Published on March 2nd, 2018 | by Debbie Martin0
Arthritis and your cat what you should know
As well as being a common complaint of older humans, osteoarthritis is often suffered by aging cats, particularly in those older than seven. Since cats are markedly more docile than dogs, it is often difficult to spot the condition. There are, however, many warning signs which owners of older cats should keep an eye out for.
What causes a cat to get arthritis?
The condition is caused by a degradation in a cat’s joints. In the joints of a cat (and, for that matter, of a human) is a small amount of cartilage, which serves as a lubricant. Once this cartilage has degraded sufficiently, cats will suffer pain when moving, since there is nothing to prevent the bones from grinding against one another.
Some cats will be more prone to osteoarthritis than others. This is caused both by genetics and by environmental factors, such as diet. If your cat if obese, for example, their joints will have to support more weight and therefore be under a great deal more stress. For similar reasons, larger breeds of cat will generally (though not always) be more prone to suffering from the condition than their smaller counterparts.
Symptoms – how can I tell that my cat has arthritis?
Lack of mobility
Arthritis is generally manifested in a lack of mobility. Since moving will hurt, affected cats will endeavour to remain as still as possible. They will sleep on the floor where they once preferred to jump up onto the sofa. They will fear stairs and avoid them wherever possible. They will move far more slowly and gingerly than they otherwise might, it is easy to associate this with them just getting older so you need to keep an eye out on this symptom.
An arthritic cat will be far more irritable than usual, particularly during physical contact, which will jostle their joints. They will not respond well to being picked up and cuddled, nor to being stroked or tickled. If your cat was once very outgoing and is now very shy and retreating, then the cause may be arthritis.
Decline in grooming habits
Cats maintain the natural sleekness of their fur coat by regularly grooming it. They do this instinctively, by licking it. Some places, however, such as the back, are harder to reach than others – and these areas will be the first to suffer in a cat which suffers from arthritis, as they will be unable to reach such areas with experiencing pain. The cat’s fur coat is therefore a good place to look for evidence of arthritis. Look at your cat’s back: is the fur there matted and unkempt? If so, then your cat may be suffering from arthritis.
Lack of appetite
Arthritis also brings about a lack of appetite – because eating involves movement and therefore causes pain. Is your cat skipping meals? Do they eat only a little bit, before losing interest and wandering off? If this is the case, arthritis may be the cause – though there may be other reasons why a cat might lose its appetite.
What should I do if my cat has arthritis?
If you suspect that you cat has arthritis, then take them to a vet who will be able to provide you with a thorough diagnosis. This will sometimes be done with the benefit of an x-ray; sometimes, however, a vet might elect to simply treat the condition and observe the results.
Such treatments are varied. There is, unfortunately, no cure for arthritis. This may sound like a bleak prognosis but there are many ways of managing the pain. The first thing to say is that cats suffering from arthritis must somehow be persuaded to eat and move, since refraining from these activities will cause muscle wastage, which will only accelerate the onset of the condition.
But this is remarkably difficult if your cat is uncomfortable while eating and moving. You do not want to force your cat to do these things, as it might cause them pain – but at the same time, lying around and eating very little will only worsen the situation.
Before we turn to drugs (as we ultimately should) there are also several small things that can be done to aid an arthritic cat:
- You might consider raising their bowl slightly, so that your cat does not have to crane its neck in order to eat and drink. If their bowl is in a hard-to-reach place, such as on top of the fridge or on a high shelf, then consider placing it instead on the floor.
- If your cat uses a litter tray, then consider buying one with lower sides, so that your cat does not have to unnecessarily strain itself every time it wants to visit the toilet.
- Provide your cat with soft bedding, so that its bones are supported when it goes to sleep. There are many options now available, which employ memory-foam in order to ensure uniform support.
An extremely effective solution lies in the administration of an anti-inflammatory drug, such as Metacam. This will reduce the swelling around your cat’s joints and thereby reduce their pain. They will then be more inclined to eat and move: actions which are essential in assuring your cat’s long-term health.
Metacam comes in the form of a sweet-tasting liquid, which can be either put into your cat’s food or administered directly into their mouths – though the latter option presents a risk of accidental overdose, and is therefore largely avoided. A vet might also elect to administer the drug subcutaneously.
A single dose of Metacam is effective for twenty-four hours. It can therefore be taken only once daily. As well as arthritis, the drug can be administered as a treatment for a variety of ailments and impact injuries.
Metacam is designed to be taken long-term. In the majority of cases, this means that the affected cat will be on the drug for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, the benefits of Metacam can be dramatic. Through this drug, an old cat can obtain many more happy years of pain-less movement, and be restored to their former, energetic state. Stairs need bother them no longer!