Arthritis is a joint problem that can reduce mobility and elicit pain in cats. It can be caused by injury, infection, the cat's own immune system, or developmental problems involving the joints. However, the most common form of arthritis in cats is called osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease.

Keeping a cat in good shape through proper diet can help relieve the symptoms. Medications and supplements can help, as can massage, acupuncture, and even surgery.

What causes osteoarthritis or joint problems in cats?

1. Thinning of Joint Cartilage

Oseoarthritis involves the thinning of joint cartilage (a protective cushioning between bones), the buildup of fluid within the joint, and, ultimately, the formation of bony growths within the joint. Over time, the roughness created by these bony growths can lead to reduced joint mobility and pain.

2. Genetics

Certain breeds have an increased risk due to various underlying joint problems. Hip dysplasia is seen especially in Maine Coon cats (but also Persians, Siamese and other breeds). Patella luxation (dislocation of the knee cap) has been reported more commonly in Abyssinian and Devon Rex cats. Scottish Folds are particularly prone to severe arthritis affecting multiple joints due to an abnormality of cartilage that occurs in the breed.

What are the common treatments for osteoarthritis or joint problems?Medications can be very effective at controlling the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, but should only be used under direct supervision by your vet, as any drugs can have side-effects. Obesity or being overweight should be avoided. Careful weight management is therefore very important for older cats. If your cat is overweight, they will benefit from carefully controlled weight loss, supervised by your vet. Your vet may also recommend a special diet to help achieve this safely and effectively.