Arthritic Cats

Pete Wedderburn
15th January 2020 - 3 min read

Arthritis can be commonly found in older cats. Three signs that your cat has arthritis:

  • They will move around slower
  • Sleep more than usual
  • Stop grooming themselves
Old Cat

Arthritis in Dogs

Elderly dogs often suffer from arthritis. A range of joints can be affected, including elbows, shoulders, knees, and hips. The most common treatment for dogs is a daily anti-inflammatory tablet or liquid. Many older dogs have their lives directly extended thanks to this treatment.
Arthritis is easier to diagnose in dogs because they tend to be more closely involved with their owners compared to cats.

Old Dog

Arthritis in Cats

In contrast, cats tend to do their own thing, and when they are unwell in any way, they adapt their activity to cover up if they have a problem. Owners should watch very closely as it can be difficult for them to notice that their pet cats are suffering from arthritis.


Arthritis is defined as inflammation of the joints. These days, different terms are usually used to describe the disease. Osteo-arthritis is more accurate: this means inflammation of the bones and joints, which is what is actually happening to the animal. Another term is degenerative joint disease – or DJD – which explains how the disease starts and progresses.
That’s the main issue here: as with dogs, the wear and tear of daily activity gradually damage the joints, causing their surface to change from a smooth, non-stick frying pan finish to a pitted, rough surface like the base of an old, burnt, cast iron pot. When you move an arthritic joint, it creaks, like a rusty hinge, rather than moving in a friction-free, smooth way.

Problems for Arthritic Cats

There are three problems for arthritic cats:

  • The joints and bones are painful when they move.
  • The joints are stiff, so it’s more difficult to flex and extend them.
  • Thirdly, the muscles around the joints become weaker, because the cat starts to take less exercise.

Investigating Arthritis

If you suspect that your cat has arthritis, it’s best to go to the vet to have this confirmed. Vets start by physically examining the cat. Sometimes joints feel roughened and swollen too, and often there’s a reduced range of motion, again, like trying to open and close a door with a rusty hinge.

If vets suspect arthritis, they’ll often recommend taking x-rays. These allow you to clearly see the outline of the bones and joints: in arthritis, the contours become roughened and irregular, with new bone being laid down around the worn and torn parts.

Arthritis Treatment

The ideal option for pets with badly arthritic joints would be to surgically install complete new metal joints. While this is available for dogs, it’s rarely done for cats. They are so small and light that they don’t tend to suffer from the same severity of signs as larger creatures like dogs.

Instead, medical treatment is given. There are three components to this:

1. Weight-loss Diet

Firstly, due to the cat becoming less active, they usually have to lose weight. Obesity is a major reason why animals with arthritis deteriorate. The extra pressure on the joints from excessive weight causes more damage, more inflammation, and more pain. Vets will put the cat on a weight reduction diet.

2. Anti-inflammatory Medication

Second, a daily anti-inflammatory medication will be used to take away the pain. They will also get a nutritional supplement, glucosamine chondroitin sulphate, which will help the health of her joints.

3. Lifestyle Adjustment

Third, adjusting the cats lifestyle: this can be done with a heated, extra-comfy bed and by being aware that the the cat needs an extra bit of help to get around.

Cat in bed