Arthritis in Cats | The Complete Guide to Caring for Your Cat


Sep 2, 2023
Arthritis in Cats | The Complete Guide to Caring for Your Cat
Although this article has been written by a veterinarian and is based on scientific research and expert knowledge, it is intended for informational purposes only. It does not replace consulting your own veterinarian and establishing a patient-doctor relationship. To support our efforts, this site contains affiliate links to products we recommend and find helpful, which may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read more.
Table of Contents


Welcome to the complete guide to caring for cats with arthritis. We will discuss everything you need to know about arthritis in cats, including the following:

  • An easy-to-understand explanation and diagram of what arthritis is in cats
  • What causes arthritis in cats
  • How common arthritis in cats is and at what age it occurs
  • The signs of arthritis in cats with videos to learn from so you'll be able to detect the more subtle signs
  • How arthritis is diagnosed, if tests are necessary, and what diagnostics are the best
  • A pain score that can be used to assess the severity of your cat's arthritis and monitor their response to treatment
  • How to improve your cat's comfort with medications and making changes to the home environment

What is Arthritis In Cats?

Arthritis, also referred to as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, is when the cartilage in joints wears down over time, leading to inflammation, pain, and stiffness.

Where two bones meet to form a joint, they are covered in protective cartilage, which allows the joint to move smoothly and provides cushioning. Over time, the cartilage wears away and becomes rough and thin. New bony outgrowths, known as bone spurs or osteophytes, also form at the joint edge.

Initially, there is discomfort and stiffness, but the pain and inflammation gradually worsen with further cartilage deterioration. Eventually, the underlying bone becomes exposed, which is extremely painful when bone rubs on bone.  

Commonly affected joints in cats are the hips, knees, ankles, elbows, shoulders, and wrists. Multiple joints are often involved, and the disease is usually symmetrical (affects the left and right sides). Spinal arthritis is also common in cats, usually affecting the lower back and head of the tail (lumbosacral region).

Diagram showing a healthy synovial joint versus an arthritic joint in a cat
Over time there is a breakdown and irreversible loss of cartilage. Bone spurs form around the joint. As cartilage continues to erode, the underlying bone eventually becomes exposed.

What Causes Arthritis?

The cause of arthritis in cats can either be primary or secondary.

Primary arthritis is where there is no obvious underlying cause and is the most common. It is typically associated with aging and the gradual wear and tear of cartilage.

Secondary arthritis is due to a previous or current problem that has damaged the cartilage, resulting in accelerated deterioration. Causes of secondary arthritis in cats include:

  • Trauma: a previous fracture (when a bone breaks or cracks), dislocation (when the end of a bone is no longer sitting in its normal position within a joint), or injury to a ligament (such as a cranial cruciate ligament injury).
  • Neoplasia: tumors of the joint, such as synovial osteochondromatosis (a benign tumor of the joint lining) or osteosarcoma (a malignant tumor of the bone).  
  • Congenital / Developmental: disorders where the joints or cartilage develop abnormally and are present from birth or early on in life, such as hip dysplasia, patella luxation, elbow dysplasia, and elbow luxation.  
  • Nutritional: hypervitaminosis A (too much vitamin A) from frequently eating vitamin A-rich foods, such as liver, can lead to excessive bone formation around joints.
  • Endocrine: hormonal abnormalities, such as acromegaly, which is when a pituitary tumor (located at the base of the brain) releases too much growth hormone and can affect cartilage growth, or congenital hypothyroidism, which is when low thyroid levels lead to abnormal bone and joint development (a rare condition in cats). 
  • Immune-Mediated: similar to rheumatoid arthritis in people but rare in cats, and is when the body's immune system attacks healthy joint tissue. 
  • Infectious: Various germs can infect joints, either from a puncture wound, such as a cat bite or a sharp object, or by spreading via the bloodstream from another infected site in the body.
  • Scottish Fold Osteochondrodysplasia: a cartilage defect that causes their ears to fold over but can also affect the cartilage in their joints.
  • Obesity: being overweight has not been shown to cause arthritis in cats directly, but the increased load on joints can strain the cartilage and contribute to inflammation. Therefore, young obese cats may be at risk of arthritis later in life. If your cat is overweight, read our Effective and Safe Weight Loss Plan for Cats

Read our effective and safe weight loss diet plan for fat cats

Is Arthritis Common?

