Dear Christopher Cat
In a recent column on the treatment of feline arthritis, you mentioned that the disorder is common in senior cats. My cat is old, but he doesn’t limp, so how would I know if he has arthritis?
The signs are subtle, because we cats don’t want potential aggressors to know we’re weak. Besides, the pain comes on gradually, so we learn to cope with it.
If you’re wondering whether your elderly cat has arthritis, look for these signs:
• Difficulty jumping up or down. The most commonly affected joint is the elbow, and when it hurts, we avoid landing hard on our front legs. In my case, weak hips make it hard for me to jump onto high furniture.
• Decreased grooming. My back hurts, preventing me from twisting around to groom the hair over my hips, so it gets matted.
• Diminished energy and appetite.
• Sitting with a hunched posture.
• No longer sleeping curled up in a ball the way the cat did when younger.
• Muscle atrophy and sometimes hair loss over painful joints that have been licked excessively.
• When arthritis gets severe, we sometimes walk stiffly or limp – but usually we don’t.
Obesity exacerbates normal wear and tear on joints, so if your cat is overweight, he’s more likely to develop arthritis.
If you see any of the clinical signs I describe, ask your veterinarian to examine your cat and recommend treatment.