Arthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints. Around 90 per cent of cats aged over 12 have it to some degree. And it’s not curable. Here’s what you can do to help prevent the problem and manage the symptoms.
Stiff and sore
Osteoarthritis usually affects very overweight animals, or very active ones. It can affect any breed, too. It can be hard to tell for a long time, as cats are pretty good at hiding any problems. It’s caused by abnormal wear on cartilage from things like trauma, age, nutrition, immunological disorders, or inherited conditions.
After a while, a cat with arthritis may have trouble grooming, jumping onto or off furniture and could become more irritable (well, you would be too if your joints hurt). Like humans and dogs with the condition, cats might find they take a while to “warm up” through the day, especially if it’s cold.
Treating and preventing
Overweight cats are highly susceptible, because they’re putting too much pressure on their joints. So a good diet and weight management program is essential to helping stave off the effects of arthritis. Making sure your cat sleeps comfortably and doesn’t have to leap too far to get to bed is also a good idea.
Once it’s diagnosed, there is a range of surgical and non-surgical treatments. Your vet will help you decide on the best course of action. Weight management, oral non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed, along with dietary supplements like glucosamine. In severe cases, your vet may prescribe a steroid therapy, which suppresses the immune system. NEVER use human medications on your cat as they can be deadly.
Dr Lisa says..
- Around 90 per cent of cats aged over 12 have arthritis
- Overweight or highly active cats are at most risk
- Weight management is crucial to treatment in many cases
- If caught early, prognosis is usually good
Dr Jo says..
- Arthritic cats will welcome having their beds and food bowls closer to the ground so they don’t have to jump.
- Placing steps up to higher surfaces such as sofas and your bed can help your arthritic pets.
- High sided litter boxes may cause your arthritic cat discomfort. Ensure they are able to enter and exit their litter box with minimal discomfort.
The sooner your cat is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. If it’s caught early, the prognosis is usually pretty good. Contact your vet straight away if you think your cat might have arthritis.
Declawing isn’t like trimming the fingernails – it actually removes the last joint of each toe. Long-term, it might hasten the onset of arthritis as cats shift their weight off the toes, causing stress on the leg.
Even arthritic cats like to perch. Try providing ramps, or a series of smaller jumps up to his favourite spot.