Arthritis is a painful and limiting disease that's not easy to spot in your cat. Subtle signs can tell you that your cat is having a problem with their muscles and joints. There are a number of ways to treat arthritis in cats. The sooner the disease is diagnosed and treatment started, the more likely your veterinarian can slow down further joint damage. Here is how arthritis affects your cat and how you can help.
Arthritis and Joint Pain
Arthritis affects your cat much like it does in humans. The cartilage that cushions the bones in the joints becomes weak and wears away. Eventually, this causes the sensitive ends of the bones to rub against each other. Inflammation develops in the joints due to the irritation. The result is pain, swelling and stiffness in the joint. Arthritis can appear in one joint as a result of an injury but often shows up in more than one joint when it develops as an age-related disease.
Signs of Arthritis to Watch For
Your cat will hide any symptoms from you. This is just their survival instinct kicking in. In the wild, showing signs of weakness can be fatal. But, subtle behavioral changes indicate your cat is having joint problems. Watch for these signs and take your cat in for a checkup when you think you've spotted any changes:
- sleeps more and is generally less active
- plays less with you and other pets in the house
- appears restless and has difficulty sitting still
- frequently repositions themselves when sleeping
- shows more irritation at people and other pets
- vocalizes more often
- becomes anxious when picked up and carried
- avoids jumping or climbing
- has trouble getting into the litter box
- misses the litter box
- reduced appetite
- weight loss
These are all signs that your cat may have arthritis, but they may also mean other health problems. Get your cat into the vet if you see any of these behavior changes.
Once the arthritis diagnosis is made by your vet, there are a number of treatment options available. Arthritis is not curable, but the pain, inflammation and other symptoms can be reduced so your cat is comfortable.
Anti-inflammatory medication - This reduces the swelling in the joints making them less stiff and painful.
Steroid injections - Given directly into the joints, the steroids reduce the inflammation and pain.
Weight control - An overweight cat puts more stress on their joints than a lean one. Your vet may recommend a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet to keep your cat strong and lean.
Acupuncture - Pet acupuncture involves the use of small needles inserted under the cat's skin at specific points. This stimulates the production of hormones that reduce inflammation and pain. These treatments can also increase blood flow through the joints, increase appetite in a cat that's not eating, and reduce any digestion problems.
Massage therapy - This increases circulation in the joints and reduces inflammation and joint stiffness. A pet massage therapist can show you massage techniques that you can use at home. Some cats tolerate hydrotherapy and massage which warms and loosens joints.
Other Things You Can Do
There are some actions you can take to make life at home more comfortable for your cat:
- Keep cat beds and other favorite napping areas at floor level.
- Give your cat private places to go to get away from other pets in the house.
- Cut down the sides of litter boxes to make them easier to get into.
- Pick them up gently and place them on the couch or your lap rather than making them jump up.
Watch for other ways that you can make getting around the house more comfortable for your cat. Between the treatments for pain and inflammation, and making the house more accessible, you cat will live a long and healthy life, in spite of the arthritis.