Cats, particularly older ones, sometimes suffer from arthritis. Technically known as osteoarthritis (OA), the condition involves progressive joint inflammation and deterioration. The resulting pain often reduces mobility and negatively impacts cats’ quality of life. Although almost 90% of cats older than 10 show signs of the condition, arthritis isn’t a normal part of feline aging.
Osteoarthritis typically worsens over time, and there’s no cure for the disease. But arthritic cats can live long, happy, and healthy lives thanks to medication, weight management, and physical therapy. Keep reading for 10 tips on home care for a cat with arthritis.
The 9 Tips for Helping Your Cat With Arthritis
1. Measure What You Feed Your Cat
Cats with osteoarthritis are often overweight, and many benefit from dropping a few pounds. Around 60% of North American cats are overweight, so most of us have gotten used to seeing kitties who weigh too much! Speak with your veterinarian to get an idea of your pet’s current condition and whether your companion would benefit from losing weight.
Serving your buddy the right amount of food is essential for feline weight management. Your cat’s food packaging should come with specific feeding instructions to help you determine how much to feed your cat based on its current weight and whether your buddy needs to gain, lose, or maintain their current body mass. Figure out how much your pet really should be eating, and use a measuring cup to ensure you’re giving your cat the right amount of food.
2. Consider a Weight Loss Food
Some cats need extra help with losing weight, as they can’t burn enough calories to drop pounds while eating their current food. Feline weight loss formulations can help some cats struggling to reach a healthy weight. Most have fewer calories than regular cat food and either contain lots of fiber or protein to keep cats from becoming hungry between meals.
High-fiber options help cats feel full and increase regularity by adding bulk to their diets. They delay stomach emptying and allow cats to feel full for longer.
3. Avoid Human Food
Human food is a culprit for feline obesity and weight problems. Food made to please human taste buds is often far too high in calories for cats to consume regularly without packing on the pounds.
Because cats and humans have different nutritional needs, cats don’t get the nutrients they require for optimum health when eating human food. Avoiding human food is one of the easiest ways to ensure your buddy doesn’t accidentally eat something toxic to cats, like onions or raisins.1
4. Limit the Treats
Keeping treat consumption under control can also play a massive role in helping your cat drop a few pounds, which often improves the pain and discomfort associated with osteoarthritis. About 10% of your buddy’s diet can safely come from healthy feline treats.
But making delicious homemade cat treats is also possible (and quite easy). Cats typically love meat and fish. Just throw a bit of lean meat or fish in the oven to make a yummy feline-friendly treat. Avoid adding seasonings such as oil, salt, onions, or salty broth. Cook the meat thoroughly and remove all bones before serving it to your cat. Alternatively, consider making some bone broth to add to your companion’s food as a treat. Put leftover bones in a pot with water, boil, and let simmer!
5. Consider Supplements
Many veterinarians recommend dietary supplements for cats suffering from osteoarthritis, specifically glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids.2 Some weight management and joint condition formulations feature these nutrients, giving you an easy way to include them in your pet’s diet.
However, you should check with your veterinarian before giving your cat supplements. Several over-the-counter products are available, but your vet can determine which supplement will benefit your pet the most.
6. Dial up the Comfort
Cats with stiff, painful joints often enjoy a bit of cozy warmth, as heat sometimes eases arthritis-related pain. Give your cat lots of comfortable places to sleep. Self-warming beds give cats warm, soft places to curl up and snuggle. You can also use beds with memory foam to provide gentle comfort and support.
Beds with lower edges make it easy for cats with limited mobility to get in and out comfortably. Larger beds allow pets to sprawl out, and options with bolster backs are great for kitties who love to sleep curled up. Consider putting extra cat beds in different locations around your home to ensure your cat has easy access to a comfortable place to hang out and snooze.
7. Improve Your Pet’s Dining Area
Elevating your cat’s food and water bowls can make it easier for pets with creaky joints to eat without pain. Elevated feeding stations allow pets to eat without bending over, which often makes things easier for arthritic cats.
Some allow you to adjust the height to find the most comfortable position for your cat. Many have cutouts designed to securely hold bowls in place as your buddy eats or drinks. Consider placing a soft towel or mat on the floor for your cat to sit on as they eat, as a bit of cushioning and warmth often helps arthritic cats feel more comfortable.
8. Fix Your Buddy’s Litter Box
Cats suffering from limited mobility often have special litter box needs. Large litter boxes that allow cats plenty of room to get comfortable are great for cats with mobility problems, and models with low edges give cats easy litter box access.
If you live in a home with stairs, consider putting a litter box on the floor where your companion spends the most time so they don’t have to struggle with stairs to use the bathroom. Place a few extra litter boxes around the house so your cat doesn’t have far to go when nature calls.
9. Increase Your Pet’s Exercise
Cats with arthritis often benefit from increased movement. Not only does physical activity help overweight cats drop weight, but it’s also essential for kitties’ overall physical and mental well-being. Cats with stiff and painful joints need more exercise than other cats. Moderate, low-impact activity may reduce joint pain in arthritic cats. And keeping the ligaments and muscles around your buddy’s joints strong and limber through exercise may slow the condition’s progression. Playing with cats is usually the easiest way to increase their physical activity.
However, before beginning any exercise program with your cat, speak with your veterinarian to ensure you engage in activities and movements that will benefit your buddy the most. Keep sessions short and avoid encouraging your cat to jump or quickly change direction.
Osteoarthritis is when a cat’s joints become inflamed and degenerate. It’s a progressive disease for which there’s no known cure. However, you can do several things at home to help your cat if they’re suffering from arthritis, including ensuring they maintain a healthy weight, encouraging gentle exercise, and even making your cat’s environment more accessible.
Speak with your veterinarian if your cat begins showing signs of osteoarthritis, such as walking stiffly or having trouble grooming. An accurate and early diagnosis of the condition often keeps cats running and being their sweet naughty selves for longer.
Featured Image Credit: Todorean Gabriel, Shutterstock
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