Arthritis is a common degenerative joint disease in pets, but it’s more pronounced in dogs than cats. It’s progressive, meaning it gets worse over time, and most cats don’t show a lot of symptoms until the effects on their body are severe. Afterall, every cat owner knows how hard cats work to put on a brave face!
Are you worried that your cat might be suffering from arthritis? Here are four subtle signs she might be in more pain than you think.
1. She’s stopped using her litterbox.
What you might assume is just bad behavior could be a sign of creeping arthritis. Since arthritis manifests as a painful swelling and irritation of the joints, it can hit your cat’s elbows and knees the hardest. As a result, she may stop getting in and out of her litterbox to do her business to avoid the pain. You may also notice her going up and down the stairs less frequently, declining to jump into your lap, and a general sense of lethargy she’s never exhibited before.
2. She’s waking in the night.
Did your cat go from being a champion sleeper to totally restless at night? If so, she could be having trouble getting rest because her joints are in pain; especially for a previously-healthy cat, joint pain can be unnerving. If your cat has difficulty napping, getting cozy in her bed, or sleeping through the night, talk to your vet about arthritis.
3. Her fur is matted.
Has your normally fastidious cat suddenly stopped grooming herself? If your cat’s fur just isn’t as well-kempt as it used to be, she may have eased up on grooming herself because it’s painful to do so. Afterall, even the nimblest cats have to be contortionists to effectively lick all their fur!
4. She’s more irritable than normal.
Cats can have prickly personalities but if your cat seems more easily agitated than she used to, she might be in pain. Pay close attention to the way she behaves when she’s handled; does she bite or scratch when scooped up? Does she run away when you bend down to pet her? If she seems like she doesn’t like to be touched it might be time for an arthritis checkup.
Which cats are the most vulnerable to the symptoms of arthritis? Middle-aged to older cats are, of course, the most prone to joint disease. Cats who are obese or are carrying around extra weight are also more likely to suffer joint pain, as are cats who’ve suffered a joint-related injury in the past. Some cat owners swear even the relative humidity levels can increase or decrease their cat’s symptoms!
The good news is, there are treatments for feline arthritis. Talk to your local cat specialist about your options for pain medication, joint health supplements, or even a diet plan designed to take off extra weight.