arthritis in cats treatment options
Cat Health and Wellness

What Can I Give My Cat for Arthritis Pain?

Only an experienced veterinarian can accurately diagnose the cause of your cat’s joint pain. Knowing which arthritis treatment to give your cat depends on the type and severity of the condition.

No medication (of any type) should be administered without the approval of a vet. The most common treatments are non-steroidal prescription drugs and joint supplements. Also, dietary changes may be advised to improve joint health and mobility.

Because cats can hide pain, the best thing that you can do is monitor the symptoms. Associating symptoms with pain is essential. Arthritis can be a debilitating joint condition that can make performing simple tasks far more difficult.

In this guide, we will look at the core symptoms and how arthritis can be treated. Providing pain relief and ensuring comfort is the primary objective. Enabling your feline to enjoy its golden years as pain-free as possible is vital.

Arthritic Joint Pain in Cats

As cats age, their joints and muscles in the begin to break down. This is an unfortunate truth about the natural aging process. Where cartilage once provided a cushion between joints, the cartilage slowly begins to deteriorate thus making the joints less flexible and more painful.

While the primary cause of feline arthritis is osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease), the ailment can also be caused by an injury, infection of the joint, bacteria, virus, failing immune health, and be due to carrying extra weight. Senior cats who are overweight (and diabetic) will often struggle the most.

Feline arthritis and joint pain are quite similar to the that endured by many middle-aged and elderly adults. Father Time can take its toll on a cat’s health in the same way that it can with humans.

  • An estimated 90% of all cats over the age of 12 display X-ray evidence of arthritis.
  • Formulated to maintain the structure of your cat’s joint cartilage, the Nutramax Cosequin supplement can be beneficial. While there are many helpful supplements available, it is the No. 1 vet-recommended retail supplement for maintaining and restoring joint health.

What are the Symptoms of Feline Arthritis?

Because cats can mask weakness and pain, arthritis will often progress before he or she starts to display obvious visual cues.

While it is common for many cat owners to chalk up arthritis as a product of the natural aging process, this is only true to a point. While joint ailments are common with aging, feline owners need to make sure there is not a hidden medical condition causing the problem. Slowing down from a life well-lived and slowing down due to an illness is not the same.

Scheduling routine checkups with a veterinarian can be helpful. Once your cat is 11 years of age, it is considered to be a senior cat, according to most guides. Many joint health concerns logically begin to surface around this age. If your cat is examined on a routine basis, any joint concerns can be identified and treated. X-rays enable your vet to identify unusual bone growths and cartilage deterioration.


One of the first signs of joint pain and arthritis is general stiffness. The basic movements that once were fast and routine become slow and more deliberate. Standing up, sitting down, and making it from point A to B can become a chore. It is common for senior cats to have bouts of limping and difficulty walking.

It can become hard to watch your cat struggle to turn around on the sofa. However, this type of stiffness is certainly a sign that joint health has significantly worsened.

  • After noticing the obvious stiffness, another signal that your cat will display is apprehension. While slow movements are a giveaway, what your cat does not do can also be a sign. If you notice that your cat seems to enter deep thought before making movements that were once routine this is a sign of arthritis. Your cat (like a person) will begin to doubt certain movements and lack confidence. If your cat looks at the sofa for several seconds before finally jumping, this is a sign of questioning. Can I still make this jump?
  • Although limping is a common symptom, the limping can change. Some cats favor other legs more than others. This depends on which joints are suffering the most. Additionally, you may notice that your cat seems to struggle to stand and walk if it has been down for a while yet seems to move a bit more swiftly as time goes on.

Joint Swelling

When cartilage begins to deteriorate it is common for joints to swell up. The weaker joints are used, the more they become inflamed and sore. In this regard, it is the same as a person with bad knees attempting to do extensive yard work. It can be achieved, but it will likely come with a heavy price that will require some ice. Joint swelling after activity happens with cats too.

  • Swollen joints can be tender and painful to the touch.
  • Joints that are inflamed can feel warm or hot to the touch.

As a way to reduce joint pain and inflammation, your cat may begin to bite, chew, and lick their legs. This can result in increased hair loss in specific locations as your cat attempts to heal itself. Inflammation of the skin can be the outcome.


A lack of interest, energy, and enthusiasm can become common in senior cats. In some cases, this is not necessarily a symptom of pain but rather that of resignation. As cats grow older, they begin to care less about activities they once loved during their youth. The concept of “playing” can almost seem foreign to senior cats, many of whom would rather rest easy on a comfortable bed. If your once active adult cat begins to express less enthusiasm, it could be a sign of weakened mobility.

Christine Bellezza, DVM, who served as a consultant at the Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s Feline Health Center, notes that changes in your cat may be subtle. Many times, this is due to fear and self-protection. Cats who are arthritic and experience chronic pain often wish to hide their condition as a means to avoid alerting a potential foe. Some level of lethargy may be on purpose as a defense mechanism.

How do you know when a cat is in pain?

Limited Flexibility

As arthritis and joint deterioration set in, one of the first things to be lost is flexibility. Unless the movements are of the standard and basic variety, they become limited if not impossible.

Cats that develop arthritis make a conscious effort to avoid exercise. Senior cats often trade playtime for more sleep and relaxation. Cats with limited flexibility often stay close to objects and locations that are familiar as a means to avoid the unknown.

