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Everything you need to know about arthritis in cats

Grey cat advice
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Despite a prodigious amount of cat yoga (stretching and laying down a lot) through its life, your cat is reasonably likely to develop arthritis. One in five cats already suffer from the condition. So what can be done about arthritis in cats?

By G. John Cole

Arthritis is no fun for any animal, two legs or four. But a cat will be particularly frustrated because it hates to waste time sitting at home when it could be chasing insects or out looking for trouble. Let’s have a closer look at what cat arthritis involves.

Causes of arthritis in cats

Like human and dog arthritis, cat arthritis is caused when a cat’s cartilage (the tissue that cushions its joints) wears down. Without this protection, your cat’s bones rub together when it moves, which causes stiffness and pain. Arthritis can also stimulate more bone to grow where it shouldn’t, which makes matters worse.

If you notice cat arthritis symptoms in your little lion, put your protective gear on and pack that cat off to the vet. He will probably x-ray puss to see if arthritis is the problem.

Symptoms of arthritis in cats

Naturally, normal arthritis symptoms such as lameness are not dramatic enough for cats. So you have to look out for your cat’s more roundabout ways of telling you it’s suffering.

It seems that affected cats can show a variety of signs, such as hiding away more than normal, crying if picked up, aggression, and running away if handled,” writes vet Bradley Viner in Your Cat.

By far the most common signs are an unwillingness to jump, and if they do, a reduction in the height they are prepared to leap. This means that the owner of an affected cat will often notice subtle changes in their pet's behaviour patterns - but often not appreciate the cause.”

As with humans and dogs, arthritis in cats mostly affects the elderly but can also strike when young. And as with humans and dogs, preventative measures against arthritis should begin as soon as your cat comes to live with you.

Preventing arthritis in cats

The main causes of arthritis in cats are wear-and-tear and old injuries that come back to haunt them.

Cats aren’t as active as dogs, so that wear-and-tear will likely be the result of being overweight. A fat cat puts too much pressure on its joints as it goes about its daily business. Of course, you don’t know what kind of wild meats your cat dines on while it’s out of the house, but be careful not to overfeed it indoors.

To avoid injuries, make sure that your garden is ‘cat-friendly’ so it can jump down from fences and trees without danger of breaking a bone. Consider keeping your cat indoors at night. This can prevent it from getting into fights, run over in the dark, or being seen off for wailing outside someone’s bedroom window!

You can also lace your cat’s diet with plenty of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. These can keep its joints healthy.

How to treat a cat with arthritis

So you’re wondering ‘what can I give my cat for arthritis pain?’

The answer is: not that much. Historically there haven’t been many approved treatments for cat arthritis. But lately, vets have given a drug named meloxicam the go-ahead. It can treat the pain that a cat has from arthritis. The trade-off is that you need to catch your cat and feed it the drug from a syringe!

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate supplements can also help. As for cat food for arthritis, again choose something that is rich in Omega 3 or 6. But do be wary of your cat’s weight, as these oils can cause the critter to pile on the pounds. It’s important your cat stays slim to help prevent further suffering from its condition.

Finally, some people swear by acupuncture for soothing a cat’s arthritic pain. It’s best to check with your vet first. But if you can find a reliable and approved cat acupuncture specialist, this can be a great way to treat her arthritis while quietly getting payback for all those scratches and nips across the years.

There’s no cure for arthritis. But if you care for your cat’s joint health early on and take steps to alleviate pain when it arises, you may still be able to give it the quality of life it deserves.