Fraser Valley Animal Hospital

2633 Ware Street
Abbotsford, BC V2S 3E2


Feline Arthritis

Could Your Cat Have Arthritis?


Arthritis in cats is a very common condition in our older cats and in fact studies show anywhere from 75% to 90% of our older cats will develop some degree of arthritis by the age of 12.  Cats though are notorious for hiding their problem as they adapt their behaviour to mask their problem.  This means we must be observant of subtle behavioural changes that can tell us that there is something going on. 

Three important things one must remember as you watch your cat to see if he/she may have arthritis:

  1. Remember that arthritis is a progressive disease so changes occur slowly overtime which means that the changes often are missed as they slowly become the new norm.
  2. Just like in people your cat will have good and bad days which means until the arthritis is in an advance stage you may not see the behaviour change daily.
  3. The following behavioural changes can all be seen with arthritis but (a) no one cat will have all the changes seen on the list and (b) some of the behavioural changes can be seen with other conditions not just arthritis.

Here is your “My Cat Could Have Arthrits” check list….
  1. Jumping - Is there a change in your cat’s jumping ability?
  • Hesitates before jumping up or down
  • Now tends to use an intermediate step to get to final destination?
  • When jumping down slides down the slide of the bed or cupboard to get as close to the floor as possible before jumping?
  • No longer or less frequently goes to their high spot – ie. doesn’t jump onto the bed or window sill anymore?

  1. Sleeping - Is there a change in your cat’s sleeping pattern?

  • Sleeping more?
  • Choosing new location to sleep?
  • Change in sleeping pattern? ie two cats used to sleep on top of each other but now sleep beside each other.

  1. Gait /Movement - Is there a change in how your cat moves?
  • Less agile?
  • Bunny hops up/down the stairs?
  • Uses the same leading leg when going up/down the stairs? (Your cat should alternate between their left and right front leg on each step)
  • Limping
  • No longer moving to different floors in the house? ie doesn’t come upstairs as often?

  1. Personality - Is there a change in your cat’s interaction with you or other pet’s in the home?
  • Increase vocalization?
  • Cries when picked up?
  • No longer want you to pet or brush his/her back?
  • Decrease interaction with you or other pets?
  • No longer playing with toys?
  • Hiding more / increase fearfulness?
  • Increase aggression with family members or other pets?

  1. Change in grooming?
  • No longer grooming as much; as cats can be private about their grooming this may be difficult to notice but you may see the telltale signs of decrease grooming.
  • Coat now rough looking, increase loose hairs, scales in the fur, now getting matts
  • Longer nails. Nails now getting caught in the carpet, blankets etc or nails growing into pads of the feet

  1. Missing the litter box?
  • Often near the box because the lip is too high or for some they can get into the box but they can no longer squat into the correct position and thus miss the box.
  • Can be away from the box especially when a cat must go to a different floor to get to a box.

  1. Muscle wasting
  • Particularly the muscle of the hind legs and back as our cats decrease jumping and no longer use the muscles the muscles start to atrophy.

What To Do?

We are staring to find companies are developing newer helpful products for our cats to help them with this common aging problem.

Options include:

  • Diets and joint supplements
  • Weight loss (10% body weight loss in our overweight pats can give as much relief as medication and has the added benefit of over all health improvement AND is cheaper than medications)
  • Environmental changes (ie given them an intermediate jumping location to help them get to their perch, new litter box with high walls but low entry point, box on each floor)
  • Cartrophen injections to help maintain the cartilage
  • Laser therapy
  • Medications

If you are seeing these signs, or have concerns, call 604-854-2313 or email us and we will help you with your dog’s comfort.