Arthritis can gradually progress, so it’s important that you know how to spot the signs. Noticing the symptoms of pain in your cat and acting is important, as there are so many ways to alleviate any discomfort your pet may be experiencing. Pain relief is the main objective and, in some cases, it may also be possible to slow down how quickly the condition progresses.
Here are key things to watch out for, and how you can help make life a little more comfortable for your cat.
Five tell-tale signs that your cat’s arthritis is progressing
1. Stiffness and limping upon rising
This is the most common sign of arthritis. Look out for it when your cat first gets up after lying down, as it’ll become less noticeable as he ‘warms up’ by moving around.
2. Difficulty jumping
Have you seen your cat struggle to jump onto furniture or windowsills that she easily used to reach? Stiffness or discomfort due to arthritis could be to blame.
3. Difficulty grooming
Cats are fastidious groomers, so you might not notice your cat’s coat is beginning to look scruffier. Instead, there may only be certain areas of matted hair within her coat. Typically, you’ll spot this on the back or belly, as it requires a lot of flexibility for a cat to rotate their neck and groom these areas. Using a paw to wipe the face also requires flexibility and freedom of movement, and inflamed and sore joints will make these sorts of actions much more difficult.
4. Change in shape
You might notice that your cat’s body shape changes, appearing to have a more ‘hunched’ back. This is because arthritis can affect the joints in the spine, changing their alignment.
5. Mood and behaviour changes
If your cat seems irritable, hisses or attempts to bite when being examined or lifted, this can often be a sign of persistent pain, including joint pain.
If you’ve noticed any of these signs in your pet, it’s important to get them checked over by your vet as soon as possible.
As I’m sure your vet would have advised, there’s no cure for arthritis but there are lots of ways in which cats with the condition can be made more comfortable.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are the most effective and generally safest. Whilst some NSAIDS have been specifically developed to be safe for use in cats, if they’re being used over the long term, your vet will need to monitor your pet’s kidney function. Other medicines include high-quality glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, which help protect cartilage (the flexible, connective tissue in joints).
There are also some practical steps you can take to help make life for your arthritic cat more comfortable, such as adapting your home. As well as this, maintaining a healthy weight is also important because any extra pounds will increase the strain on an animal’s joints. Arthritic cats move less and are unlikely to burn off extra calories, so for them weight management almost always requires a change of diet. Speak to your vet or an animal nutritionist for tips on how to do so.