Picture of a cat during a veterinary consultation

Arthritis in cats: signs, symptoms and treatment

Just as arthritis in humans causes pain and stiffness, arthritis in cats can leave your cat stiff, slow… and maybe a little grumpy – and with constant pain in the joints, who can blame them?

It is important to realise cats do not show pain in the same way as humans – they don’t cry or yelp, and sometimes the only sign is that they are sleeping more, or reluctant to jump to areas they used to love exploring. There are many ways in which your vet can manage arthritis that can relieve your cat’s pain. Let’s take a look at the symptoms, causes and treatment of arthritis in cats.

What is arthritis in cats?

The suffix ‘itis’ means inflammation, and arthritis simply means inflammation of the joints. Feline arthritis is a common problem – particularly in older cats – that’s progressive and usually permanent.

It’s estimated that around one in five cats suffers from feline arthritis – also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis (OA). If your feline friend shows signs of stiffness, or has difficulty moving, she could be among them.

Cat arthritis symptoms

Stiffness and discomfort are likely to be the first hints that your cat may be developing arthritis, and these symptoms are often made worse by cold or damp conditions. The signs of feline arthritis tend to appear gradually and become increasingly worse. If your cat displays any of the symptoms below, make an appointment with your local vet to get her checked out.

The signs and symptoms of arthritis in cats

  • Stiffness especially after exercise
  • Weight gain
  • Increased sleeping and lethargy
  • Reluctance to jump up to – or down from – high surfaces
  • Painful, swollen joints
  • Intermittent lameness
  • Reluctance to move
  • Irritability and depression
  • Loss of appetite

“Feline arthritis is a common problem – particularly in older cats – that’s progressive and usually permanent.”

What causes feline arthritis?

Feline arthritis is most common in older cats – particularly those that are overweight. It may affect fit and healthy cats from an early age, due to problems with the development of the bones and joints, but this is more unusual. Cats that have experienced an injury or trauma due to an accident may also be more likely to develop arthritis.

The bones inside your cat’s joints are covered by a layer of cartilage. As your cat ages, this cartilage may become worn, and the bones it previously protected rub together, no longer gliding smoothly. As well as causing pain and discomfort, this rubbing can cause the joints to become inflamed.

Cat arthritis treatment and pain relief

If you suspect your cat is suffering from arthritis, get her along to your local vet for a full check-up. There are many treatment options that may help to ease your cat’s discomfort – from anti-inflammatory therapy to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – and your vet will talk you through the choices available.

Never be tempted to give your cat drugs that are intended for humans, as these can be extremely toxic to cats.

Need help and advice on arthritis in cats?

For expert advice on arthritis in cats, contact your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.

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