Has your kitty started using a chair to jump onto the table of late? Or is she refusing to use stairs all of a sudden?
If you see any of these subtle changes in your cat’s behavior, she may be suffering from feline arthritis, a painful condition of the joints, and doing a very good job of masking her pain.
Research suggests that a staggering 3 out of 10 cats suffer from arthritis. And only 7% of them are treated for it. And the primary reason for feline arthritis either going unrecognized or the treatment beginning long after a lot of damage is already done, is the instinctive reluctance in cats to show any signs of discomfort or pain.1
Let’s take a quick look at the signs and symptoms of this painful illness and ensure that your kitty gets the help she needs at the right time.
What Is Feline Arthritis?
Arthritis in cats is a degenerative joint illness which is caused from the cartilage within a joint wearing away, causing the bones to rub against one another, leading to inflammation, pain, discomfort, and decreased movement in the cat.
Recognizing the symptoms of arthritis in cats can be quite difficult as the illness progresses slowly and cats try and hide their discomfort and pain instinctively. Also, pet-parents end up assuming that their cat has just slowed down because of her age.
Merely examining a cat doesn’t always give reliable results, as it can be quite tricky. We all know, the strong-willed creatures that they are, a few perfectly normal cats with no pain are quite capable of screaming if they dislike being examined, and some badly affected ones may choose not to show signs of pain or restricted movement.
Your kitty’s vet may do a physical exam, take radiographs (under an anesthetic or deep sedation), and use other diagnostic tests to determine the condition of her joints.
Is Your Kitty At Risk?
Arthritis usually develops after the age of 12, due to wear and tear over time, but some cats show signs of it even at the age of two. Other things that could contribute to arthritis could be obesity, genetics, injury and trauma such as a sprain or a fracture, infections or auto immune disorders, and this could be triggered even in younger cats.2
Changes In Behavior To Look Out For
Here are a few changes in your cat’s behavior that should make you sit up and take notice, as these may be indicative of arthritis developing in your cat.
Changes in grooming routine: If you see that your cat is spending less time grooming herself and more time resting and sleeping, she’s most likely in pain and is unable to groom herself.
Changes in temperament: If your cat’s been hiding away more than normal, crying when picked up, getting aggressive or biting, and avoiding contact with people and other animals, you can be sure that everything’s not alright in her kitty world and she needs to be checked for pain, possibly from arthritis.
Changes in her activity: If your kitty is spending more time sleeping than normal, is hesitant to play and is reluctant to go out or explore, she may be in pain and needs a vet visit.
Changes in her mobility: If your kitty is becoming hesitant in jumping up or down, and is finding it difficult getting into her litterbox, or using the cat flap, and refusing to take the stairs, these may all be signs of feline arthritis.
The 4 Tell-Tale Signs Of Feline Arthritis
1. Changed ‘Table Manners’
If your otherwise athletic feline friend has suddenly started seeming hesitant when she’s jumping off heights, it may be a sign that she’s in pain and avoiding the pain by going easy on her inflamed joints.
2. Avoiding Stairs Like The Black Plague?
If you notice your kitty sitting at the foot of the stairs and not making any attempt to go up, even when you can see that she wants to, and you see it happening more often than not, it may be time to take her to the vet and rule out pain from arthritis.
3. All Sleep And No Play?
If your kitty has been spending more time sleeping and increasingly lesser time playing or grooming herself, it may be time to make that phone call to her vet and have her checked out for arthritis.
4. Using Props All Of A Sudden?
If you see your kitty jumping onto a chair next to the table, before she makes her way onto the table itself, this can’t be her usual kitty behavior. An unwillingness to jump and a reduction in the height she is willing to leap, can be signs that your kitty is in pain and not able to do what she otherwise doesn’t think twice about.3
How Is Arthritis Treated?
Here are the most commonly used lines of treatment used for arthritis in cats:
- Ensuring that cats are not overweight and using high-quality cat food, so as to reduce the load on their ailing joints.
- Exercising your cat on soft surfaces can help.
- Getting your cat, a padded cat bed.
- Giving the affected areas warm compresses.
- Seeking help from professional animal massage therapists and getting regular massages done on your kitty, can help increase her flexibility and circulation.
- Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin have also been known to help.
- In advanced cases, even surgery may be required sometimes.
- Using pain medication like NSAIDs, can help relieve pain. But this needs to be done strictly under medical advice from her vet.
- Steroids can be used to help with inflammation, but only for short periods, owing to their side-effects.
- A line of drugs called the Disease-Modifying Osteoarthritis Drugs (DMOADs) can also be used to manage arthritis.
Surprisingly, acupuncture works even on animals and is painless.
How Can You Make Your Kitty More Comfortable?
Here are things that you can do, apart from her treatment, to make your kitty’s life more comfortable and make it easier for her to deal with the pain and be as normal as she can.4
- Ensure that your kitty has regular checkups with her vet, to ensure she’s well.
- Encourage your kitty to play and get her daily dose of mental and physical stimulation.
- Groom your cat regularly, as she may not be able to reach many areas with her medical condition.
- Install steps and ramps to enable your kitty to have access to higher spots.
- Make sure she can reach her food and water bowls with ease. Keeping an additional bowl of water in another location can help.
- Get her a soft and comfy cat bed.
- Massage your kitty gently when she’s relaxed.
- Ensure that her litter box is easy for her to get in and out of.