Arthritis in Cats: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Arthritis in Cats: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Author WCF Staff


Cats live longer than many pets, but as they grow old, their bodies begin to deteriorate. It is entirely natural, and most of us will experience the same thing as we grow old. One of the potential complications our cats can expect is arthritis. If you have a senior cat and you're worried about their health, here are a few things you should know about arthritis in cats.

What is arthritis in cats?

Cat arthritis is a common skeletal condition that results in inflamed joints and makes it difficult for cats to move around. Your cat can feel better, but it is incurable. Have a veterinarian check your cat right away if you notice anything weird about your cat, like lameness or signs of pain.

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Back leg cat arthritis

It's common for cats to develop arthritis in their back legs, but it can impact any body part. Your cat's mobility will be severely restricted if your cat develops arthritis in its back legs. An arthritic cat may start limping or using only one limb when they walk, which can signify lameness. Sometimes, this leads to decreased activity and a preference for rest.

old cat in a suitcase

Cats with back leg arthritis can be diagnosed and treated by your vet.

What causes arthritis in cats?

Arthritis, the result of normal joint wear and tear, is the most common cause of arthritis in cats, particularly in elderly cats. In fact, x-rays show signs of arthritis in up to 90% of cats over 12. Arthritis has also been shown to be closely linked to obesity. Although arthritis is common in cats, there are also less-common forms of the disease. As a result of hip dysplasia, the hip joint grows abnormally. Malformed hip joints degenerate more quickly and are more prone to arthritis than other joints in the body. Arthritis can be exacerbated by trauma, autoimmune disease, diabetes, hormonal disorders in cats, and other conditions.

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What are the symptoms?

Arthritis symptoms can be challenging to detect because they can be subtle and develop over time. Consider how your cat was a few months or even years ago to see if any of these symptoms are present in them now. Arthritis in cats is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Having a hard time getting up or down from high places.
  • Inability or unwillingness to climb or jump
  • Walking with a stiff or limping gait
  • Disregard for using the litter box, especially one with a high entrance.
  • Untidy appearance
  • Irritability caused by unkempt or matted hair
  • Oversleeping is becoming a habit.
  • Lack of interest in playing or engaging in any other pastimes
  • Overgrown nails as a result of not using a scratching post

old cat sunbathing

How do vets diagnose it?

Your cat will undergo a thorough physical examination by your veterinarian, who will also likely order tests such as a blood or urine sample. An x-ray may be recommended to check for signs of joint wear and tear or other damage in your cat's body. In most cases, the diagnosis of arthritis in a senior cat is made based on symptoms that cannot be attributed to any other condition.

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What is the treatment for arthritis in cats?

Cats with arthritis can be treated in a variety of ways;


NSAIDs are a reasonably common way to deal with arthritis-caused pains in cats. However, these meds might require prescriptions.

Pain meds

When non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs aren't appropriate or sufficient, cats may be given painkillers.

senior domestic cat

Injectable joint protectants

Joint protectors that can be injected. Arthritis pain can be relieved with this method. A veterinarian administers injections of glycosaminoglycans to the cat approximately every four weeks.

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There is a lack of scientific studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture for feline arthritis. Still, it's possible that some of these cats would benefit from it. For centuries, acupuncture has been used in Chinese medicine to treat pain by inserting needles into specific points on the body.

Photobiomodulation or cold laser therapy (PBMT)

Using a small laser, a veterinarian can move it across your pet's body without causing any discomfort. Studies have shown that this method of treatment reduces inflammation and relieves pain.

You should ask for advice from a licensed veterinarian if you suspect that your cat has developed arthritis.

Home remedies

The best way to help an arthritis-suffering cat is to provide a safe and comfortable living space. Doing so is as simple as:

  • Providing a ramp to favorite resting spots, like your bed, couch, or window seat, as well as a warm, comfortable place where your cat can sleep
  • Easy access to a litter box by having one side lower than the other
  • A single-floored home is ideal for keeping all of your cat's needs close by.
  • Using a gentle brush to groom your pet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight so that their joints aren't under too much strain.

senior tricolor cat

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Is there anything else I can do to make my cat more at ease?

Cats with arthritis can benefit from simple things that can be done by any cat owner. Among them:

  • Pillows with thick, plush padding
  • Food and water dishes that are elevated (elbow height)
  • Floors with anti-slip coatings
  • Steps or a ramp for gaining access to higher ground
  • Prescribed feedings and medications must be followed to the letter.

What is the long-term prognosis for my cat?

Cats with arthritis can live normal lives if they are adequately cared for. Changing your way of life is something you should discuss with your veterinarian.

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Is it possible to prevent arthritis in cats?

Preventing arthritis in cats begins with not overexercising kittens and continuing this practice into adulthood. Even if we do everything we can, we may not be able to prevent arthritis in an older cat because of growth abnormalities and injuries. As a result, the chances of arthritis being prevented or at least delayed are excellent with slow growth, good nutrition, optimal physical condition, and regular exercise. Your vet can advise you and determine a plan that is best for your cat.

World Cat Finder Team

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