Is Your Cat in Pain? Recognizing the Cat Arthritis Signs

cat arthritis signs

As our feline companions age, they may start to show signs of arthritis, a common but often overlooked condition.

Just like in humans, arthritis in cats can be painful and debilitating, affecting their quality of life.

Understanding the signs of arthritis in cats and knowing how to support them can make a significant difference in their well-being.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the signs of cat arthritis, offer tips for supporting your arthritic cat, and answer some frequently asked questions to help you provide the best care for your furry friend.

Signs Your Cat Might Have Arthritis

Arthritis, or osteoarthritis, is a degenerative joint disease that causes inflammation and pain in the joints.

It’s estimated that 90% of cats over the age of 12 show signs of arthritis.

Recognizing these signs early can help you manage the condition more effectively.

Here are some common symptoms to look out for:

Decreased activity

One of the first signs of arthritis in cats is a noticeable decrease in their activity levels.

Cats with arthritis may become less inclined to jump, run, or play.

You might find that your once-energetic feline now prefers to rest more often and avoids climbing stairs or jumping to high places, like countertops or shelves.

This change in behavior is often due to the discomfort and pain they experience when moving their joints.

Stiffness and limping

Arthritic cats often move more stiffly, especially after they have been resting or sleeping for a while.

You may notice that your cat limps or favors one leg over the other.

This limping can become more pronounced when they get up after lying down.

Stiffness and limping are clear indicators that your cat is experiencing joint pain, and these signs tend to worsen with cold weather or after vigorous activity.


Difficulty grooming

Cats are meticulous groomers, but arthritis can make it challenging for them to maintain their usual grooming routine.

If your cat has arthritis, they might have trouble grooming themselves, particularly in hard-to-reach areas like their back and hind legs.

This can lead to a matted coat or dandruff.

You might also notice that your cat’s fur looks less shiny and more unkempt than usual.

Changes in litter box habits

Arthritis can make it difficult for cats to get into and out of the litter box.

This might lead to accidents outside the box or changes in their toileting habits.

For example, your cat might start urinating or defecating near the litter box instead of inside it because it’s too painful for them to step over the high sides of the box.

Behavioral changes

Pain from arthritis can cause noticeable changes in your cat’s behavior.

They may become more irritable or withdrawn.

Some cats might exhibit signs of depression, such as reduced appetite and less interaction with family members.

Your previously social and affectionate cat might start hiding more or showing aggression when handled due to their discomfort.

Reduced muscle mass

Cats with chronic arthritis often lose muscle mass, particularly in their hindquarters.

This muscle atrophy occurs because they are less active and do not use their muscles as much as they used to.

You might notice that your cat’s legs look thinner or that they have a bony appearance in the back end.


Tips for Supporting Your Cat with Arthritis

If you suspect your cat has arthritis, consult with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Here are some tips to help manage your cat’s arthritis and improve their quality of life:

Provide a comfortable environment

Ensuring your cat has a warm, comfortable place to rest is vital.

Orthopedic beds are a great option because they are designed to support joints and alleviate pressure points.

Look for beds made with memory foam or other supportive materials that contour to your cat’s body shape.

Place their bed in an easily accessible area, away from drafts and cold floors, as warmth can help soothe aching joints.

You might also consider heated pet beds, especially in colder weather, to provide extra comfort.

Easy access to essentials

Make it easier for your cat to access their food, water, and litter box.

This is particularly important if you have a multi-story home.

Consider placing these essentials on each level so your cat doesn’t have to navigate stairs frequently.

Use litter boxes with lower sides to help your cat get in and out without difficulty.

Elevated food and water dishes can also reduce the strain on their neck and joints, making mealtime more comfortable.

Encourage gentle exercise

While it might seem counterintuitive, gentle exercise is essential to keep your cat’s joints flexible and maintain muscle mass.

Encourage short, gentle play sessions with toys that don’t require a lot of jumping or running.

Interactive toys, like feather wands or laser pointers, can be great for stimulating your cat without putting too much stress on their joints.

Gentle climbing structures with ramps instead of stairs can also provide mild exercise and enrichment.


Weight management

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for cats with arthritis.

Excess weight puts additional stress on their joints, exacerbating the pain.

Work with your vet to ensure your cat is on an appropriate diet to manage their weight.

Your vet may recommend a special diet formulated for joint health, which includes ingredients like omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation.

Controlled feeding portions and regular weigh-ins can help you keep track of your cat’s progress.

Pain relief and medication

Your veterinarian may prescribe pain relief or anti-inflammatory medications to help manage your cat’s arthritis.

These medications can significantly improve your cat’s comfort and mobility.

In addition to prescription medications, there are joint supplements available, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, which can help support joint health.

Always consult with your vet before starting any new medication or supplement to ensure it’s safe and appropriate for your cat.

Regular veterinary check-ups

Regular check-ups are important to monitor your cat’s condition and adjust treatment as necessary.

Your vet can provide advice on pain management and any new therapies that might be beneficial.

These check-ups allow your vet to track the progression of arthritis and make any necessary adjustments to your cat’s treatment plan.

Early intervention can make a significant difference in managing arthritis effectively.

Additional tips

  • Provide stable surfaces: Ensure that your cat has stable surfaces to walk on. Slippery floors can be challenging for cats with arthritis, so consider using rugs or mats to provide better traction.
  • Use ramps: If your cat likes to perch on furniture or window sills, consider installing ramps to make it easier for them to reach their favorite spots without jumping.
  • Massage and physical therapy: Some cats benefit from gentle massage or physical therapy to alleviate pain and improve mobility.
  • Monitor behavior changes: Increased irritability, hiding, or reduced activity can indicate that their arthritis is causing more pain and may require a change in their treatment plan.


Arthritis in cats is a common condition that can significantly impact their quality of life.

By recognizing the signs early and providing appropriate care, you can help manage their pain and ensure they remain comfortable and happy.

Remember to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your cat’s needs.


What age do cats typically develop arthritis?

Arthritis can develop in cats at any age, but it is more common in older cats. Studies show that up to 90% of cats over 12 years old show signs of arthritis .

Can young cats get arthritis?

Yes, young cats can develop arthritis, especially if they have suffered an injury or have a genetic predisposition to joint problems.

Are there specific breeds more prone to arthritis?

While any cat can develop arthritis, certain breeds, such as Maine Coons and Scottish Folds, may be more predisposed due to genetic factors affecting their joints.

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