Arthritis is very common in older cats. A study examining the prevalence of arthritis in cats found 61% of cats over 6 years old had signs of arthritis on X-rays. When only the cats over 14 years were analyzed, 82% had signs of arthritis.1 A similar study found that 90% of cats over 12 years old had signs of arthritis on X-rays.2

Arthritis is highly prevalent in cats and increases with age. More than half of cats over 6 years old have arthritis, and most cats over 12 years old have arthritis. 

Young cats can develop arthritis, but it is more common in elderly cats and more likely to be associated with noticeable signs of pain. 

A study looking at the age arthritis occurs in cats found signs of primary and secondary arthritis on X-rays (images of the bones) in cats as young as 3 years old. However, the average age for identifying primary arthritis was 10 years old, and the average age for identifying secondary arthritis was 6 years old.3 Therefore, although arthritis in young cats is possible, it is typically a disease of mature and senior cats. Also, since secondary arthritis was found at a younger age on average compared to primary arthritis, joints likely deteriorate quicker if affected by an underlying problem, such as hip dysplasia, a luxating patella, or trauma. 

What Are the Signs of Arthritis?

If you've noticed your older cat seems to have slowed down and has trouble walking and moving around, don't dismiss this as normal aging, as they are likely experiencing pain.

Cats with arthritis are less likely to show obvious signs of discomfort, such as crying out, groaning, limping, not moving, and not eating. Instead, the signs are often much more subtle and tend to occur gradually over time. Cats are also good at hiding and adapting to living with pain. For example, if an activity becomes painful, they may do it less, avoid it entirely or change how they perform it to reduce the pain they experience.

Knowing if your cat has arthritis can be challenging initially. However, if you learn the subtle signs to watch for and carefully observe your cat, it will become much easier to identify. Detecting arthritis in cats requires looking for these subtle signs:

  • Abnormal gait. A loss of the smooth, fluid, and graceful movements that we typically associate with cats. Instead, they may be stiff and stilted, walk tenderly instead of run, take shorter strides, have a hunched back, and frequently stop to rest. Usually, multiple limbs are painful, so it's less common they will have a noticeable limp affecting only one leg.
  • Abnormal joints. Affected joints will be painful, often feel thickened, and lack the full range of movements compared to a healthy joint.
  • Difficulty jumping. Some cats have a reduced ability or an increased hesitation to jump. For example, they may attempt a jump but not fully clear it and have to pull themselves up, or they may appear to want to jump but then give up. Multiple smaller jumps may also be made rather than one large leap. When jumping to the ground, they may slide their forelimbs down the table leg or sofa to decrease the distance to the floor and lessen the impact. If they can't access high-up resting places, such as a window perch or cat tree, they will often start sleeping at floor level. You may also notice that they no longer spend time on raised areas, such as the kitchen worktop.
  • Difficulty going up and down stairs. Descending stairs may be more difficult if they have arthritis in their front legs, and climbing stairs may be more difficult if they have arthritis in their back legs. They tend to proceed one step at a time, leading with the same front leg rather than alternating between left and right. Also, they may 'bunny hop' (move both back legs together) and frequently stop for breaks.
  • Playing and hunting less. They may be less active and lack enthusiasm for activities they used to find fun, such as hunting and playing. Interactive play, with fishing rod-type toys and wands, often involves lying down rather than jumping. 
  • Difficulty laying or sitting. They may be reluctant to lie or sit down, take time to get comfortable, and then struggle to get up again. While sitting, they will often hover above the ground if they have arthritis in their knees and hips, or constantly shift weight between their front legs if they have arthritis in their elbows and shoulders. 
  • Difficulty stretching. You may notice them stretching less, including stretching on their scratching post if their back legs cannot support their weight. 
  • Difficulty using the cat flap. It can be uncomfortable for a cat with arthritis to maneuver through a cat flap since they have to bend their painful joints. This may lead to some cats deciding not to go outside or sitting by the door waiting to be let out instead.
  • An unkempt coat. Bending to groom themselves efficiently may be too painful, or they may stop grooming over painful areas.
  • Overgrooming. Rather than avoiding painful areas, some cats overgroom sore joints, which can become excessive enough to result in hair loss.
  • Overgrown nails. Due to a lack of movement and a reluctance to use their scratching post, their nails can become overgrown. You may hear clicking when they walk on hard floors, or they may get their nails more easily caught in rugs or clothing. If their nails become so overgrown that they penetrate into their paw pads, it's extremely painful. 
  • Avoid being touched. Some cats are unwilling to be picked up, or become grumpy or run away when stroked, especially over painful areas. To avoid pain, they may become withdrawn.
  • Eating less. If bending down to eat from their bowl is uncomfortable, or they have to walk far to get to their bowl, they may start to eat less. 
  • House Soiling. Occasionally, they may urinate or defecate outside their litter box because it's too difficult for them to enter. It can also be uncomfortable for them to hold a squatting posture for an extended period, so they toilet over the side of the box. If there's no indoor litter tray and it's cold outside, or they find using their cat flap too awkward, they may be forced to toilet in the house.
  • Increased vocalization. When in pain, they may vocalize more, whether at night, during the day, or both, especially after getting up from lying or sitting. 

