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Caring For A Cat With Arthritis

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Caring for a cat with arthritis

Looking after a cat with arthritis can be daunting, but with our guide, learn how see the signs and symptoms as well as how to care for your cat with this condition.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints caused by the breakdown of the joint’s cartilage. The bones in the joint rub against one another resulting in stiffness, pain and loss of movement.  Joints naturally degenerate as part of the aging process. As a cat get older, the cartilage deteriorates and becomes less flexible. Arthritis can also develop due to injury, dislocation or infection in the joint. Extra weight can also put extra strain on a cat’s joints.

Once symptoms of arthritis develop, there is no cure-but you can work with your vet to manage your cat’s pain while keeping them healthy.

What are the symptoms?

Cats suffering from arthritis may show the following symptoms:

  • Overall stiffness.
  • Swelling of the joints.
  • Lethargy.
  • Lameness.
  • Decreased flexibility.
  • Discomfort.
  • Unwillingness to jump.
  • Decreased activity.
  • Lapsed litterbox habits.
  • Hesitancy to run, jump or climb stairs.

Diagnose of Arthritis in cats

A vet will conduct a physical exam, but the only way to reliably diagnose arthritis in cats is to radiograph the joints. To correctly perform this prodcedure, your cat will need an anaesthetic or put in deep sedation.

How common is arthritis in cats?

About 20% of the whole cat population have arthritis and most commonly affects older or elderly cats as their joints degenerate naturally.

Treatment for arthritis in cats

Until recently, there have not been any licensed drugs for the long-term control of arthritis in cats. In some cases, vets have used medication with a veterinary license for dogs, to see if this helps for cats, but always with extreme caution.

How can I help my cat’s arthritis?

It has been suspected for a long time that certain substances in the diet can help to control arthritis in a range of species. Cod liver oil has been used with varying effects. 

More recently, supplements have become available for cats. They are safe, and effective in mild cases, but require long-term daily dosing in either capsule or powder form.

Hill’s Prescription Diet™ Feline has become available, which has been shown to have a marked effect upon the joints. It achieves this by the balance of fish oils within the food, and in particular the balance between Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Because of the high levels of fish oil in the diet, it is highly palatable to most cats, but it is also quite high in calories, so owners must ensure that cats on the food do not become overweight.


Of course, obesity is a major aggravating factor for arthritis. Keeping a cat slim may not stop the problem from developing, but it will lessen its effects. If an obese cat develops clinical signs of arthritis, weight reduction becomes a priority.

Talk to your vet about an exercise program for your cat. Short, gentle play can be helpful in some cases, but you’ll need to introduce these sessions slowly and gradually.  It’s advised not to engage in vigorous play involving leaping, jumping and turning.

Can Metacam for cats help treat arthritis?

The introduction of a drug called meloxicam is now licensed to treat cats with arthritis or other causes of chronic pain. Metacam treats arthritis and other causes of pain and inflammation, especially those affecting the musculo-skeletal system.  Metacam for Cats, is  a pleasantly flavoured liquid to be easily given by mouth or with food, but be careful not to over-dose. 

Arthritis cat facts:

  • 20% of the UK cat population shows signs of arthritis
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate supplements can help mild-cases
  • Preventing obesity lessens the effects
  • Acupuncture can also be of use
  • Meloxicam (Metcam) can be used to control pain.

Pet insurance can assist with playing for your cost of treatment, which may include:

  • Prescription veterinary pain medications
  • Dietary supplements and prescription foods can help ease the condition
  • Weight loss if necessary, which has been shown to benefit overweight cats with arthritis.
  • Some owners have found acupuncture eases stiffness.

It’s impossible to prepare for every eventuality, but cat insurance may help take away the financial stress of future veterinary visits or treatment. Our most popular lifetime insurance policies covers your pet for life! We pay your vet bills for ongoing or recurring illnesses. Find our more and compare cover today.

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