Effects of Arthritis – From the Cat’s Point of View
Arthritis is a painful, progressive, usually permanent joint disease that unfortunately is fairly common in companion cats. While it is most frequently seen in older, obese cats, arthritis can also strike younger animals, especially those with a genetic predisposition to developing the disease. Arthritic cats experience varying degrees of stiffness, soreness, lameness and pain in one or more of their inflamed joints. They feel worse when they get up in the morning or try to stand after taking a nap. Cold, damp weather can increase their discomfort. Because arthritis is almost always irreversible, most arthritic cats get more painful over time. In severe cases, this condition can become debilitating and even crippling.
Symptoms of Arthritis – What the Cat’s Owner May See
The symptoms of feline arthritis usually appear gradually and worsen slowly over time. Outward signs of arthritis are not specific to this disease and can mimic those of many other disorders. The first signs are often so mild that even the most observant owners may miss them. Eventually, most owners of arthritic cats will notice that their companion isn’t acting or feeling right. The signs of arthritis include:
Reluctance to rise or move
Stiffness, especially after vigorous exercise or prolonged periods of rest
Swollen joints; may be warm and tender
Difficulty entering and exiting the litter box
Visible joint deformities
Sleeping more than usual (prolonged periods of rest)
Exercise intolerance; disinterest in physical activity
Aggression when joints are touched
Abnormal stance when walking (pelvis tucked under; using hind legs with exaggerated care)
- Intermittent lameness (less common in cats than dogs)
Cats at Increased Risk
There is no breed or gender predisposition that increases a cat’s chance of developing arthritis, although it most commonly affects aging animals. In fact, degenerative arthritis reportedly affects roughly 90% of cats over 12 years of age. Free-roaming outdoor cats have a greater risk of traumatic injuries that can contribute to arthritis, and obese cats definitely are predisposed. Genetics are thought to be influential as well.