Loading... Please wait...


Everything You Need to Know About Feline Arthritis

Posted by

Arthritis is a common problem in cats, particularly in older ones. According to the FDA, a study diagnosed 74 out of 218 cats with osteoarthritis, signifying its growing prevalence.

However, with cats being exceptionally good at naturally hiding pain and illness, arthritis though common can often and easily go unnoticed even for experienced cat parents and vets. By the time symptoms present, it’s a bit late, and most cats are already in unbearable pain and discomfort.

In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about feline arthritis.

What Is Feline Arthritis?

Also known as Degenerative joint disease (DJD), feline arthritis is a condition characterized by the breakdown of the joints and surrounding tissues. Ordinarily, a layer of cartilage tissues cushions the ends of bones allowing for smooth, frictionless movant while also acting as shock absorbers.

With arthritis, cartilage tissues degenerate or get damaged and eventually wear away, causing sensitive joint bones exposure. As a result, pain, inflammation, and stiffness occur and, in severe cases, immobility in the affected joints.

Pro Tip: Arthritis can affect any joint of a cat’s body, including the shoulders, elbows, toes, hips, knees, paws, and spine. Declawed cats can be more susceptible to developing arthritis as they age since the procedure may traumatically affect their tendons.

Causes of Feline Arthritis

  • Obesity
  • Earlier injury or trauma to the joints
  • Congenital bone or joint disorders such as hip dysplasia
  • Recurring damage to the joints and nerves
  • Joint abnormalities and misalignment
  • Aging
  • Wear and tear

Signs of Feline Arthritis

Arthritis is a commonly under-diagnosed and progressive condition with subtle but damaging symptoms. As such, every cat parent to be aware of the common signs to look for;

  • Sudden reluctance to jump on things
  • Limping/ stiff gait
  • Muscle loss on thighs and back end
  • Decreased interest in playing with toys
  • Soiling outside the litter box
  • Sudden displeasure /anger when touched certain places
  • Weight gain/loss
  • Joint inflammation
  • Behavioral and routine change especially in sleeping and less activity
  • Reduced/troubled mobility when waking up
  • Avoiding using the affected joint
  • Overgrown claws and unkempt coats

Pro Tip: Cold or wet conditions intensify feline arthritis. Besides, the above signs and behaviors can indicate other health issues other than arthritis. Should you notice any of them, seek the veterinarian to determine the cause.

Diagnosis of Feline Arthritis

This involves finding out the medical history of your cat from you, including recent symptoms.

After that, a thorough physical exam is done, including careful evaluation of the joints using X-rays and Synovial fluid collection and analysis to establish the presence of arthritis and rule out other associated conditions such as fractures, tumors, broken bones, etc.

Additional testing such as urinalysis and blood tests may also be done to rule out other conditions.

Prevention, Treatment, and Management of Feline Arthritis

Arthritis is an incurable disease. It’s also progressive, meaning that it gets worse over time. Treatment and management of the disease is therefore lifelong to minify its progression and relieve pain through factors namely;

Weight management — obesity is a significant cause of feline arthritis. Overweight cats require controlled feeding or calorie-restricted diets to reduce joint pressure.

Lifestyle changes — involves tweaks to improve the quality of life for affected cats. These include; providing easy access to food, water, and the litter box through elevating food and water bowls to your cat’s level and using a low-sided litter box.

Moreover, providing an accessible, soft, and warm sleeping place, including a heating pad or an orthopedic bed, is vital.

Lastly, ensure regular brushing your cat’s coat, trimming their claws, and adding ramps to high-up spots.

  • Medication — may include, Glucosamine-chondroitin supplements, Omega fatty acid supplements, Chondroitin sulfate, Turmeric curcumin, etc., to alleviate joint pain.
  • Therapeutic procedures — these include massage, chiropractic, cold laser therapy, acupuncture, aqua-therapy, etc. You may also do physical therapy at home.
  • Nutraceuticals and prescription diets — encompasses foods or food compounds with medical benefits that alleviate arthritic effects.
  • Surgery — in cases where medical management is ineffective.

Pro Tip: Always consult your veterinarian before giving any medicinal products to your cat and for dietary advice. Never administer medication not precisely prescribed by your vet.

Prognosis for Arthritis

As earlier mentioned, feline arthritis has no cure. However, with proper care, lifestyle changes, and regular vet checkups, arthritic cats can live comfortably and enjoy a long and quality life.

Final Thoughts

The idea that your feline friend might be sick is terrifying enough even without the diagnosis of arthritis. Keep an eye out for these signs to help you identify and manage arthritis earlier on and get veterinary help. Just as with humans, early detection of arthritic symptoms and getting your cat to the vet for a treatment plan are crucial. 

Recent Updates

Sign up to our newsletter