted feline isn’t feeling as adventurous as they once were? Does it seem a little harder for them to jump to their favorite sun spot, or maybe chasing the laser isn’t as fun as it used to be? There is a possibility your feline friend is struggling with arthritis, a condition often associated with dogs but equally prevalent and debilitating in cats. In fact, studies show that over 60% of cats over the age of six exhibit signs of arthritis, a condition that can severely impact their quality of life!

This chronic joint disease can make even the simplest activities, like jumping up to their favorite napping spot, painful and difficult. It's important to be your cat’s advocate, and it all begins with identifying the early signs and understanding the effects of arthritis. Managing this struggle can keep your furry companion comfortable and active throughout their golden years.

Cat Arthritis Explained

Feline arthritis is very similar to arthritis in humans and causes just as much pain. Arthritis, or osteoarthritis in cats, is a degenerative joint disease that causes the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. Think of it as bone on bone, crunching away with every step. This leads to pain and reduced mobility.

We all know that our cats are masters at hiding pain, so the signs of arthritis can be easy to overlook. Subtle signals such as a decrease in activity levels, hesitance to jump or climb, or a stiff gait that worsens after rest can be key indicators of joint issues. Your once playful pal may become more withdrawn and show less interest in interactive toys or games.

Arthritis doesn’t discriminate and can affect any feline. There are a few factors that increase the risk in your cat:

  • Age: Older cats are more susceptible, with studies suggesting that over 90% of cats over the age of 12 show signs of joint disease.
  • Weight: Overweight cats are at a higher risk due to the increased strain on their joints.
  • Previous Injuries: Cats with previous joint injuries or congenital abnormalities may develop arthritis earlier.
  • Breed: Certain breeds may be predisposed to joint issues, although less is known about genetic factors in cats compared to dogs.

Cat jumping from cat tree.

Diagnosing Arthritis in Your Cat

Your veterinarian will typically begin with a thorough physical examination, paying close attention to your cat's gait and reactions to certain joint manipulations. To confirm arthritis, your veterinarian may recommend imaging tests, like X-rays. By imaging their joints, we are able to see more clearly the degree of joint degeneration and the presence of any bone spurs.

Advanced imaging techniques, such as MRI or CT scans, are sometimes utilized for a more detailed view, but only when needed. Your veterinarian may also recommend blood work for your pet. While not diagnostic for arthritis itself, lab work can rule out other diseases that mimic arthritic symptoms. If you notice any symptoms, it’s important to talk with your veterinarian. Early intervention and support can greatly improve your cat’s quality of life!

Managing Your Cat’s Arthritis

While there is no cure for arthritis, several strategies can help manage the symptoms and improve your cat's quality of life:

  1. Weight Management: Keeping your cat at a healthy weight reduces the load on their joints and can decrease the severity of symptoms.
  2. Pain Relief Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain in arthritic cats. These must be used cautiously and under strict veterinary supervision due to potential side effects, particularly on the kidneys and liver.
  3. Joint Supplements: Supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can support joint health by helping to repair cartilage and maintain joint fluid. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly those from fish oil, have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce joint swelling and pain.
  4. Physical Therapy: Physical therapy includes a range of activities such as gentle massage, passive range of motion exercises, and low-impact exercises like swimming or walking on a treadmill. These therapies can help maintain muscle mass and joint mobility, slowing the progression of arthritis symptoms.
  5. Environmental Modifications: Making small changes in your home can make a big difference in your arthritic cat’s life. Provide steps or ramps to access high places such as beds or couches, use litter boxes with low sides for easy access, and place food and water bowls in easily accessible locations.
  6. Acupuncture and Laser Therapy: Acupuncture can help relieve pain and improve mobility in some cats. Laser therapy uses light to stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation, helping to reduce pain and inflammation in the joints.
  7. Regular Veterinary Check-ups: Regular check-ups with a veterinarian allow for ongoing assessment of arthritis and adjustments to the treatment plan based on how well your cat is responding to current therapies.

Cat jumping from couch to another couch.

Managing arthritis in your feline friend not only involves medical intervention but also creates comfort and ease in their daily environments.

Here are a few ways you can create a supportive home environment for your arthritic cat:

  1. Accessible Living Spaces: Arrange your cat's living area so everything they need is easy to reach without having to jump or climb. Elevated food and water dishes can prevent strain on their joints, and a litter box with low sides facilitates easier access.
  2. Comfortable Resting Areas: Provide soft, supportive bedding to help alleviate pressure on sore joints. Heated beds can also soothe stiff muscles and joints, especially in colder weather.
  3. Gentle Play: Encourage light exercise to help maintain muscle tone and flexibility. Use toys that require minimal effort, like laser pointers or feather wands, to keep them engaged without extensive physical strain.
  4. Stress Reduction: Keep the household environment calm and stress-free. Cats with arthritis may have heightened sensitivity to loud noises or sudden changes, so maintaining a tranquil home can help reduce anxiety.
  5. Regular Check-ins: Spend quality time each day with your cat to monitor their condition and provide emotional support. Gentle petting or grooming can help increase your bond and allow you to check for any changes in their condition.

Keeping Your Cat Content Through Arthritis

With the right approach, you can significantly ease your feline’s discomfort and improve their quality of life. Every cat's needs will vary, so it's important to work closely with your veterinarian to tailor a treatment plan that best suits your pet's specific requirements.

If you suspect your cat may be suffering from arthritis, or if you want to take preventive measures, contact us today! We can offer guidance tailored to your cat’s specific needs and help you develop a management plan that allows your frisky feline to continue to enjoy a comfortable and active life. While arthritis is a chronic condition, with the right care, most cats will live full and happy lives well into their senior years!

If you have questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (941) 922-5007, or you can email us at contact@clarkroadanimalclinic.com. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook.

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  • Cat Senior Care
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