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Sleeping cat with feline arthritis


Just like in humans, osteoarthritis is a common condition in older cats, but one that is unfortunately often overlooked. Many symptoms are dismissed as simply ‘old age. But whilst old age is inevitable, it isn’t a disease – it doesn’t cause pain or stiffness like arthritis does!

If you find yourself describing your cat as: ‘sleeping a lot now’, ‘not going out so much these days’, ‘grumpier than they used to be’, and ‘not as keen to cuddle’, have you considered that they may have arthritis?


As any cat owner will tell you, cats are unique, and this is true for the way they show pain too. Dogs tell you when they are in pain by limping, yelping, and making sure that you know about it! Cats stop playing, cats stop grooming, and generally retreat.

Although they don’t shout about it, if you look you will see what your cat is telling you. Consider these common ‘old age’ changes in cats, and how they might be related to underlying arthritis.

  • Not as playful anymore – It’s just too painful to bother.
  • Spending less time outside – Getting through the cat flap is quite uncomfortable and climbing that tree is unthinkable.
  • Matted fur along their backs – This may be because it’s too painful to contort around to groom now.
  • Stop sleeping on your bed – It’s too much of a stretch to jump up there now.
  • Sleeping all the time – It’s simple: arthritis hurts when the joints move. No moving = no pain.
  • Overgrown claws – Their beloved scratching post hurts to use now.
  • Becoming grumpy – Being picked up and cuddled up like they used to be is quite uncomfortable, so they avoid it.

There are physical signs of arthritic cats too (e.g. muscle loss, swollen joints, stiff movements), but most of the signs are behavioural changes.

X-ray of a cat joint with osteoarthiris


Every joint in your body is covered in smooth slippery surface made of cartilage. Over time, as the joints are used and abused, this cartilage can be worn down to reveal the underlying bone – ouch!

The bone tries to repair itself, but the new bone produced only adds to the problem; bony protrusions start to cover the joint rather than the glossy smooth cartilage. A once shiny, lubricant joint surface turns into something more akin to the surface of the moon.


Arthritis is unfortunately a progressive disease that will get worse over time, as the joint damage can’t be reversed. However, there’s still lots you can do to make living with arthritis easier, and less painful for your cat.

Modifying the environment – even small adjustments around the home can make a big difference to their quality of life. Ensuring easy access to food and water (avoiding elevated surfaces), placing a step near windowsills to ease jumping, providing cosy beds, maintaining warmth (especially in colder weather when arthritis tends to worsen), and opting for litter trays with low sides all contribute to a more comfortable life.

Medication – it’s crucial to seek advice from your vet regarding the most suitable medications for your cat. Various options to manage feline arthritis are available from daily pain relief to monthly injections. Don’t ever be tempted to give any human medication to your cat – paracetamol is highly toxic to cats and just a small amount will be fatal.

Weight management – excess weight adds unnecessary strain on sore joints. Achieving and maintaining a healthy bodyweight can be challenging, particularly as cats become less active with age. Speak to us for tailored dietary advice.

Joint supplements – incorporating omega-3 oils and glucosamine supplements into the diet may offer some benefits. However, since this industry lacks regulation, it’s important to be cautious of false claims. Additionally, don’t anticipate immediate results, as supplements typically require weeks or even months to take effect.

Promoting movement – adhering to the “little and often” principle is advisable for exercising cats with arthritis. Prolonged periods of rest can lead to very stiff joints, so gently encouraging regular, low-impact movement is beneficial.


Cats can live a long time with arthritis, as long as their quality of life remains good. Recognising the signs and starting treatment early will keep them as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.

So, if you think your cat is getting old and lazy, consider that arthritis may be lurking, and speak to us!