Arthritis in Cats: What is it?
Arthritis affects cats just like it affects us. Much like in humans, the pain associated with the disease can also inhibit your cat's daily function and quality of life. Learning how to spot its symptoms and exploring treatment options can help you make sure your cat lives a happy, healthy, and pain-free life.
Cat arthritis is a common health problem as your cat ages. In fact, arthritis is the leading cause of pain and mobility issues in older felines but can also appear much sooner if your cat is overweight.
The good news is, it’s manageable. However, it can be difficult (sometimes impossible) to recognise.
That’s because cats are masters at hiding pain. This is why arthritis in cats often go under-diagnosed even when studies show that 60 - 90% of cats show radiographic evidence of the disease.
So, it’s up to us, as feline parents, to know the telltale signs of cat arthritis and look for long-term treatment options such as changing their diet and providing specially-made supplements for cat arthritis.
This article offers a handy guide for all cat parents to help recognise arthritic symptoms and treat them before it worsens.
What Is Cat Arthritis & What Causes It?
Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes pain, and a reduced ability to move. If you or someone you know suffers from arthritis, you know the debilitating pain all too well. And cats can feel the same kind of pain, too.
The disease is caused by deterioration of the joints lining surfaces (synovial membrane) and the inner layer of cartilage that protects the ends of bones. The bones rub together causing inflammation and pain.
In cats, the most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In both cases, your cat’s joints are gradually deteriorating leading to the inability to bear weight on the legs, which results in pain and difficulty moving. Rheumatoid arthritis in cats is often more serious, painful and potentially fatal.
Arthritis is generally more common in older cats aged around 9 to 12 years old but there are other causes even in younger cats such as injury or hip dysplasia. We’ll explore more of that in the sections below.
Cat Arthritis Symptoms Checklist
Cats, even when they become domesticated house pets & beloved members of the family, have the uncanny ability to hide pain. This is a trait that is thought to stem from a survival mechanism from the feline species’ days in the wild where injured or weak animals are often targeted by predators.
Even then, if you observe closely - when your cat is in pain, they will show all or most of the symptoms below:
- A stiff gait
- Difficulty jumping, climbing & running
- Difficulty rising from a resting/curling position
- Preference to sleep under or near the warmest places in your house e.g. under the heater
- Will often meow or whine in a high-pitched tone
- Become more withdrawn and spend more time just sleeping
- Limping on three legs instead of two, or holding up a leg with an arched back
In the case of feline rheumatoid arthritis (which can be fatal when left untreated), the most common symptoms are:
- Swelling in one area of the body
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
How Can Diet Changes & Cat Supplements For Arthritis Help?
The goal of cat arthritis treatment is to achieve long-term, pain-free comfort so they can get back to being active, feeling better, healthier and stronger. Depending on the severity of cat arthritis, your veterinarian should be able to offer both medical and natural treatment options.
But one of the best and most proven ways to either prevent or alleviate arthritic pain in cats is to provide your cat with the proper diet. Cat supplements for arthritis have also proven to be effective in cat arthritis treatment.
Here are some cat diet tips that can help keep painful arthritis at bay:
- Petz Park Hip + Joint Supplements for Cats contain supplemental ingredients such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin which promote joint health and can get your cat up and moving again.
- Don’t overfeed your cat. Excess body fat can cause stress on arthritic joints and result in pain.
- A protein-filled diet is best to prevent arthritis. Protein helps build strong muscles that support joints. However, studies show that older cats (over 10 years old) do not digest protein as well as they used to. Look for cat food with no less than 35% protein (on a dry matter basis).
Fish oil is also one of the best natural cat arthritis supplements since it contains Omega 3 fatty acids, however, if you’re looking to purchase fish oil over the counter and mix it in with cat food, it’s best to ask your veterinarian for the right mixing ratio to avoid overfeeding.
Is Your Cat at Risk for Arthritis?
Aside from age, there are many causes of arthritis in cats such as infection, injury, immune disease and metabolic disorders, including the following:
- If your cat has hyperthyroidism or diabetes, then the risk for arthritis is higher.
- The more overweight your cat is, the greater the likelihood that they will suffer from arthritis.
Petz Park Tip:
Here are two easy ways to check if your cat is overweight:
- Can you easily feel your cat’s ribs? Your cat is in great, healthy shape if you can easily feel their ribs underneath a little bit of fat. If you can’t easily feel your cat’s ribs, then that may be a sign that your cat is overweight.
- Can you see low-hanging fat from the abdomen? Look at your cat from the side, if there’s an overhang of fat, then that’s a telltale sign that your cat is overweight.
- If your cat is female, she has a higher chance of developing arthritis. There is no conclusive evidence why but some believe it has to do with hormones.
- Cats who are exposed to outdoor allergens or pollutants have a much higher likelihood of developing arthritis.
Arthritic pain can make daily life much harder for your cat, and its symptoms can mimic other conditions, such as kidney problems or colitis, making it difficult to know exactly what is causing your cat’s pain. But, with the knowledge of arthritis symptoms listed above, following your veterinarian’s advice, proper diet & the right supplements for cat arthritis, you can now take proactive steps to help slow down the progression of arthritis and vastly improve your cat’s quality of life.
*This information is intended as general information only. It was not written or intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please seek professional guidance from your pet’s veterinarian before taking any action that could affect your pet’s health.