Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease where the cartilage within the joint is worn away, leading to inflammation and pain. It is a common cause of pain and impaired mobility and can severely impact a cats quality of life.
Cats can be quite effective at hiding their pain which makes it difficult to recognise arthritis in its early stages. Arthritis is a lifelong condition that requires a combination of attentive home care and veterinary care.
Healthy joints have an unbroken layer of smooth cartilage to protect the bone from wear and tear.
The cartilage in an arthritic joint is damaged, leading to abrasion and inflammation of the underlying bone.
How is it diagnosed?
- Clinical signs noticed by pet owner
- Arthritis assessment involving an examination to look for signs such as stiffness or discomfort of the joints
- X-rays may be recommended to further assess the severity of the arthritis, or to rule out other causes of pain
- Blood tests may be recommended to assess the general health of your cat, including their kidney and liver function. This will help to assess whether medication is appropriate.
Is your cat showing signs of arthritis?
- Have you noticed that your cat spends more time sleeping?
- Sits/rests in an abnormal or awkward position?
- Lays flat out on its side when sleeping?
- Becomes irritated when you hold or stroke them?
- Is reluctant to jump or climb compared to what they would previously do?
- Avoids climbing stairs?
- Has begun to toilet in places other than its litterbox?
- Appears more withdrawn/avoids people?
- Has a reduced appetite?
- Coat appears more matted and scruffy?
The above behaviours are indicators that your cat may be in pain. Be sure to discuss this with your vet today to determine the best course of action. Early diagnosis, treatment and regular check-ups can help your cat rediscover its youthful enthusiasm.
Steps that can positively change your cat’s lifestyle and environment to reduce their arthritis symptoms.
- Food & water
Place your cat’s food and water bowls in a location that doesn’t require stretching, climbing or jumping. Your vet may have nutritional guidance for weight control, as joint problems may be aggravated by excess weight.
- Litter tray
Place their litter tray on the ground in a quiet and secluded location where they will feel safe.
- Bedding & favourite spot
Ensure your cat has a soft, warm place to sleep that is away from cold draughts. Keep their bedding in a place that doesn’t require climbing or jumping. If your cat has a favourite chair or window ledge, provide a ramp or steps that make it easy to access.
Your vet may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug to help relieve the pain and inflammation associated with chronic arthritis. You should notice a difference within a matter of days with effective treatment. Arthritis is a lifelong condition, and the underlying disease doesn’t disappear even if the signs have resolved. For this reason it is important to talk to your vet about appropriate longterm use of medication, including what side-effects to be aware of and how frequently your pet should be rechecked.
- Regular check ups
Regular health checks become increasingly important as your cat gets older. Blood tests may also be performed to ensure that your cat is healthy and can continue medication.