Cats are natural athletes, but over the years, this high level of activity can take its toll. It may mean that your cat is suffering from wear and tear on his/her joints as a consequence. It is now thought that the majority of older cats will be affected with some degree of OA.
Because cats are relatively small and very agile they can hide or cover up mobility difficulties caused by arthritis. Unlike dogs, cats with arthritis don't generally limp.
Instead, cats affected are more likely to show subtle changes in their lifestyle or behaviour. Because you know your cat best you are well placed to keep an eye out for the signs of this potentially painful condition.
If you have noticed any of the following changes or behaviours in your cat you should consult your vet or vet nurse for advice and consider arranging a check up for your cat.
- Deterioration in appearance – matted or scurfy coat
- Reluctance to jump up or down
- Obvious lameness or stiffness
- Sleeping more, especially in one place
- Personality Changes (Increased nervousness, depression, or aggression)
The medical care of arthritis in cats has advanced rapidly in recent years, and there are various management options for keeping OA under control:
- Maintain Activity - exercise aids weight loss and helps keep stiff joints warmed up.
- Make food and water access easy
- Use a litter tray with low sides and have it where access is easy
- Control weight - Being overweight can put extra strain on your cat's joints so keeping his/her weight down is helpful. If your cat is overweight ask your vet or one of the nurses for advice.
- Provide warmth - Arthritic cats prefer to lie in warm places.
- Consider joint supplements - If your cat does have arthritis then your vet may suggest you use a joint supplement. This nutritional support can help maintain normal function in joints and tendons. Glucosamine is a major component of cartilage, and Chondroitin enhances the formation of cartilage and inhibits enzymes in the joint, which tend to break down cartilage. These pharmaceuticals are often combined together in products such as Cosequin, which is available from your vet.
- Help your cat to groom - Take time to find out what sort of grooming your cat likes best. Painful areas are best avoided. Gentle grooming can help maintain your cat's interest in life.
- Painkillers - NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs)
Metacam is now licensed for the treatment of osteoarthritis in cats and may be very effective in improving quality of life. There are several contraindications however, so use of these drugs should be discussed with your vet.