A Cat Clinic

Arthritis in Cats: Making Life Comfortable for Your Older Cat

Posted on: October 31st, 2014 by Dr. Dale Rubenstein

A few weeks ago, we did a blog post on treating pain in cats, which discussed the fact that cats DO feel pain, they are just good at hiding it. When you think of arthritis in pets, most people think about dogs, but arthritis in cats occurs more frequently than you might think.

Arthritis is a common problem in cats as they age. Signs can be subtle, but can include things like a dull coat and lack of grooming, or reluctance to go up or down stairs, or no longer jumping to a favorite chair, bed, etc. Your cat may be stiff when waking up from a nap or may walk with a stilted gait. Some cats will have trouble getting to a litter box located on a different level of the home; some cats have trouble entering or exiting the litter box and may void outside of the box. Some cats may be so painful that when you go to pet your cat, s/he may hiss at you – not from anger but from pain. Here are some tips to help keep your cat comfortable.

1. Use “stair-steps” with step stools of varying heights so your cat can make small hops vs a large jump from the floor up to a bed. Make sure whatever you use as steps is stable, so your cat won’t fall or be afraid of falling and won’t use).
2. Keep resources handy so your cat won’t have to go from the sunny spot on the third floor down to the basement to use the litter box. Having food, water, bedding and litter boxes handy will make it easier for your cat. Also, having low-sided litter boxes with only a moderate amount of (not deep) litter can help.
3. Gentle grooming, using a brush or comb with rounded (smooth) ends can be helpful. Regular nail care also helps. Shaving mats may be less painful than combing out deep mats – please ask us if you need to have your cat groomed.
4. Heated pet beds are often comforting to stiff joints, and some cats enjoy a “massage” from their owners.
5. Omega-3 “fish-oil” supplements are beneficial to joints, kidneys, heart and more. We carry Welactin, which can be mixed with canned food.
6. Glucosamine supplements can also be helpful. Dasuquin comes as a capsule, that you open and mix the powder with canned food. GlycoFlex is a chewable treat. We have samples you can try to see if your cat will take.
7. Some diets have been formulated specifically for arthritis, such as Royal Canin “Joint Mobility” and Hill’s “j/d” diets can be mixed or fed in place of other foods. These diets are supplemented with omega-3’s at higher levels (the diets are also relatively lower in protein and are OK for older cats with early stage kidney issues).
8. DuraLactin is a whey product (milk protein) that has anti-inflammatory properties and can be helpful. As long as your cat doesn’t have dairy allergies, this is something you may want to try.
9. Adequan is an injectable product that acts on the cartilage of the joint and can be very helpful. A small amount is given via insulin syringe once weekly, then every 2-4 weeks as needed.
10. Gabapentin, amantadine and buprenorphine are pain medications; if your cat is not responding to other medications, we recommend trying pain meds. These are safe and well-tolerated, and can improve your cat’s quality of life immensely.

As always, these are just some possible things that may help your cat live comfortably into old age, but most important is to have your cat examined by your veterinarian regularly. Discuss any signs of pain or arthritis with your veterinarian, and together you can decide the best course of action for your cat.