Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition of the joints and is a common cause of pain in cats. Recent studies have shown that 40 – 92% of all cats, irregardless of age, have osteoarthritis. It can occur in the spine, especially the lumbosacral area, and the legs, especially the elbows, hips, knees and hocks.
Cats are masters at hiding pain. This survival instinct protects them from being seen as weak to would-be predators. Arthritis pain can be intermittent so cats can have a bad day followed by days when he is just fine. The gradual onset of arthritis makes it harder to notice the changes.
If your cat exhibits any of the following signs, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your veterinarian.
Changes in Behaviour
Hiding, not wanting to be petted, irritability or crankiness can be changes caused by pain. There may be decreased interaction with people or with other pets. They may be withdrawn or quieter than usual or they may be more clingy that they usually are. Any behavior change can be a sign of pain in cats and should be discussed with your veterinarian.
Change in Movement
Cats typically move around less when they have pain from arthritis. They may be reluctant to climb or jump on and off things. You may notice stiffness and slower movements. Cats with arthritis may play less and stop hunting.
House soiling or having eliminations outside the litterbox is commonly seen in cats with arthritis. It could be for urine, for stools or for both. Often the litterbox is in a distant part of the house, like the basement, and the cat has difficulty getting to it or getting into it.
Changes in Grooming
A cat that grooms himself less may be doing so because of arthritis pain. The coat may become matted and soiled. Alternatively, some cats will groom excessively over areas that hurt and cause bald patches.
Changes in Vocalization
Some cats are normally very vocal but when they are in pain will be very quiet. Some cats will vocalize more in response to pain. The important thing to notice is the change in your cat’s normal vocalization.
If you thought your cat was slowing down and getting old, it may be that your cat has pain from osteoarthritis. The reality is that you can recognize the signs faster and better than anyone because you know your cat better than anyone. Talk to your veterinarian about any changes that you notice in your cat.
Written by Dr. Diane Bourdeau
Coming soon………… Part II. What We Can Do to Help Cats with Arthritis