Arthritis can cause debilitating joint inflammation problems for cats. Everyday activities that your cat once took for granted will become increasingly difficult. In addition, your cat will be in near-constant pain.
Ensure that your cat has a warm, comfy bed, and a low-sided litter tray. Your cat should be fed a high-protein diet to promote muscle growth, unless it has kidney problems. Provide proven supplements that contain collagen, glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, and Omega-3.
If your cat is arthritic, do not wait for the issue to pass. The pain will worsen over time. A combination of home comforts, dietary changes, supplements, and prescribed medication will manage your cat’s pain.
Table of Contents:
- 1 How to Reduce Arthritis Pain in Cats
- 1.1 1/ Home Comforts
- 1.2 2/ Diet Changes
- 1.3 3/ Supplements
- 1.4 4/ Medications
- 1.5 5/ Herbal Remedies
- 1.6 6/ Alternative Therapies
How to Reduce Arthritis Pain in Cats
You can relieve your cat’s discomfort through natural means and prescription meds. Continue to have your cat’s health checked, asking for painkillers if the issue continues.
Never offer a cat paracetamol to ease its arthritis. The Australian Veterinary Journal has stated that paracetamol is toxic to cats.
Ibuprofen is equally dangerous. If taking a medical approach, you must only give your cat drugs that are prescribed by a veterinarian.
1/ Home Comforts
The first step to aiding a cat with arthritis is making its environment safe and accommodating. You may need to replace your cat’s bed, litter tray, and food and water bowls.
These amendments will help your cat negotiated everyday life without aggravating its pain. This will make your cat more comfortable.
If your cat has arthritis, it will be static for longer periods of time. This means that the cat must have a comfortable bed, low to the ground. An arthritic cat will struggle to leap onto a preferred cushion or sofa. If necessary, build a ramp to aid with this.
Look for an orthopedic cat bed. The bed should provide an easy entry point, with at least one low side. An elevated cushion will also help with accessibility. The higher the base of the bed, the less the cat will need to move to climb in.
If you can apply a memory foam cushion to the bed, do so. This will support more of the cat’s weight for longer. This, in turn, places less pressure on a cat’s joints. Temperature is also important to an arthritic cat.
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation has said that direct heat or cold adds to arthritic joints reduces pain.
Cold temperatures are not ideal. Cats dislike being too cold. Provide a direct heat source instead.
A cost-effective way to do this is by leaving a hot water bottle in the cat’s bed under a blanket. The cat can move away if grows too warm. You will need to regularly refill the bottle and ensure your cat does not chew it.
A more convenient alternative is an electric blanket or heated cushion. Some orthopedic beds have these functions built-in. Pre-heating an arthritic cat’s bed will make it more comfortable and appealing.
Litter trays are a concern for arthritic cats. Getting in and out of a high-sided tray will cause pain. This will potentially make the cat reluctant to use the litter tray.
Invest in a new litter tray with a low side. This will make it easier for the cat to climb in. Ensure the tray is packed with soft, comfortable litter. Ensure the tray is large enough for your cat to stretch and relax, too. While you will not want your cat to sleep in the tray, it should be comfortable.
Place multiple litter trays around the home. Ideally, keep one in every room that your cat frequents. This means your cat will not need to walk too far to eliminate. A little light exercise is good for cats, but unnecessary movement will aggravate arthritis.
Food and Water Bowls
The final change to make is your cat’s food and water bowls. Invest in elevated water bowls so your cat is eating and drinking from chest height. This is typically between four and six inches high.
This will prevent your cat from bending to eat and drink. This, in turn, will reduce strain on the joints. Your cat will find it much more comfortable to nourish and hydrate. This is important, as arthritic cats can become reluctant to eat or drink if it hurts.
2/ Diet Changes
Your cat’s food will also play a role in managing arthritis pain. Most senior cat foods are designed with arthritic felines in mind. Ensure that your cat’s meal is appropriately balanced.
Protein is important to arthritic cats. As cats age, they absorb less protein from food. This will aggravate arthritis pain. Protein (amino acids) is the building block that strong muscles are built upon. Ensure that your cat’s food contains a minimum of 35% animal protein.
Look for food that minimizes fat. Some animal fats are essential. They contain amino acids, such as taurine, that a cat needs to survive. Excessive fat will lead to inflammation.
Fat also leads to weight gain. This must be monitored carefully in arthritic cats. The lighter a cat is on its feet, the less painful arthritis will be. The discomfort caused by arthritis stems from pressure on joints.
You can use supplements to manage your cat’s arthritis pain. Do not do this without consulting a vet. Cats obtain the essential vitamins and minerals they need through food. Excessive vitamin intake can cause toxicity.
Arthritis can mean that a cat is not absorbing the nutrition it needs. This means that supplementation can be considered.
The best supplement for an arthritic cat is green-lipped mussel extract. This is commonly available in powdered form.
The Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine has confirmed that green-lipped mussel extract is an effective supplement.
If you cannot find green-lipped mussel extract, look for supplements that offer the ingredients separately. There are four core ingredients that create an effective feline arthritis pain remedy.
