Arthritis in Cats

What is arthritis?

Arthritis, also called osteoarthritis, is a degenerative condition that causes cartilage erosion and bone proliferation in the joints. The joints wear down which results in inflammation and pain in the joints. Arthritis is found in cats of all ages but is most common in senior and geriatric cats. In cats, we frequently find more than one joint affected with arthritis at the time of diagnosis. The most affected joints are the hip, hock, and elbow.


Symptoms of arthritis

  • No overt symptoms (subtle changes not noticed)
  • Decreased exercise/activity/sleeping more
  • Aggression or behavior changes
  • Hiding
  • Change in litter box habits
  • Joint thickening, swelling, pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased range of motion in joints
  • Squinting
  • Hunched position at rest
  • Decreased jumping/mobility
  • Hesitates when jumping or using stairs
  • Decreased grooming
  • Overgrooming areas over the joint
  • Sensitive to petting or touch
  • Difficulty getting up/walking
  • Limping or change in gait


The diagnosis of arthritis is made by exam, history, and radiographs.


The treatment for arthritis in cats is often multimodal. When treated, we can improve our cat’s quality
of life. Osteoarthritis requires chronic treatment. Your veterinarian will help you develop the best
approach for treating your cat. Some common treatments include:

Environmental Modification

  • Use ramps or stairs to help your cat access high areas like the bed, cat trees, etc. You
    can buy special pet stairs and ramps or use common household objects like step stools
    to help your kitty reach higher places.
  • Keep food and water easily accessible on the floor.
  • Provide soft bedding for your cat.
  • Large litter boxes with low entry are best. You may want the litter box to have high sides
    if your cat has trouble posturing and they urinate over the side of the box.


  • Make sure your cat isn’t overweight. Extra weight causes more stress on the joints.
  • There are prescription diets that can help with weight loss and arthritis.

Pain Management

  • NSAIDS: low safety margin, need to monitor closely, very effective pain control in cats
  • Opioids: Not ideal for long term pain management, good for acute flares/pain
  • Gabapentin: helpful with chronic pain
  • Amantadine: helpful adjunct treatment if the cat will take it (bad tasting)


  • Dasuquin (oral)
  • Antinol (oral)
  • Adequan (injectable)
  • Fish Oils/Omega-3 Fatty Acids (oral)

Complementary Medicine


Arthritis is the most common chronic, painful condition in cats. We can see arthritis in cats of all ages,
but most commonly it is found in older cats. With the help of your veterinarian, we can develop a
multimodal treatment plan to improve your cat’s comfort and mobility.

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