If your cat has arthritis, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Like humans, many pets suffer from arthritis. Statistics from leading welfare charity Cats Protection show that arthritis affects up to 80% of older cats. But, while humans are prone to rheumatoid arthritis, cats are more likely to develop a form of degenerative arthritis, due to wear and tear. The feelings of pain and reduced mobility are much the same, though, especially in elderly animals.
As you will probably have been told by your vet, medication, dietary supplements and prescription foods can all help, but you can also make life more comfortable for your cat with some simple changes around your home. Have a look at our illustration for some easy-to-apply ideas.
Cover tiled or laminated flooring with a non-slip runner or rug to prevent your cat from slipping or sliding. Arthritis causes inflammation of the joints and is very common in older cats, where it can affect the legs, shoulders, hips and spine. Although repeated slips and falls won’t necessarily make the pain worse, it will affect your cat’s confidence and her quality of life. Sliding unexpectedly can also cause muscular aches and pains.
Build a low platform or buy a simple stand to raise the height of your cat’s feeding bowl. Arthritis in the spine and neck can make lowering the head very uncomfortable, so your cat will appreciate not having to crouch or bend to eat.
Invest in a set of portable, foldable ‘pet steps’ or a ‘cat ladder’ so that your cat can still reach her favourite spots, like the windowsill or on top of the chest of drawers. Alternatively, reposition pieces of furniture, like footstools or armchairs, to enable her to climb up to higher spots without the need for a big leap.
Put some cushions on the floor, where your cat often jumps down from high places, to create a soft landing. Cats with arthritis are less accurate when jumping and, if they lose confidence in their abilities, they may be unwilling to even try.
Ensure your cat has easy access to cosy places to sleep – either a soft cat bed in a warm place, or some furry blankets or cushions. Animals with arthritis aren’t always able to get comfortable easily, which is why your cat may circle a few times before lying down or change position several times during a single nap. Extra padding will be help make things a little more comfortable.
Place draught excluders behind external doors to block chilly draughts. When your cat becomes cold, her blood vessels constrict and similarly to humans, cold weather can make the pain and symptoms associated with arthritis worse.
Improve access to the cat flap. Climbing in and out of a cat flap requires your cat to bend and lift her back and legs, which can be very uncomfortable when her joints are inflamed. Introduce some ‘steps’ made from bricks or a piece of wood if there’s a big drop down to the ground, and position a small non-slip rug or soft-textured door mat under the cat flap to give your cat extra grip when she steps indoors.
Set up several low-sided litter trays in different parts of your home. Squatting can be very uncomfortable for pets with arthritis, so you may find your cat postpones going to the toilet until the last moment. A cat who has always toileted outdoors may also feel more vulnerable with age, preferring to use a litter tray indoors – especially at night.