Collagen makes up almost a third of the proteins in a cat’s body. Packed with amino acids, collagen strengthens a cat’s skin and bones while lubricating the joints.
Your cat’s body produces collagen naturally throughout is life. Once your cat reaches senior status, this collagen production drastically slows down.
The less collagen in a cat’s body, the more joints will rub and grind. If you can replace the collagen in your cat’s body, this pain will be minimized.
Glucosamine and/or Chondroitin
These amino sugars are often used to treat joint pain in animals, including cats. This is because they repair cartilage and encourage the growth of new tissue. This will help your cat manage its discomfort.
Glucosamine, in particular, can see results in just a week. It isn’t a miracle cure, and it won’t cure arthritis. Nothing can do that, unfortunately. It will make the pain considerably more manageable, though.
Start small when feeding your cat glucosamine supplements. Consumed to excess, this ingredient can give a cat diarrhea. Thankfully, the benefits outweigh the risks.
Hyaluronic acid is fluid within the body that lubricates joints. Naturally, the more lubricated a cat’s joints are, the less they will rub. This, in turn, means less pain for the cat.
As cats grow older, their bodies create less hyaluronic acid. If you can replace this through supplementation, your cat will be more comfortable.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a great anti-inflammatory. This will reduce the pain associated with arthritis. Your cat will be able to walk with considerably more freedom. The core ingredients of Omega-3 are:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Working in tandem, these acids will reduce pain. Too much Omega-3 is just as harmful as none at all, though. EPA and DHA can suppress a cat’s immune system, making it vulnerable to infection. This may be dangerous in senior cats, so use Omega-3 with care.
If diet and supplements are not reducing your cat’s pain sufficiently, you can turn to medication.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aka NSAIDs, are a common treatment. These drugs are designed to manage pain in your cat. Never use a human NSAID for feline arthritis.
In the United States, the FDA has not approved the use of any NSAID for long-term treatment. Your cat will be prescribed a short course of drugs and reassessed cat. Most vets will prescribe meloxicam or robenacoxib to an arthritic cat.
NSAIDs can be controversial as they have side effects. These include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Reluctance to eat
- Lethargy and depression
- Excess thirst
- Discolored skin and gums
Prolonged treatment with an inappropriate NSAID can lead to renal failure. If you notice any side effects in your cat, inform a vet at once.
Corticosteroids imitate inflammation-dampening hormones produced by your cat’s body. If your cat has arthritis, these hormones will cease to do their job.
Like NSAIDs, corticosteroids often provoke side effects. In the short-term, these issues will mirror those of NSAIDs. In the longer term, corticosteroids can lead to:
- Loss of fur and drop in skin quality
- Chronic urinary tract infections
- Increased hunger, leading to weight gain
- Muscle weakness
- Inability to heal wounds
- Reduced immunity against bacterial or fungal infection
As a result, these drugs will not be prescribed if an alternative is available.
If your cat’s arthritis pain becomes chronic, your vet may prescribe opioids. Common examples of this are codeine or morphine.
Opioids will likely need to be injected. This means that your cat will need to regularly attend a clinic. In some cases, oral medication will be provided.
Opioids are not prescribed to cats lightly, but they can improve the quality of life.
5/ Herbal Remedies
You may wish to adopt a natural approach to treating your cat’s arthritis pain. If this is your plan, it’s advisable to seek advice.
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Licorice root is a natural anti-inflammatory, so it can be helpful for cats with arthritis. It could be up to two months before you see results though. That is a long time for a pained feline to wait. It’s also naturally sweet, which may deter a cat from eating it.
Licorice root also contains glycyrrhizin, a compound that can cause drops in potassium levels. If your cat becomes increasingly lethargic or shows signs of physical swelling, cease the treatment immediately.
Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa)
Wild yam is an alternative to licorice root, providing similar benefits. It is often used to treat arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory qualities. It will also calm any anxiety that your experiences as a side effect of pain.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
St. John’s Wort offers cats a range of health benefits, including painkilling. Ensure that you pick up a St. John’s wort remedy that’s intended for feline consumption.
St. John’s Wort can come with some minor side effects. Your cat may experience an upset stomach and confusion. This should only be short-term. If your cat appears to be reacting poorly to the herb, cease the dosage.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Feverfew is an organic cat aspirin, acting as a painkiller. Feverfew also has anti-inflammatory properties, doubling as a muscle relaxant. This will aid your cat’s movement. This is due to the presence of parthenolide, an oil that suppresses inflammatory spasms.
Feverfew can be grown in your back yard or purchased from herbal stores. It is best served to cats in liquid form. Grind the feverfew into a tea and allow this to cool off. Serve this to your cat and check for benefits.
Discuss herbal options with a holistic or traditional vet as not all cats respond well to herbal remedies.
6/ Alternative Therapies
Popular alternative therapies for managing arthritis pain in cats include:
- Cold laser therapy
Be careful about using these methods. Many of them will frighten a cat, and senior cats already have weaker hearts.
It can be heartbreaking to watch a cat deal with arthritis, but you can make life more tolerable. However, it’s vital that you consult a vet before providing medication/remedy and making lifestyle adjustments.