in cats

You may notice that as your cat gets older they aren’t as nimble as they once were. It’s easy to assume this is just a natural part of ageing; however, just like humans, cats can suffer from a debilitating disease called arthritis. Today, it’s estimated that 1.5 million cats live with arthritis across Australia and New Zealand.

As cats naturally disguise pain and discomfort, arthritis can be very difficult to spot. It’s important that owners learn to recognise the subtle signs so your cat can get back to being its normal self.

Although arthritis is a lifelong condition, it can be managed with appropriate treatment and simple changes to your cat’s home and lifestyle.


What is feline arthritis?

Feline arthritis is a degenerative joint disease, where the cartilage within the joint is worn away, leading to inflammation, pain and decreased quality of life.

Until recently, the significance of arthritis in cats has been largely unrecognised. Clinical studies have shown that as many as 1 in 3 cats suffer from arthritis, yet few are diagnosed in practice and even less receives treatment.

Primarily, arthritis is caused by wear and tear over time.Some studies show more than 90% of cats over 12 yearsare affected, but it can develop in cats as young as two. Other factors that may increase the risk of arthritis include injury and trauma to joints, such as a sprain or fracture, an infection, genetics and obesity.

Healthy cartilage
& bone
Mild cartilage
Severe arthritis
with cartilage and bone

of arthritis

Cats naturally disguise pain and discomfort as a defence mechanism so the signs of arthritis are difficult to spot. You can help identify arthritis early by keeping an eye out for somesubtle changes in behaviour:

Changes in hygiene
  • Reduced time spent grooming
  • Matted and scruffy coat
  • Inappropriate urination or not using the litter
Changes in mood
  • Irritable when handled
  • Increased aggression or biting
  • Avoiding contact with people or other animals
Reduced activity
  • Increased time sleeping
  • Hesitant to play
  • Unwilling to go out or explore
Reduced mobility
  • Hesitant to jump up or down
  • Making smaller jumps
  • Difficulty climbing the stairs, getting into the litter or using the cat flap
  • Stiffness
Some subtle behaviour changes you may notice in your cat
Arthritic cats may be hesitant to jump off a table
Arthritic cats might be hesitant to climb stairs
Arthritic cats play lessfrequently and spendmore time sleeping
Arthritic cats might use a chair to help them jump onto a table

& management

Often the first step in diagnosing arthritis is recognising the signs at home. If you see any of the subtle signs, it’s a good idea to have your cat examined by your vet. They may be able to detect swelling, pain and inflammation or take a radiograph to confirm any suspicions.

The good news for cats and their owners is that arthritis can be managed successfully with appropriate treatment and simple changes to your cat’s environment.

Medication for arthritis can help reduce pain and inflammation to improve your cat’s quality of life, though it will not cure arthritis. In many cases, animals affected by arthritis will need to be on medication for the rest of their lives.

The most commonly used drugs for managing arthritic pain are called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs can be very effective at controlling the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, but pet owners must take proper care when administering them and they should always be used under direct veterinary supervision to avoid the risk of side effects.

Usually, a combination of medication and complementary approaches, including diet and weight management and physiotherapy is used to treat arthritis.

Every cat requires a specific treatment plan. Your veterinarian will be in the best position to discuss a tailored treatment plan for your cat.

Special supplements & Diets

Omega-3 fatty acids

Chondro protectant

Disease Modifying Agents,

Weight control & exercise

Weight reduction, diet management



Physical rehabilitation

Physiotherapy, gentle exercise, massage,
Hydrotherapy, Heat and cold therapy


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,
the cornerstone of arthritic pain management

Tips to help look after your cat

  • Have regular check ups; as cats age it’s important to maintain communication with your vet to ensure they’re enjoying their senior years.
  • Encourage play and interaction to provide exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Cut their claws or provide a scratching post
  • Spend some time cleaning and grooming your cat.
  • Provide a litter tray with a low side for easier access. Keep it in asecluded place where they feel safe; avoid busy areas of the house andposition away from the cat flap.
  • Make sure food and water is easy to access and keep a second bowl of water in a separate place.
  • Have steps or ramps for access to higher spots
  • Provide a soft comfortable bed in a quiet location.


See the difference treatment can make

Helping you manage
feline osteoarthritis in practice


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