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Healthy Cats

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Arthritis in Cats: Symptoms and Pain Relief

ASPCA logo Arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, causes pain and inflammation in a cat’s joints. Although fairly uncommon in felines, arthritis tends to affect the elbow joint when it does strike-but many joints can be afflicted.

What Are the Symptoms of Arthritis in Cats?

Felines suffering from arthritis may show overall stiffness, swelling of the joints, lethargy, lameness, decreased flexibility and discomfort when you pet or handle them in certain positions. You may also notice subtle behavioral changes, including:

  • Decreased activity
  • Lapsed litterbox habits (due to pain caused by getting in and out of the box)
  • Hesitancy to run, jump or climb stairs

What Causes in Arthritis in Cats

Joints naturally degenerate as part of the aging process. Cartilage forms a cushion between the bones at a joint. As cats get older, the cartilage deteriorates and becomes less flexible.

Arthritis can develop due to injury, dislocation or infection in the joint. Extra weight can also put extra strain on a cat’s joints.

How is Arthritis Diagnosed?

A veterinarian may conduct a physical exam, take radiographs and perform other diagnostic tests to help determine the cause of the pain and inflammation in your cat’s joints.

Which Cats are Prone to Arthritis?

Arthritis most often affects older cats, as their joints degenerate naturally as part of the aging process-but can occur as result of trauma or infection in cats of all ages.

How Can Arthritis Be Treated?

Once symptoms of arthritis set in, there is no cure-but you can work with your veterinarian to minimize your cat’s pain while keeping her healthy. Some general treatment options include:

  • Prescription veterinary pain medications
  • Possible use of nutritional supplements to help replenish cartilage
  • Weight loss if necessary, which has been shown to benefit overweight cats with arthritis.

Are Cats With Arthritis Able to Exercise?

Talk to your vet about an exercise program for your pet. Short, gentle play can be helpful in some cases, but you’ll need to introduce these sessions slowly and gradually. Vigorous play involving leaping, jumping and turning is to be avoided.

How Can I Make My Arthritic Cat More Comfortable?

If your cat has arthritis, here are a few things you can do to make her feel better:

  • Give her a cozy blanket or cat bed.
  • When she’s relaxed and at ease, give her a gentle massage.
  • Groom the areas of her body that may be hard for her to reach.
  • Make sure she has easy, direct access to her litterbox and food and water bowls.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from the ASPCA

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