When people think of arthritis in pets, the image of the large breed dog with “bad hips” slow to rise immediately comes to mind. These dogs often have very pronounced symptoms and their problems may be very obvious. Keep in mind even an arthritic dog can also have absolutely NO symptoms as well.
It might surprise you to know cats get arthritis, too? The occurrence of arthritis is believed to be greatly under-appreciated thought and many cats suffer in silence. Symptoms of arthritis in cats are much more subtle and cats do not become overtly lame. The negative impact on their quality of life, however, can be just as significant as the impact on a dog.
So…what are some of the subtle symptoms of arthritis in a cat:
- Sleeping more! Often misinterpreted as “my cat is just getting older and slowing down!” We may have written them off as a lazy cat, when really they just want to rest sore limbs and joints.
- Reluctance to jump! An older cat with arthritis will often take a long time to jump, as though they are “thinking about it”, whereas a younger cat just jumps.
- Grooming changes. Some cats groom excessively and some cats stop grooming altogether.
- Decreased appetite. You may even notice weight loss in more advanced cases. Cats become reluctant to eat due to the pain or if they have to jump onto higher surfaces to reach their food.
- Stop jumping altogether. In their younger years they may have jumped on a table at feeding time and now they stay on the floor. Or at other times, they may try to jump and miss because the pain in their joints prevents them from jumping with power.
- Accidents near the litter box can be another sign. Many litter boxes have high sides. If their joints are sore, then lifting limbs high over a tall side-wall or getting in the middle of a box full of deep sand may be too difficult. These older cats may eliminate near the box, as though they know what they need to do but performing the task correctly is difficult.
- Constipation. Similar to litter box accidents, arthritic cats have a more difficult time hold the “potty posture” because their joints hurt.
- Grumpy cat! Cats who used to be affectionate or more social may become antisocial, grumble when you pick them up, or hiss at their housemates (when they didn’t in the past).
- Break in routine… also subtle but often a sign your cat may be in pain. Cats THRIVE on routine and when this is broken, consider arthritis as a cause. Maybe they no longer sleep with you, no longer want to play, come when called or greet you at the door.
- Attention seeking behavior. Cats can become more social, seeking more interaction with you. Treat this as your cat trying to tell you something!
Sometimes the signs are EXTREMELY subtle. If you think your cat might be in pain or your see signs, alert your veterinarian. A physical examination and x-rays can lead to an accurate diagnosis. Many treatments options exist, including supplements, medication and laser therapy.