My cat has arthritis what do I do?

Here are some things that you could consider doing if you think your cat has arthritis. The most common form is degenerative joint disease. The cartilage covering the surface of the joint wears out. The bone becomes rough at the joint which damages it.

The first step is obvious: have your veterinarian check that your cat has arthritis. My experience of seeing a cat with arthritis is that he walked very stiffly and was slightly lame. It was quite apparent but he had bad arthritis having lived outside through all weathers for years. I think it can tricky detecting arthritis in cat in the early stages of the condition. Your vet will assist you.

Arthritis in a cat
Arthritis in a cat. Picture by Annie Mole
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

There are steps you can take to relieve the pain and improve the wellbeing and quality of life of your cat. Arthritis is linked to obesity. Obesity makes arthritis worse and increases the risk of getting certain types of arthritis.

If your cat is overweight and has arthritis it makes sense to reduce the weight on the arthritic joints. One reason for cats being overweight is feeding a high carbohydrate diet and this means too much dry cat food or being on it exclusively. A switch to high quality wet food – low carb. commercial cat food – would be a sensible step. Also a regime of feeding which controls intake is common sense under these circumstances.

Here is a great comment from Susan Gort (a regular visitor a great cat caretaker/guardian):

“My furbabies get fed twice a day. They each get 1/4 cup dry and 1/8 of a can of wet at each meal. They are given 30-60 minutes to eat (depending on whether I have to go to work and what time I have to leave). All food bowls are picked up and washed. They eat all their food or just leave few kibble (NO one leaves and of the wet. Since some are on special diets, everyone eats in a separate room with the door closed. When the doors open they all scatter to see it anyone left anything. No one is overweight, although some vets may say they are. I prefer my babies have some groceries on board, so it they get sick, they have some reserves. Those that need medication (I have 3 that need daily meds) get their meds prior to eating and they all get 2 treats at each meal. Four of my cats are deaf ferals, one has pancreatitis and one has a tendency to urinary tract problems.”

Getting on to wet cat food should assist a gradual weight loss. Some vets will recommend putting the cat on a multi vitamin/mineral/essential fatty acid supplement. This ensures an “adequate intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients”.

A low carb diet should lead your cat to becoming more active. Moderate exercise helps cats with arthritis. Activity also accelerates weight loss. The muscles become more toned which enables then to better support joints.

Some studies have found that the supplement glucosamine reduces pain and inflammation although we are not sure how it works as far as I am aware. This supplement may help some cats and not others. Most vets will prescribe corticosteroids to relieve arthritis pain but they have serious side effects.

With veterinary approval only (as they potentially toxic), aspirin and related drugs can be used to relieve pain and inflammation. Tylenol must never be used.

There is an anti-inflammatory drug for cats and dogs called meloxicam (trade name Metacam) which is claimed to be effective in dealing with painful conditions. However, there are websites about this drug which are quite stark in their message: metacam kills cats. One veterinarian, Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins DVM, says that it is not appropriate for cats with kidney disease which is another common illness in elderly cats. Perhaps, she is stating the problem with this drug too mildly. Personally, I would not use it unless your vet is sure it is safe and can demonstrate it with studies and personal experience. The drug is said to cause renal failure. See a page on this drug on PoC.

Your vet will carry out blood tests and urinalysis before prescribing this medicine. Rarely some vets may recommend surgery for feline arthritis.

Home Treatment for Cat Arthritis
Home Treatment for Cat Arthritis. Photo credits: Boswellia painting in public domain. Boswellia pills from California Veterinary Supply website. Picture of Shorty by Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue (creative commons license).

Home treatments are possible for cats with arthritis. I have a page on that so I won’t go over them here. Please click on this link to see the page.

Also try Seraquin, a highly recommended home treatment. This is a joint supplement. A cat treat with no side effects.

The quote other than Susan’s is from the book Your Cat by Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins DVM

5 thoughts on “My cat has arthritis what do I do?”

  1. We’ve found Seraquin chewable tablets have worked a miracle with Walter who is now 15 years old and earlier this year his arthritis was so bad he had difficulty jumping and was obviously uncomfortable climbing. Veterinary tablets or powders were very difficult to get him to take and did no good. With our vets blessing we put him on Seraquin, a nutritional supplement, which is very palatable to cats, he loves them, 2 a day, he chews them up and looks for more. He jumps now where he had to climb before! Our vet is impressed! I agree with Albert, massage is good too, we have a vibrating hairbrush and Walt loves to be brushed all over with it.

      • That would be good Michael as we didn’t know about it until a friend told us how much it had helped her cat’s arthritis, nor did our vet until we told her how much Walter was improving after he’d been on it a couple of months and now he has no joint trouble at all. He will be on them for life but it’s worth every penny to us and he just gobbles them down no trouble, so no stress! I see on the Seraquin website that vets are recommending and stocking it now, although it’s cheaper to buy elsewhere of course.

  2. General massage helps. I Massage my cats as a matter of course. The more limber they are the better they can handle arthritis. I go easy, then slow and deep, then easy again, not lasting too long and at a time when they aren’t too active, like late in the day and way after mealtime. Once they feel how great it is afterwards, they sit still and go with it. I focus mainly on the back. They also like a vibrating massager (introduce it slowly).


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