Arthritis is a painful condition that not only affects millions of humans every day but can also affect our four-legged friends. Feline arthritis is actually more common than you’d think.
For cats, who are extremely agile and active creatures, arthritis can be extremely debilitating. However, as much as they might not want to move, cats with arthritis should not live sedentary lifestyles. In fact, immobility can make the condition worse. This is why it’s very important to keep your cat up and moving within the scope of its limits.
Understanding your cat’s joint pain
Feline arthritis is a condition that occurs naturally in cats over time and usually affects senior cats the most. There are some forms of arthritis that can affect much younger cats, but these are not very common.
Arthritis is caused by natural wear and tear on the joints. For all the jumping and running cats do, they have surprisingly resilient joints; however, a lifetime of leaping can do some lasting damage. Feline arthritis is most common in the hips, elbows and knees of cats but other areas can still be affected.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of feline arthritis. In this condition, cartilage located between the bones degrades over time, leaving the bones to rub against each other painfully. The friction can also cause inflammation, which is the body’s way of fighting off infection and healing tissue. Unfortunately, inflammation can lead to swelling and stiffness. All of these symptoms make it painful and nearly impossible for your cat to move in the same ways it used to.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to identify the signs of arthritis in our feline friends because cats are very good at hiding pain. Your cat may not have a lame leg or limp, but it may show signs of discomfort, pain or reluctance to move.
Look out for these signs of arthritis and take your cat to the vet if you are unsure:
- Refusal to jump to/from places it would before
- Less activity overall
- Difficulty getting up
- Cry or resist being touched
- Stiff movement
- Defecation outside the litter box or refusal to enter litter box
Tips for helping your kitty stay on its feet
Moving is very difficult for cats with arthritis, which can make everyday activities difficult for them. Fortunately, there are many ways you can help your pet stay comfortable in your home.
- Provide joint supplements: Supplements that promote more fluid joint movement or have anti-inflammatory properties can help aid your cat in moving more easily and reduce the pain it feels while staying active.
- Mind the weight: Overweight cats tend to have more trouble with arthritis because of the additional pressure being put on their joints. To help your cat maintain a healthy weight, control its food portions and make sure it’s getting up and moving at least once a day.
- Make the home more accessible: Installing ramps and moving beds, food and litter boxes to be on a single floor of the home can make life a lot easier for your arthritic kitty. This way, it doesn’t need to climb stairs to maintain its normal schedule and it can still access its favorite places to relax.
Exercises and games for arthritic cats
Even though cats with arthritis have a hard time moving, you shouldn’t let your cat lay around and not move all day. Exercise has actually been proven to be beneficial to cats with arthritis, since it strengthens the muscles surrounding the joints and can help improve mobility over time.
The goal for any exercise with your arthritic cat is to stay low-impact and prevent your cat from having to leap, jump or run. Fortunately, there are still a lot of options to consider.
- Walking: If your cat will let you put a harness on it and take it for a walk outside, you’d be helping it receive a perfect amount of exercise each day. A short 15-minute walk is all your cat needs to get its blood pumping and joints moving.
- Swimming: Most pet owners assume that cats hate water, but a surprising number of cats can enjoy a dip in the pool now and then. Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for cats because the cool water helps take pressure off the joints while still activating their muscles.
- Feather chase: A simple feather tied to a string can create excellent physical activity for cats with aching joints. Try to keep your cat from jumping and sprinting after the feather too much, and aim for shorter chasing movements to keep it entertained.
- New balls and toys: Introducing new balls or toys to your cat’s existing stash may help encourage it to get up and play on its own. Your cat can bat things around or slowly chase them down the hall if you throw them.
Finding ways to help your cat be active can be tough, especially when it is uncomfortable or in pain. Your first priority should always be to minimize your pet’s discomfort. When that seems to be settled, take steps to get your cat up and moving to promote a healthy lifestyle and help ease joint pain further.