The American Association of Feline Practitioners Life Stage Guidelines defines senior cats as those between 11 and 14 years of age, and geriatric cats as those 15 years or older. Arthritis is extremely common in cats, and by the age of 14 it is thought that 82% of cats will have arthritis. The problem is that arthritis is hard to recognize in the cat, unless you know what to look for. Most cats with arthritis don’t exhibit lameness. The main feature of arthritis in cats is a change in behavior and lifestyle, which most owners attribute to being the effects of old age. It is difficult to do an accurate orthopedic exam on a cat, and even radiographs may not reveal the changes in cartilage that are present. Our best way to determine if a cat has arthritis is by questioning their owners. Questions that need to be answered are about mobility, activity levels, grooming and temperament.
Some of the questions we need answered are:
- Is your cat jumping up and down less, or with less agility or gracefulness?
- Does your cat have to make a series of smaller jumps where they previously could make one?
- Are there any changes in your cat’s litter box habits?
- Have you noticed your cat sleeping or resting more?
- Is your cat playing and hunting like he used to?
- Is your cat still grooming and sharpening his claws?
- Has his attitude toward other animals changed?
- Is your cat still interacting with you like he used to?
If you have noticed any of the above changes it is likely that your cat may have arthritis. Things you can do to help are managing your cat’s weight, keeping food and water bowls at accessible levels, adding ramps or steps to favorite places, providing softer bedding, and provide litter boxes with lower sides.
In addition to these modifications you can make, we do have medications that are helpful for arthritic cats. In general these are easy for the owner to administer. In addition, we offer physical rehabilitation and laser therapy for cat’s with specific arthritic changes. We would be happy to help you in evaluating and managing your cat’s arthritic pain, and in helping improve his quality of life.