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Signs Your Cat is Experiencing Arthritis and What You Should Do

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Arthritis doesn’t only affect us pet owners. It also can affect our dogs and cats, especially as they get older. Arthritis is a painful condition that tends to worsen over time, so early detection and proper management are crucial to ensuring your cat remains comfortable and healthy.

Unfortunately, cats are very skilled at masking their pain, so it can take a while for pet owners to notice the symptoms of arthritis and get them help. Here’s how you can tell if your cat is suffering from arthritis and what you can do to help it manage it.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is caused by the inflammation of the joints and sometimes the degeneration of cartilage between joints. This can happen naturally over time, which is why so many senior cats develop arthritis. However, younger cats and adult cats can also develop arthritis.

Inflammation in the joints can cause stiffness, which makes it hard for cats to move without pain. If the cartilage between the joints has worn down, the bones may rub on each other, which can cause even more pain and inflammation.

Obese cats are more likely to get arthritis than lean cats, as are senior cats. Most cats develop arthritis in their hips, elbows, knees and lower back.

Signs of feline arthritis

Unfortunately, cats most often show very subtle signs of experiencing arthritis, unlike dogs, which make it more obvious. Identifying arthritis can require careful observation at home and testing by a veterinarian.

If you pick up on any of these signs, contact your vet for an appointment.

  • Limping: Cats do not limp very obviously, but if you watch closely, you may be able to tell that your cat avoids walking on one leg in particular or favors a particular leg. Limping is often most noticeable as your cat is getting up from a resting position.
  • Unwillingness to move: Cats suffering from arthritis often experience pain when moving around too much due to inflammation or bone-on-bone wear, so they try not to move around as much. You may notice your cat being unwilling to play as much as it used to, refusing to use stairs or cat trees or just lounging around a lot more than usual.
  • Irritability: If your cat is normally a lovable snuggler but suddenly starts nipping at your hands, swatting or hissing you try to pet it or pick it up, it may have arthritis. Cats can become very irritable and defensive of their sore spots when they’re in pain, hence the sudden shift in mood and behavior.
  • Licking or biting: You may be used to your cat licking itself to keep its coat clean, but repeated or obsessive licking or even biting at the body can also indicate arthritis. Your cat may begin grooming or biting the area that hurts in an attempt to soothe the pain.
  • Litter box accidents: If your cat suddenly starts urinating outside of its litter box, you may initially think that it has a urinary tract problem, but it actually could be caused by arthritis. Getting in and out of the litter box can be painful for cats with arthritis in the legs. Additionally, if the litter box is in another part of the home, such as up a flight of stairs, your cat may not want to go to it and endure the pain of moving.

Helping your kitty manage arthritis

Unfortunately, arthritis cannot be cured. The condition will need to be treated and managed for the remainder of your cat’s life.

However, there are numerous ways you can help your cat live a happy and pain-free life in spite of its arthritis.

Joint supplements may help lubricate and repair the cartilage in your cat’s joints, slowing the condition’s progression and lessening symptoms.

Additionally, anti-inflammatory supplements like omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation within the joints so your cat is able to move around more easily.

There are also many things you can do to facilitate easier movement for your cat in the home. For example, move the litter box, toys and bed to the main floor of your home so your cat doesn’t have to go up or down stairs as often. If your cat loves to sleep on a couch or bed but appears to avoid jumping up, get it some stairs or a ramp so it can rest in its favorite spots more easily.

Finally, avoid encouraging your cat into rambunctious playtime that requires jumping and leaping. These high-impact activities can ultimately worsen the condition of the joints and cause your cat pain.

Early diagnosis helps

Although minor arthritis may be even harder to detect in your cat, if you notice any signs of arthritis, don’t delay in contacting your vet. The earlier you are able to get your cat diagnosed and treated, the easier it will be to prevent further breakdown of the joints and pain.

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Meet Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford

Pet Wellbeing's own Dr. Jan has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years. Since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, she's founded two veterinary clinics and lectured extensively on pet herbal therapy, nutraceuticals, acupuncture, rehabilitation and pain management.

Dr. Jan has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities, helping us to formulate all of our supplements. She is an essential part of Pet Wellbeing.

And lucky for us, she's only one of the great team of people who make Pet Wellbeing so special.

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