Much as humans do, when cats age, they become more prone to arthritis and joint inflammation. Arthritis for cats is similar to arthritis for humans – the joints swell up and become stiff and painful. Healthy joints have smooth cartilage surfaces that glide past each other when moving, but in arthritic joints, the cartilage breaks down and bone ends up rubbing against bone.
This type of joint pain shows itself in a few common symptoms. Cats will often slow down significantly, some may start to limp and avoid things like stairs or jumping up on the bed. Swelling around the joints frequently occurs, and on some cats, fur will mat as it becomes harder for them to bend in the ways necessary to groom.
Improving Your Arthritic Cat’s Quality of Life
Since Arthritis is a breaking down of the cartilage, it cannot be reversed. What a cat owner can do, though, is make life easier for their furry friend. Adding extra steps or ramps to high-up places can make a huge difference. If your cat loves to be on your bed, add a small set of stairs (or anything that reduces it from one large jump to a few smaller ones) at the foot of the bed so they can more easily get up there. Again, ramps are ideal.
Things like carpets and rugs can make otherwise slippery surfaces easier for them to walk on. For a cat with arthritis, balancing on a slippery floor can be a painful affair.
Having a selection of different beds throughout the house makes it easier for them to find a place to rest. If your cat is feeling particularly sore, having to walk around to find a comfortable spot might be a major physical burden to them.
Overall, when trying to figure out how to help your arthritic cat, try to anticipate its needs. Think about their regular routines and where it might start to become difficult to do the things they love to do. Think about water bowls, food bowls, cat beds, slippery surfaces, spots they love to climb up to, where they sleep, everything!
Managing Your Arthritic Cat’s Health
Weight plays an important role in your cat’s day-to-day experience with arthritis. A heavier cat is going to put more pressure on their joints, and for an animal with joint pain, the extra weight is extra discomfort. Cats with arthritis likely won’t be up for exercise, but if you monitor their diet closely, you should be able to help them trim up a bit.
The goal is to create conditions that will benefit your arthritic cat. That includes diet, household accessibility, and medical health.
An arthritic cat should make it to regular checkups with its veterinarian. They can keep track of how the arthritis is progressing and prescribe medication if necessary.
Arthritis is fairly common in aging cats, just as it is for aging humans, but it doesn’t change how we feel about them! It is our duty, as cat owners, to provide them with as best a life as we can, and when they get older, we need to adjust how we treat them and how we set our homes up for them.
Older cats are wonderful pets. Full stop. Just because they are slower, they sleep more (who thought that was even possible for a cat?), and sometimes they miss the litter box, aging cats have a lot to offer. They are more loving, they want to cuddle more often, and they are less destructive!
If you have more questions about how to take care of a cat with arthritis, or if you think your cat might be suffering from it, call your local veterinarian.