Arthritis in cats is surprisingly common. In fact, it’s estimated that 90% of all cats over the age of 10 suffer from some form of arthritis or joint degeneration. As humans, we expect some joint issues or stiffness as we age, but it’s an ailment that often goes undiagnosed in our feline companions. This is probably due to their survival instinct to hide signs of illness or pain from potential predators.
Arthritis in cats can cause pain, swelling, and a loss of mobility. So, if you suspect your cat is suffering from arthritis or another form of degenerative joint disease, you should seek advice from your vet as soon as possible.
There is no cure for feline arthritis but your vet will be able to offer guidance on how you can manage your cat’s symptoms. In addition, you can also try out numerous forms of natural pain relief for cats with arthritis at home, such as supplements for cat joints or by setting up provisions to help your cat move around more easily.
What is arthritis in cats?
Arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis, is a chronic, progressive medical condition that causes the joints in the body to become stiff or swollen. It occurs when the cartilage between the bones starts to deteriorate, which results in the bone joints rubbing together and becoming damaged. It can occur in any part of the body but the spine, hip, elbow, knee, and ankle joints are the most commonly affected.
Over time, arthritis can become very painful for cats and may negatively impact everyday activities, particularly jumping, playing, and hunting.
Causes of arthritis in cats
Arthritis is common in older cats, however, the causes are not fully understood. Some cat breeds may be more likely to develop arthritis because of their body structure or because of certain genetic medical conditions. For example, breeds such as Maine Coons and Persians are susceptible to hip dysplasia which can cause arthritis later in life. Obese cats are also prone to arthritis due to the abnormal pressure put on the joints, as well as cats that have had surgery in the past.
What are the symptoms of arthritis in cats?
Signs of arthritis in cats can be hard to spot. However, if you notice your cat becoming more reluctant to jump up on the sofa or they appear more stiff than usual, it may be worth scheduling a vet appointment.
Other symptoms to look out for include:
- Swollen or sore joints
- Difficulty standing up or moving
- A reluctance to be touched on certain areas of the body
- Sudden aggression towards humans or other animals
- Lethargy or reduced activity
- Irritability when handled
- Overgrown claws due to inactivity
- Sleeping more than usual
Remember, that symptoms will vary depending on the temperament of your cat and the severity of the arthritis. Therefore, it’s important that you monitor your cat’s behavior regularly. So, you can pick up on any subtle changes that may indicate your cat is suffering from arthritis.
Natural Pain remedies for cats with arthritis
Veterinary cat arthritis treatments can include anti-inflammatory medications, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture for cats. At home treatments are all about helping your cat to feel as comfortable as possible. Suggestions include:
- Set up a comfy bed: Cat calming beds are great for this purpose because they are made of extra soft filling that provides relief for aching limbs. You may also want to consider adding a heat pad to soothe your cat’s joints even further. Just make sure any cables are tucked away safely.
- Provide a litter box with low sides: This will help your cat to climb in and out easily.
- Groom your cat often with a soft brush: Cats with arthritis can struggle to groom themselves properly. So, you may need to help them out a bit! Use a soft brush so you don’t accidently damage the joints or cause injury, particularly on the spine.
- Place all cat supplies within easy reach: Food/water bowls, toys, and beds should be placed directly on the floor in a downstairs room. If you notice your cat is struggling to bend down to eat, buy elevated bowls to make it easier for them.
- Monitor their food intake: Obesity can put more strain on the joints, which can aggravate arthritis symptoms. Keep your cat on a nutritious, protein-rich diet, and make sure you are not overfeeding them. If you’re unsure about how much your cat should be eating, you can always consult with your vet.
- Provide ramps for easy access to resting places: Does your cat love to snuggle up on the back of the sofa? If so, consider installing a sturdy ramp so they can climb up more easily without damaging their joints further. Older cats with progressive arthritis may struggle to play or hunt but this doesn’t mean their natural instincts have disappeared. Help to keep your cat mentally stimulated by providing easy access to the windowsill so they can watch the birds outside.
In addition to making areas of your home more accessible, you can give your cat dietary supplements to ease their symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements have been proven to reduce inflammation and increase cartilage production in cats with arthritis. Similarly, homeopathic oral drops such as Pet Bounce can help to ease stiffness and swelling in the joints. CBD oil may also be beneficial, however, its effectiveness has not fully been researched so use it with caution.
Final Thoughts: Helping cats with arthritis
Arthritis in cats can be a painful and debilitating condition. Getting advice from a vet is essential to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Your vet will also be able to advise you on the best course of action.
While arthritis in cats can’t be cured, you can make your cat’s life easier and more comfortable by making a few small changes in your home. These include providing easy access to their favorite spots in the home and incorporating joint supplements into their diet.
Joint issues are unfortunately a common sign of old age. However, with regular monitoring and natural pain relief measures, you can ensure that your cat continues to live their best life.