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Arthritis in Cats – Vet Approved Causes, Signs & Treatments

Written by: Kit Copson

Last Updated on June 24, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat lying on wooden floor

Arthritis in Cats – Vet Approved Causes, Signs & Treatments


Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo


Dr. Lorna Whittemore

BVMS, MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

If your cat seems a little less sprightly and active than usual, it can be a cause for concern. A number of health issues could cause mobility issues in cats, but one condition fairly common in mature cats is arthritis. Arthritis can really slow your cat down and make them reluctant to engage in once-loved playtime activities.

In this post, we explore arthritis in cats—causes, how it’s treated, and how you can make your cat’s life more comfortable.

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What Is Cat Arthritis?

Technically known as “osteoarthritis”, cat arthritis is a condition that causes your cat’s joints to degenerate and become inflamed. It can affect one or more joints, most commonly in the legs but any joints in the body can be affected. If your cat seems to be in pain or discomfort when up and about and has started to struggle to get up on their cat tree or use the stairs, it’s possible that they’re suffering from arthritis.

American shorthair cat lying on the couch
Image Credit by: Clement Morin, Shutterstock

The 4 Common Causes of Arthritis in Cats

Arthritis can develop in cats because of lifestyle factors, age, and genetics. These are the most common causes:

1. Injuries

If your cat has had an accident at some point in their life, they may have sustained joint, muscle, or cartilage injuries that have led to arthritis.

2. Obesity

According to research, the white fat that builds up when a cat is overweight gives off inflammatory hormones, thereby worsening the inflammation and pain of arthritis. Being overweight can contribute to abnormal joint loading which can hasten the disease’s progress.

fat cat siiting on the grass
Image Credit by: Dennis van de Water, Shutterstock

3. Genetics

Though arthritis can affect any breed, some cat breeds are genetically more susceptible to developing the condition, like Persians, Himalayans, and Siamese cats. The condition can also come about if the joints develop abnormally during the growth stage.

4. Age

Cats of any age can have arthritis, but it is more common in older cats. This is because the joints and cartilage may wear down with age.

cat lying on sofa
Image Credit: Pixabay

Symptoms of Arthritis in Cats

There are quite a few telltale signs of arthritis in cats, but every cat experiences them differently. The symptoms may also fluctuate and vary over time. It’s important to remember that cats are pretty accomplished at hiding pain, so even if they’re not crying out in pain, it doesn’t mean that they’re not hurting. The symptoms may also be subtle. Symptoms include:

  • Struggling or reluctance to go up or down the stairs
  • Struggling or reluctance to jump up or down from something
  • Struggling to use the litter box properly
  • Limping or lameness
  • Stiffness in the legs
  • Being less active than usual
  • Reluctance to be touched on certain areas of the body
  • Becoming unusually aggressive or grumpy
  • Sleeping a lot and/or withdrawing
  • Swollen and painful joints

If you spot any of the above symptoms in your cat, get in touch with your vet to arrange a checkup as soon as possible.

How Is Arthritis in Cats Diagnosed?

A vet diagnoses arthritis by performing a physical examination. They will check for joint deformity, fluid in the joints, instability or restriction of the joints, and difficulty with motion, among other things. The diagnosis is confirmed by conducting an X-ray.

How Is Arthritis in Cats Treated?

Treatment options are varied and will depend on the severity of your cat’s arthritis. In some cases, surgery is required, but not always. Your vet may recommend:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Pain-relief medication
  • Joint protectants
  • Joint supplements (omega 3, glucosamine)
  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Surgery
  • A special diet
cat examined by Vets
Image Credit: Kzenon, Shutterstock

How Can I Help My Cat With Arthritis at Home?

Seeking veterinary attention should always be your first step, but there are things you can do between vet visits to help your cat feel more comfortable at home. Here are some tips:

  • Provide raised food and water bowls so they don’t have to bend to eat and drink.
  • Provide a soft, comfortable bed that’s easy for your cat to get in and out of. You may want to consider an orthopedic memory foam bed.
  • Get a litter box that’s easy for them to use, like one with a lowered side.
  • Keep your cat nice and warm to keep the cold out of their joints. You might want to provide a heating pad in winter.
  • Avoid overfeeding to prevent obesity that can worsen your cat’s arthritis.
  • Consult your vet to talk about the best kind of food to keep your cat’s weight down and their joints in as good shape as possible.
  • Set up ramps to help your cat get up and down those hard-to-reach spots that they love (your bed, sofa, etc.).

The practical things aside, don’t forget to pamper your kitty! Spend time with them, brush them with a soft brush, and spoil them with petting sessions (avoiding areas that might be painful, of course). Your cat is sure to appreciate the extra attention as a distraction from the discomfort.

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Final Thoughts

The best way to prevent arthritis from developing in your cat is to feed them a healthy, nutritious diet and make sure they’re well-exercised to keep their weight down. If your cat is showing signs of arthritis, take them to your vet for diagnosis and to find out how best to treat the condition. The good news is that many cats live long, happy lives when their arthritis is appropriately managed.

Related Read:

Featured Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

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