  • The limited flexibility that is caused by arthritis is not always limited to the legs. Issues can also arise in the spine. This can cause your cat to be unable to turn its neck as smoothly as before. Spinal arthritis can create hunching in the back and overall poor posture. This hunching issue can cause weakness to develop in the hind legs.
  • Arthritic cats often develop muscle atrophy. As joints weaken and become stiff, it naturally becomes more difficult to get around and execute even the most routine physical activities. As walking becomes difficult, while resting and sleep increases, your cat’s muscles will also deteriorate. Inactivity can cause your cat’s legs to become thinner.

Discomfort in Certain Positions

In the kitten, youth, and adult stages of a cat’s life the time is often hallmarked by playful antics and funny physical positions. With an ability to almost twist themselves into pretzels, the Internet is filled with cats assuming odd sleeping positions and somehow always managing to land on their feet even during the toughest of circumstances.

Cats that have been stricken with arthritis often sleep and rest standard of positions. This also goes for sitting. Where flexibility once reigned supreme, even the slightest alterations can now lead to discomfort and extreme pain.

  • Cats that are in the midst of chronic arthritis can develop changes in personality and become aggressive. Irritable cats can snap and bite. This is the case if petting or holding them a certain way adds to their pain. You must provide proper support and security.

Arthritis Treatments for Cats

Although arthritis cannot be cured, some remedies and medications can ease the pain and increase your cat’s mobility. Making sure your cat is content is the primary objective.

Many products and prescription drugs are available in a less expensive generic variety. Depending on your cat’s diagnosis, the issue could be relieved by a one-time treatment rather than a prolonged cycle of drugs.


The age, weight, and overall health of your feline will determine which supplements will work best. The best joint health supplement should address your cat’s specific concerns. Let your vet know what they’re taking and eatings.

Supplements that include both glucosamine and chondroitin are essential for maintaining and improving cartilage and joint density. Strengthening both will ease your cat’s pain will also improve mobility. Essential fatty acids can help to reduce joints inflammation.

Prescription Medications

If your cat’s arthritic condition requires special care, your vet may introduce prescription medicine. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is common. According to the ASCPA, one of the most leading drugs is meloxicam. Potential side effects include loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting.

If your cat is suffering from joint pain, a prescription drug could be the answer. Although pain will naturally decrease once joint health increases, there is no reason to keep your cat in need. Attempting to eliminate pain should be your first objective.

Following a detailed examination, proper diagnosis, and assessment of other health concerns, your vet will advise the best medication. Not every drug is ideal for every cat. The age and breed of your cat may play a role in medication selection.

Home Remedies

Because it is ill-advised to give your cat medication without a consultation with your vet, the best home remedies should be geared toward comfort. Treating arthritis is as much about comfort and care as it is medication.

Listed below are ways you can make life easier for your cat…

  • Ensure that your cat’s bed is easily accessible and a place of comfort. Place it out of high traffic areas and secure it as a haven.
  • The use of ramps is critical. Your cat will endure far less pain if it does not have to step up or climb. For example, an easy entrance to his or her bed rather than having to lift legs.
  • Place your cat’s litter box in a convenient location. Similar to the easiness of the bed. The sides of the box should be low, and accessibility should require minimal effort.
  • Food and water should be easily accessible. Never force your cat to walk too far across the house or climb to get necessities.
  • Groom your cat several times per week. When cats become stricken with severe arthritis, their appearance can deteriorate. This includes greasy and matted hair. Helping your pal clean up gives your cat one less task to complete.
  • The trimming of claws is also important. Nail trimming can be performed with a groomer.

What can you give a cat for pain relief?

Laser Therapy

This is a non-invasive and pain-free procedure that can increase your cat’s mobility.

Through the use of a deep-penetrating laser (light), this therapy treatment can relieve pain while also stimulating cells that have been injured. Laser treatment can reduce inflammation by expanding blood vessels and decreasing swollen areas by activating what is known as lymphatic drainage.

Laser therapy can also stimulate the nerve cells that are responsible for blocking pain signals to the brain. This coincides with the triggering production of endorphins which can help to eliminate pain naturally.

The benefits include…

  • Improved nerve function
  • Fast pain relief
  • Increased mobility
  • Accelerated cell growth and tissue repair

In many cases, laser therapy is a one-time treatment. A single session usually takes no more than 10 minutes on average.

In 2011, ABC News highlighted how laser therapy had been able to help cats improve mobility and ease the pain.

Human Medication

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen can be given to cats but only under supervision from your vet. Cats are very sensitive to the side effects of these medications (and those similar), so you should never give your cat human medication at random.

Drugs should as Tylenol should be off-limits entirely. Just one regular-strength Tylenol contains enough acetaminophen to kill your cat.

Introducing human medication is dangerous!

Does Cold Weather Make Arthritis Worse?

Cold weather can cause existing joint pain and stiffness to become even worse. Similar to arthritis in humans, keeping joints warm and on the move is essential. The longer a cat stays down (relaxed) in a cold environment, the harder it becomes to stand and get moving.

Make sure that your cat is warm at all times. While the heat of the summer will work its magic, keeping your cat warm during the winter months is critical.

Noted below are some helpful tips…

  • Never allow your arthritic cat to roam outdoors in cold weather for long periods of time.
  • Keep your home at a comfortable temperature all year. Between 70-73 is ideal in most cases. This will ensure warmth and your cat will never be exposed to cold temperatures.
  • Give your cat a rub down. While not being too aggressive, rub your cat’s joints from time to time. This will increase blood flow as well as blood pressure.

While cats are good at masking pain, they are often unable to hide walking, sitting, and grooming difficulties. Because your cat is unable to tell you if they are unwell, it is your job to pay attention to the changes.

Routine checkups are vital. If an arthritic condition is treated and monitored in its earliest stages, your cat may be able to avoid the intense pain and lack of mobility that can become common among many cats.