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Arthritis in Cats: Why Your Cat’s Mobility is Changing

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Picture of Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal is the founder and lead veterinarian for Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic. Coufal graduated from State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in May of 2000.

Over the last week, you have noticed that your cat hasn’t been spending as much time playing and has been hesitant to jump up onto his favorite sunny windowsill. This change in behavior has you worried and wondering, “What could it be?”

At Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic, we value educating pet owners throughout Colorado Springs with the intent of providing knowledge that will safeguard their cat’s health. The quicker you can spot a difference in your cat’s behavior and overall comfort and wellness, the sooner you can take your cat to a veterinarian and get the proper care for your feline friend.

Osteoarthritis in Cats

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that affects cats. Cats with osteoarthritis deal with lots of discomfort as their joints are worn out and stiff. In most cases, the joint pain is caused by general “wear and tear,” as your cat has aged.

However, other aspects can cause the onset of osteoarthritis, including bone deformity, injuries to bones, joints, or ligaments, and issues with obesity. If nothing is done to slow the onset of your cat’s arthritis or manage their discomfort, your cat’s condition will deteriorate to a point where daily activities cannot be done without assistance.

Symptoms of Arthritis in Cats

Over time, the pain and discomfort caused by arthritis will begin to affect your cat’s behavior and approach to physical activities. You may first notice changes when your cat descends the stairs slowly and cautiously or when he struggles to stand up after sleeping for a while. Overall, it is important to look out for signs of arthritis, including:

  • Stiffness
  • Hesitancy to jump
  • “Bunny hopping” up and down stairs, being cautious
  • Reluctance to run or play
  • Difficulty using the litter box, may begin to miss
  • Sliding when standing or sitting on slick surfaces like hardwood floors
  • Sensitivity when pet in affected areas

Cat Arthritis Treatment

Although cat arthritis cannot be cured, you and your veterinarian can determine a plan that will help manage your cat’s arthritis. Creating a plan specifically for your cat will ensure that the level of discomfort is limited and your cat has the mobility necessary for daily activities and more. Some care options include:

  • Home Modifications – there are lots of small changes that can be made around your home to accommodate your cat.
    • Ensure all of his favorite elevated spaces are easily accessible by using ramps or small stairs. 
    • Make sure food, water, litter box, and bed are all easy to get to.
    • Use elevated food and water bowls.
    • Choose a bed with proper support and comfort.
  • Weight Management – as you care for your cat, it is important to keep an eye on their weight. If there is usual or excessive weight gain, you should partner with a veterinarian to determine a diet and exercise regime to help your cat lose weight.
  • Food – nutritious food is just as important for cats as it is for humans. Make sure your cat is getting the proper nutrients to maintain their bone and joint health.
  • Joint Supplements – supplements are a great way to ensure your cat has the proper nutrients for their joints. Be sure to get supplements that are recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Massage – to help relieve pain and stiffness, you can gently massage your cat in the affected areas. 
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) – this pain reliever is commonly used to battle arthritis in cats, but it is important that your veterinarian approves this path of treatment for your cat, as not all cats are suited for this class of medication. Your veterinarian will run blood tests to verify your cat is able to use NSAIDs. 
  • Surgery – in severe cases, your veterinarian will deem surgery as the best option for your cat to regain comfort and mobility.

Cat Arthritis Prevention

Cat arthritis is not completely preventable, but there are steps you can take when your pet is a kitten that can benefit their wellbeing in the long-term. First and foremost, allow your cat to grow slowly as a kitten. By maintaining a lean figure, your cat’s joints will be bearing less weight. As your kitten ages, be sure to manage the following:

  • Weight – make sure your cat maintains a healthy weight throughout his life. Being overweight or obese will cause quicker wear on your cat’s joints.
  • Food – as always, proper nutrition is key. Choose quality cat food that gets your cat the nutrients he needs to grow.
  • Exercise – this aspect can sometimes fall to the wayside, but make sure your cat has proper means of staying active and a safe environment to do so.
  • Comfort – the home modifications mentioned above can also be implemented before the onset of arthritis in your cat. These small changes will limit strain on your cat’s joints over time.

Have You Noticed Signs of Arthritis in Your Cat? | Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic

As winter settles in, your cat may be feeling more discomfort than usual. If you begin to notice signs of arthritis in your cat, Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic is here to help. Our compassionate team is committed to your cat’s health and will determine the severity of your cat’s condition and a course of action to manage the issue. Contact us today to keep your cat happy and healthy.

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Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic is seeking an enthusiastic and caring veterinarian to work relief, part-time or full-time in our general practice. PVC is a full-service, 3+ doctor, small-animal veterinary hospital. We have established an excellent reputation for developing lasting relationships with our clients and for providing compassionate and quality care to our patients.