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Identifying arthritis in cats

Identifying arthritis in senior cats can be tricky. Dr. Lee shares tips for spotting this condition, and recommendations for helping an older cat with arthritis.

Identifying arthritis in cats

Q:How do I know if my cat has arthritis? She’s getting old and slowing down, but she doesn’t limp.

A:Osteoarthritis is exceedingly common, particularly in older cats, so you are right to be concerned. Unfortunately, though, the condition is hard to identify.

Cats with arthritis don’t limp, because feline arthritis typically affects multiple joints on both sides of the body. Instead, their behavior changes.

Arthritic cats become less active and less playful, and they sleep more. They may be moody and less tolerant of other pets or human handling. They are reluctant to jump, and they jump shorter distances. Their posture may become more crouched.

The twisting and stretching required to groom themselves is painful, so some arthritic cats look unkempt, and their coats may mat. Conversely, they may over-groom painful joints. Claws sometimes grow long when cats don’t scratch or move enough.

Litter box habits may change, particularly if the cat must use stairs to access the box or climb into a box with high sides.

If you see any of these behaviors in your cat, make an appointment with your veterinarian. I also offer these tips for helping your cat with arthritis.


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

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