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Cats and arthritis

I feel bad for cats. I think that honestly cats are often treated as second class citizens when it comes to vet care. ‘My cats are indoor only, they don’t need vaccines.’ Or ‘My cat acts fine, why does he/she need annual exams?’ I’ve written about this before, but I feel it needs more emphasis. Just because cats don’t ACT sick, doesn’t mean they aren’t sick. Just because they don’t go outside, doesn’t mean they can’t get flea/ticks or other diseases that we can prevent against! I always feel bad (and satisfied) when people bring in an indoor only cat for itching and I find fleas and people are horrified – but, but….they’re indoor only!! Yes ma’am, but fleas don’t care about your doorways….they aren’t vampires that need to be invited in. But I digress – we are here today to talk about another giant elephant in the room – arthritis in cats.

Cats get arthritis. A very large percentage of old cats HAVE arthritis….but do you know how often it is diagnosed?? Not very often, I can tell you that with confidence. I think it’s a two part problem – part one is that I think people don’t recognize the signs that their cat has arthritis, and part two is that I think people undervalue the importance of treating it, and don’t realize that there are several options. So, I am here today to try to convince at least ONE person at there to get some relief for their sad, old, limping cat!

How do we identify arthritis in cats?? There are a few key points I think we should make that can be red flags of arthritis for our feline friends.

  • Slow to get up and down – just like us as we get older, it is often more difficult to get up and down after laying down for a while. So, stiffness when first getting up can be a sign – limping for a minute before they get going, or walking with a stilted gait can all be related signs!

  • Difficulty on steps, or slow walking up the steps – similar to above, that up and down movement of having to climb up the steps can be stressful on painful joints, so you will often notice them slowing down in this area too.

  • Unable to jump on or off furniture like they used to – people often note that they had to move the food off of a higher spot to somewhere easier to access, or that they don’t sit in their favorite perch in the window anymore, or they have to try a few times or sit and stare at a jump for a while before they try to make it!

  • Having accidents outside of the box – especially if the box is in a difficult to get to place, or has very high sides that they have to climb over – this can be a source of discomfort too that makes them want to avoid the box!

Ok now that we know some of the signs that we are looking for…what can we do?? I really want to emphasize again here – just because cats don’t overtly show pain like we do or like dogs do, doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve relief and support. DO BETTER. So many old and painful cats I am told by people over and over…yeah, they have a bunch of these signs…but they’re fine, I don’t think they need anything. Well, I disagree – and I surely hope that when you are old and arthritic your family disagrees on your behalf too 😊

I think the biggest hurdle to medicating old cats is difficulty getting medications into them, and that I can agree with….but there are options! There’s an awesome joint supplement, Cosequin, that comes in sprinkle capsules that you can open and mix right in the food for them! There are fish oils that come in a similar way so you don’t have to be giving them anything by mouth yourself! There are daily medications too – pain medications and one anti-inflammatory that can be very helpful if they will take daily medications…but for those cats that won’t, there is now also a long-acting injectable pain medication called Solensia!! What I really like about Solensia is that it is given once a month, and it blocks the pain receptors to cut off pain in the joints. It’s super safe, and meant for older cats, and ok to give with lots of other medical conditions, so it’s a wonderful choice for those cats who are challenging to medicate – and they can even be given less than once a month if they are super effective too!

All in all, there are lots of options, and I think our older felines deserve us taking a few minutes to be concerned about their pain management as they age. Cats are such amazing companions and bring so much joy to our lives…I really think they deserve some relief and comfort in their golden years.

If you want more info on how to identify arthritis, there is an awesome quiz that you can take here:

And please don’t hesitate to ask us or your regular veterinarian for more info on how to help your older kitty!

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