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Senior cat with arthritis laying

How to help your older cat with arthritis

Q: Trinity, my 14-year-old, 3-legged cat, has arthritis. What can I do to keep him as comfortable as possible throughout his remaining years?

A: Let me start by congratulating you for recognizing that Trinity may be uncomfortable. Over 90 percent of cats develop osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, but they are genetically programmed to hide their pain, so the clinical signs usually are subtle. Therefore, few caregivers realize their cats are hurting.

Treatment options focus on protecting the joints, minimizing pain and improving function. Supplements that contain glucosamine and chondroitin nourish joint fluid and protect joint cartilage. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and discomfort.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like Onsior and Metacam, decrease inflammation and minimize pain. Other medications, including tramadol, gabapentin and buprenorphine, also relieve pain.

Lifestyle modifications can have a huge impact, too. If Trinity is overweight, help him lose the extra pounds so his compromised legs don’t have to carry so much weight. Provide litter boxes with low sides on every floor of your home. Offer steps or ramps to help Trinity climb onto furniture.

Many cats also respond favorably to such complementary treatments as laser therapy and acupuncture.

Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, and Trinity will thank you.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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