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Cat Arthritis: Know the Signs, Symptoms & Causes

June 17, 2021

Learn the Signs and Symptoms of Cat Arthritis

Arthritis isn’t only experienced by humans. Believe it or not, it is one of the most common diseases seen in middle-aged cats. Unfortunately, cats have a knack for hiding their discomfort and so, an arthritic cat may go undiagnosed.

Additionally, some pet parents witness their older fur pals becoming less mobile and make the assumption that they are experiencing the natural effects of aging and therefore, take no further therapeutic action.

Unknown to them, their sweet felines may be experiencing severe pain due to arthritis.

As a pet parent, it’s essential for you to know the signs and symptoms of various conditions like arthritis so that you can seek the best care to secure your cat’s good health and happiness.

What is Cat Arthritis?

Also called osteoarthritis, arthritis is a disease that causes the degeneration of joints; it is also responsible for the pain and inflammation in a cat's joint.

Although the primary causes of arthritis in cats include injury and infection to joints, this condition can also be inherited as seen in the case of hip dysplasia.

Hip Dysplasia in Cats

cat with hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a kind of malformation of the hip joint that is inherited at birth. It occurs when there is a defect in the formation of the ball and socket of the hip joint thereby leading to bone degeneration and arthritis.

Most of the symptoms of hip dysplasia are the same as those of arthritis, as highlighted below, except that the symptoms can be seen in much younger cats.

If you suspect your cat is experiencing some form of hip dysplasia, observe them to see whether they may have any of the following signs: difficulty standing, attempting to stand with most of the weight being put on one leg, crying or resisting when the hip area is touched, licking and chewing the affected area.

If you notice any of these symptoms, especially in a young cat, then you should get them checked by a vet.

Causes of Arthritis in Cats

An obese cat has a higher risk of developing arthritis.

A shocking 59.5% of cats are classified as obese in the USA according to a 2018 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

The extra fat stored in an overweight cat’s body affects bodily functions that can cause damage to specific organs—such as the liver, or arteries. Also, the weight puts pressure on the cat's internal system and joints, leading to a series of health risks.

In the case of an older feline, their cartilages which are purposed to cushion and reduce friction when bones of the joint slide past one another, naturally deteriorate and they may lose flexibility.

This destruction to the cartilages causes the wearing away of the bone, resulting in reduced cushioning. Eventually, the inflammation and pain that are commonly associated with arthritis can erupt.

obese cat

Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis in Cats

  • Difficult Movement: Cats love to jump and climb. If you notice your cat being reluctant to move around, for example, ceasing to jump onto countertops and other high places as they loved doing, this is an indicator that points to arthritis.
  • Limping: If your cat suddenly begins to limp, then arthritis may be the cause. Most time this is more noticeable when your cat first wakes from sleep. As they move around, it becomes less obvious.
  • Abnormal posture and spinal issues: Arthritis is not limited to the legs alone but can also affect the spine. This leads to abnormal posture, lameness on either of their hind legs, or soreness in the neck.
  • Aggressiveness and irritability: Because trying to handle your cat increases their pain, they may show some aggressive behavior (snapping or biting) when you touch, pat, or pick up your cat.
  • Muscle atrophy: Muscular atrophy is typically seen in cats with arthritis. This is due to their inactivity and reduced use of their muscles. Cats with atrophied muscles would have thinner than normal legs.
  • Tiredness: Due to the pains arising from the joints of your pet, your feline may not have the motivation to play. As such, they may spend more time resting or sleeping
  • Licking and chewing: More often than not, cats that are in pain form the habit of chewing and biting parts of their bodies that are painful. Most of the time, the areas on the surface of the skin become inflamed with visible hair loss.

Other signs that can indicate your cat may be suffering from arthritis include:

  • Restlessness and aggression even within friendly surroundings
  • Failing to use their litter box
  • Hiding
  • Excessive meowing and making unusual sounds
  • Loss of interest in activities and people
  • Decreased appetite and weight gain
  • Failing to groom themselves

Prevention is Key

healthy cat running

If you suspect that your cat has hip dysplasia or arthritis, it is always good to have them checked. A veterinary doctor will further diagnose and administer the recommended treatment on your cat. Depending on how advanced the disease is, non-surgical or surgical treatments may be recommended.

As with any illness, prevention is always the best route; so what can you do? One thing for sure is to prevent joint stress by keeping your kitty at a healthy weight. You can do this by feeding them a healthy diet and ensuring that your cat gets the right amount of exercise (yes, even cats should be active).

If your cat is showing some signs of joint pain, there are alternative and natural treatments such as massages, acupuncture, and herbal medicines including our WALK-EASY Joint and Hip Remedy, that can reduce inflammation and joint pain helping your kitty to be more mobile and active.

Whatever course of action you decide to take, watch for the signs and seek help as soon as possible!

Remember, prevention is better than cure.

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