Unfortunately our feline friends do develop many orthopedic conditions including those affecting the joints.

Do cats develop arthritis and joint pain problems? How would I know if my cat was affected joint pain?

Unfortunately our feline friends do develop many orthopedic conditions including those affecting the joints. Diseases such as osteoarthritis (an inflammatory condition of the joints) and degenerative joint disease occur primarily in older feline patients but may still affect the middle aged.

Most pet owners are unaware that there elderly feline pets may be experiencing joint pain and discomfort. Cats have a great ability to conceal pain in ordered to prevent the appearance of weakness. In the wild, any display of weakness by the cat could be life threatening. In contrast to dogs, they rarely vocalize in response to pain unless pushed to the limit. For this reason it can be very challenging to properly identify pain and the conditions which incite it in feline patients. Osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease cause pain to varying degrees and many of the manifestations of this pain in the cat are behavioral. Subtle changes in behavior can indicate quite severe pain.

Pain can be assessed by deviations from the norm. At home, your cat may exhibit decreased appetite, irritability, urinating and defecating outside the litter box and reduced movement between vertical perching sites. Weight loss may occur because the cat isn’t feeling well enough to eat, or because the cat is having trouble accessing food that is placed on a high surface. Irritability is often recognized by cat owners when the cat doesn’t want to be picked up or interacted with. A decrease in playful behavior may also indicate pain. Litter box accidents can happen because the cat can’t easily get in and out of the litter box or doesn’t feel well enough to go to the litter box. The cat may have trouble assuming the correct stance for defecation and urination, resulting in constipation or accidents. A cat that normally likes to rest in a window sling or on the back of the couch may have trouble getting to the normal location and may alternatively choose a sunny spot on the floor instead. If the cat does get to the couch or on a high bed, it may have an accident because it doesn’t want to jump down to urinate in the litter box.

Additional indications of pain are poor grooming and matted hair coat. If the cat loses flexibility and can’t turn around to groom, mats may form over the back. If the source of the pain is orthopedic disease, the cat may be stiff when walking and assume awkward positions when jumping up or down. Limping is a rare indication of pain in the cat. Occasionally, a cat will have one painful limb and exhibit an obvious limp, but more commonly, the pain is diffuse from the underlying orthopedic disease. Cats can easily shift their weight between limbs and can compensate for limb pain without an obvious limp. If you believe your cat may be suffering from a painful condition such as joint disease or another orthopedic condition, please contact your veterinarian for advice as soon as possible.