Arthritis is a very common condition that can affect your beloved cat. In most circumstances arthritis occurs in senior cats, however in some cases it can affect young cats and kittens too. There is, unfortunately, no cure for arthritis, however there are some things you can do to help ease the pain, and make your cat feel better.
What are the symptoms of arthritis?
As your cat moves, their bones should naturally glide due to healthy joint fluid and cartilage. If a cat has arthritis, this natural movement is a lot harsher and can feel like sandpaper.
You may suspect your cat is suffering from arthritis if they start showing the following signs:
- Struggling or avoiding the need to jump up onto places.
- Loss of balance, or ability to walk in a straight line. This may show if they are unable to walk along fences without the need to jump off before getting where they need to go.
- Limping or dragging their legs behind them.
- Stiffness in their limbs. This can often be after sleeping.
- Increased difficulty when using their litter box or going to the toilet outside.
- Showing increased signs of irritability. They may get grumpy if you try to touch them.
- Moving less and sleeping more.
- Swollen or warm joints.
- Over or under-grooming. In over-grooming they may have a pinky/ brown staining to the fur where their saliva has stained. In under-grooming they may have matted fur close to their tail bone, as they are unable to reach these areas as effectively.
What are the causes of arthritis?
Natural wear and tear as the cat ages – As your cat gets older their joints can weaken causing a risk of arthritis.
Abnormalities – Cartilage around the joints can cause abnormal hip development, resulting in arthritis.
Injury – If your cat or kitten has got into an accident, this can bring on early arthritis. This can especially happen if they have a joint fracture or joint injury from the accident.
Genetics – Occasionally a cat could be born with an increased risk of arthritis. Some breeds are more prone to it than others. Breeds that may struggle with more are Scottish Folds, Maine Coons, Siamese and Persian cats.
Whilst arthritis can occur in any part of your cat’s body, it tends to be most common in their hind legs. This can cause them to limp, or lean on the other leg as they walk, resulting in them spending more time sleeping or resting.
If you are worried your cat is in a lot of pain, or is struggling to get around, contact your vet as they can help with a treatment plan for them.
Diagnosis and treatment for arthritis
If you are wanting to check whether your cat is suffering from arthritis, you can contact your local vet for diagnosis. They will look out for any signs of visible joint deformity, joint pain, reduced range of motion in the joint, and look out for any excess fluid. They may also take x-rays.
You may choose to offer treatment for your cat if they are suffering particularly badly. You could try non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which are prescribed by your vet, or pain medication which you can disguise with their food. Other options which your vet may offer are injections, acupuncture and cold laser therapy, but always check with your local vet as these could be at extra cost and may not covered by pet insurance. At Vetsure, we would potentially look to provide cover for treatments such as acupuncture and cold laser therapy, but not all insurers do.
You can try a few things at home to help your cat get around that little bit easier too. The following things may offer some assistance.
- Providing a ramp or step blocks to help them get onto places more easily. These could be placed between the stairs to create less of a climb, or under the sofa so they don’t need to jump up as high. You could also position a wheelie bin next to the garden fence so that they have something they can jump up or down onto rather than jumping the full height of the fence.
- Providing a warm, soft bed to help cushion their joints. A memory foam mattress is a great option as it will mold to your cat’s body.
- Changing their brushes to soft bristles so you don’t hurt them or make them sore during grooming.
- Help them to maintain a healthy weight so that they put less pressure and stress on their joints. Being overweight can make their condition worse.
- A heightened food and water bowl is great for relieving pressure on their joints. You can put a box or other sturdy, solid object under their food bowl so that they don’t have to bend as far down to eat. A small water fountain can help too as it tends to be higher up than a standard water bowl.
- If they use a litter tray, you can switch their regular one to one with lowered down edges to make it easier to step in and out of.
Cats are very proud animals and really don’t like to display signs of pain or weakness which means it can be very difficult to see when they are uncomfortable. Knowing the signs can help you notice a lot earlier when they might be suffering so that you can go ahead and get the relevant treatment they need. The earlier you notice arthritis the better.
If you are unsure if your pet has it, or they are in extreme pain, take them to the vets immediately for further checks.