Osteoarthritis in Cats


Osteoarthritis or joint disease occurs when the cartilage around the bones begins to erode, leaving irregular surfaces. Cat arthritis is much the same as our own. Many of the things we did to hurt our joints as teens come back to haunt us as arthritis later. Family inheritance plays a part, but abuse of joints jumping, running, or injuries all contribute. Large weight bearing joints, hip, elbows, shoulders, and knee are more commonly involved. Wear and injury lead to inflammation in the joints causing arthritis resulting in painful movement.


In typical feline fashion, your cat will try and hide their pain and discomfort, so owners often think they’re lying around more because they’re getting older. Your cat's instinct is to not show weakness to anyone, so be aware of subtle behavioral changes like their resistance to jump on the counter or chair, which are often the earliest symptoms of joint disease. As pain progresses, cats avoid climbing inside the litter box because of pain and grooming habits go downhill because they can’t reach some areas. Arthritis is painful and will “cramp your cat's style.” Pick up on these changes and your cat will live a more comfortable life.

Look for:
  • Changes to long-term jumping and climbing habits.
  • Slow movements and discomfort. Arthritis is not life threatening and your cat will gradually adapt to the change by limiting activity.
  • Grouchy when picked up when that is not their norm.
  • Stop perching or they cry to be put up on perch or the bed.
The goal for every one of us is to live an active senior life without too many limitations. Anything that makes us move easier makes us happier to be more active.


  • Overweight cats should be carefully placed on a diet, since extra weight puts extra stress on their joints. Weight loss should be slow to avoid liver issues overweight cats are prone to. One pound of weight puts 4 pounds of pressure on each hip with each step. You can see where weight control helps arthritis pain.
  • Nutritional supplements are available that support your cat’s healthy bones and joints. The vitamins are also helpful in supporting old cat liver and kidney metabolic function.
    • Glyco-Flex® II Soft Chews will increase the lubrication of the joints and decrease the inflammation. Cats take these as treats so dosing is not an issue. Give two chews daily per 5 pounds for 2 weeks, then drop to one chew daily. It takes 6 weeks to see results.
    • Cosequin® for Cats or Dasuquin® for Cats are also good for arthritis. Plus Cosequin® supports bladder health making it desirable if your cat is prone to bladder issues.
    • The Missing Link® Ultimate Feline promotes healthy skin and coats while sustaining energy levels, maintaining healthy weight, and keeping the digestive system healthy.
  • Nutritional support will help you avoid the need for drug support. When you do, nutritional support will lower the dose needed to keep them comfortable. Your veterinarian has anti-inflammatory drugs that will keep their pain under control safely. Do not give your cat any anti-inflammatory drugs without your veterinarian’s approval – common drugs like Aspirin have a narrow dose range and Tylenol is extremely toxic to cats! There are many products used safely in cats like Metacam® and Phenylbutazone which is labeled for cats to treat arthritis and pain.


If your cat already has osteoarthritis, the goal is to make life comfortable. Arthritis hurts, especially in cold weather. There are things you can do to make them more comfortable.

Arthritic cats will seek out warm areas to lie down, especially in the fall and spring when the weather changes and those changes are aggravating their arthritis. A warm heated bed on a window seal (Kitty Shelf) or low perch area will go a long way to comfort them. Try the Outdoor Heated Kitty Camper with Heated Pad or the Lectro-Kennel Heated Pad & Cover, both warm to match your pet's normal body temperature and protects against the cold.

Most do well with jumping, if they do not get to stiff, therefore ramps are not necessary. An extra step or bench that they can use to get up in bed will prevent them from hurting themselves. Solvit PupSTEP Plus Stairs is great for hard to reach places. It allows the cat to comfortably get up and down and prevents them from holding urine too long resulting in fewer accidents.

You will help your cat out if you encourage walking, playing, and keeping their range of motion active. Think of it as physical therapy for your cat. Besides, it is fun and makes you smile to see your old cat trying to act like a teenager again! Pull toys and fishing type toys are all good!

Remember age is not a disease; the issues that prevent normal lifestyles for your cat is a problem! Treat the arthritis and your cats will live comfortable well into their geriatric years!

If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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