Over the years of running around and jumping on things the joints under go general wear and tear sometimes leading to arthritis. Arthritis is a degenerative disease where the joint is worn down leading to inflammation and possibly pain or restriction of movement in the joint. All pets can suffer from arthritis, it is very common in many animals and has been found to be more common in cats than many other species of animals, 1 in 3 elderly cats can be affected, with this number increasing with age.
Cats over the age of 7 that are overweight are more prone to developing arthritis, though it can occur at any age, weight and activity level. Cats that have had injuries to their bones or joints when younger can develop arthritis early as a result of this. Often it is the spine, hips or elbows that are the most affected joints in cats.
Cats are sneaky creatures and try to hide their discomfort from us, they are also generally quite inactive animals that sleep a large proportion of the day away so it can be hard to notice if your cat has arthritis. Some cats will have limping or stiffness associated with arthritis, other cats will have subtle changes to their behaviour such as difficulty jumping on or off things or will opt to take a longer but easier route to get onto things, for example instead of jumping onto the dining room table they may opt to jump onto the chair first. Some cats will lose strength in their hind legs and miss their targets when jumping or others will opt to just not jump anymore. Pain around the back or tail base area, matting of the coat around the tail base or back, crankiness when touched or picked up or even over grooming or chewing at themselves can be other signs of arthritis.
There are a number of things you can do to help your cat if you suspect he or she has arthritis, including but not limited to:
- Maintain activity. Encourage gentle play such as walking or running along the ground.
- Offer ‘step ups’ to the higher placed they like to sit on. Cardboard boxes work well, or you can have a fancy staircase designed for them as well.
- Make sure food, water and resting areas are easy to access, particularly for those bad days.
- Offer a litter tray with lower sides. We have some clients use old baking trays with absorbent pads placed around to help with any spray.
- Control weight. Heavy or overweight cats will find it much harder to move around than a lighter cat. This will also help slow the progression of the arthritis.
- Groom your cat gently. Try to remove all knots, matts and other debris from their coat. Some cats will benefit from a shave to avoid matting.
- Warm and comfy bedding, particularly in autumn and winter.
- Consider food supplements to help nourish the joint and slow down the wear and tear.
- Pentosan or cartrophen injections. These are a series of weekly injections that help to support and lubricate joints.
- Anti inflammatory medications. These can help reduce joint swelling or pain associated with your cats arthritis.
If you think your kitty may be affected by arthritis please feel free to contact any of our clinics, or mention your concerns at your kitty’s next vet visit.
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