Cat Arthritis 101: Symptoms & Treatment Options


Cat Arthritis 101

3 min read
Jan 14, 2022

Just as certain dog breeds are susceptible to developing arthritis as they age and grow, cats too can develop this unpleasant disorder. Middle-aged and older cats are more prone to developing arthritis as the cartilage that acts as cushions between their bones gradually deteriorates or otherwise becomes damaged in some way. Once damaged, the joint is in danger due to the added friction from bone-on-bone contact.

Identifying Symptoms

Also like dogs, the signs of arthritis in cats are often subtle and easily overlooked since common symptoms such as decreased activity and increased sleeping can be attributed to the animal’s aging. Felines can often display a host of symptoms and, true to their nature, many of the symptoms can be contradictory.

For example, some cats may become antisocial and avoid family members while others become more social and seek out interaction where they would normally not.

Other common symptoms include difficulty finding a comfortable position and general restlessness. Some cats may develop a habit of using the bathroom outside of their litterbox if they can no longer access it comfortably, or they may stop grooming themselves altogether. Often, this is accompanied by a lack of appetite and weight loss.

The best way to determine if your cat is having pain, from arthritis or otherwise, is to know what “normal” is for your pet. Once you have determined the normal behavior, take note of those changes to help make a plan of action with your veterinarian.

Treatment Plans

Because cat arthritis symptoms can range from mild inconveniences to extreme pain, it is vital that a veterinarian provide a professional evaluation on your pet’s condition. Once the baseline pain response is understood, then the proper treatment plan can be tailored to the cat’s needs.
There are a large number of treatment options to choose from and, depending on the severity of the animal’s condition, some may or may not be available to your pet. A few of the most common treatment options for cats who are suffering from arthritis include:

Dietary Restrictions: Weight can place a particular strain on already compromised joint systems. In addition to putting extra stress on overworked joints, feline fat cells produce hormones that can cause pain Overweight cats are often placed on special diets or only fed at certain times of day to prohibit weight gain and promote a return to ideal weight. They are also encouraged to exercise by playing with toys.

Pain Relief Medicine: Sometimes cats are in enough pain that they will require medicine in order to feel any relief. Some common medicines to treat arthritis in cats are: tramadol, Fentanyl, and buprenorphine. Metacam (meloxicam) is also used, but it is a controversial treatment due to the method of administration.
Nutritional Supplements: Glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM are all popular over-the-counter joint-protection supplements for humans that are also effective in cats. Generally found together in a single pill, this combination supplement works to stimulate lubrication and reinforce cartilage.

Alternative Therapy: For some animals, pain medication isn’t necessary (or isn’t enough) and owners may choose to utilize an alternative path to pain relief for their cats. These include acupuncture, hydrotherapy, massage, and laser therapy.
Surgery: In some advanced cases, surgery may become necessary, but it is generally a last resort. Surgery can replace or fuse joints and typically requires an extended recovery period.

With any human or animal illness, prevention is key to stemming the effects of aging. Regular, moderate exercise and a healthy diet with quality food can increase the chances of your cat living into its teens and 20s and slow the development of many illnesses, especially arthritis.

Consider Investing in Cat Insurance  

Looking for more ways to protect your kitty?  Consider investing in a cat insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1   Get your free quote today.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

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