Videos: How to Detect the Subtle Signs of Arthritis in Cats

Feline Arthritis Screening Tool

The Feline Arthritis Screening Tool by Zoetis is an easy-to-use checklist for owners to help identify cats likely to have arthritis. Although it does not diagnose arthritis, if you check any boxes, your cat could potentially have arthritis, and a discussion with your vet is advised so they can investigate further.

Zoeitis Feline Arthritis Screen Tool Based on The MiPSC
A screening tool checklist for feline arthritis created by Zoetis - if you observe any of these behaviors in your cat, they may have arthritis, and an evaluation by your vet is required to confirm the diagnosis.

Video: Zoetis Feline Arthritis Screening Tool

How is Arthritis Diagnosed?

Arthritis in cats is diagnosed mainly by observing a cat's mobility and behavior. A veterinarian can also perform a physical exam to assess their joints. If signs are consistent with arthritis, a pain-relief trial is a valid diagnostic tool. Further diagnostics would include X-rays of their joints to assess for bony changes, and MRI or arthroscopy to assess the extent of cartilage damage.

During the consultation, your vet will ask questions about your cat's mobility, behavior, and general health. In addition, they may palpate (feel) their joints and check for signs of pain, a decreased range of movement, crepitus (crackling sounds), thickening, and effusion (fluid build-up).

However, performing a complete orthopedic assessment on a cat in a consultation room can often be tricky for the following reasons: 

  • Since their joints are so small, changes can be subtle and challenging to feel
  • If their joints are painful, they may become difficult to handle and thoroughly examine
  • Their gait should be observed, but cats will often hide when nervous
  • Cats often hide their signs of pain, so the limp you saw at home may no longer be apparent

If given time to feel more comfortable, your cat may start to relax and explore, or their carrier can be placed at one end of the room to see if they walk over to it. However, a better alternative is to bring home videos of your cat performing various activities. They will move more freely at home, and your vet can assess their behavior and gait more accurately. If your cat gets stressed at the vet's, you can also arrange a home visit to observe them in a more comfortable environment.

Take videos of your cat performing various activities to show your vet, such as walking, running, playing, climbing up and down the stairs, and jumping off and onto the bed, sofa, or table. If your cat hesitates and is unwilling to perform an activity, still record them, as this also provides helpful information. Take appropriate-length videos to capture the whole activity, and ensure the room is well-lit and your whole cat is in the frame. These videos can also be beneficial for monitoring your cat's progress when started on treatment.

If an elderly cat shows the typical behavioral signs associated with arthritis and doesn't show other symptoms, such as lethargy or fever, it wouldn't be unreasonable for arthritis to be the main possibility and not proceed with further diagnostics. Instead, starting a pain-relief trial is an effective way to assess for any improvements in their behavior and ability to move, helping to support the diagnosis.

If it's necessary to confirm the diagnosis or rule out other potential diseases, X-rays (images of the bones) are usually taken. Signs of arthritis on X-rays include:

  • Subchondral bone sclerosis (thickening of the bone around the joint)
  • Areas of mineralization within the joint space
  • Loss of joint space
  • Osteophytes (bony outgrowths or spurs that form around the joint) 

Radiographs of arthritic vs normal joints (elbow and knee) in cats
X-rays (radiographs) of normal joints compared to arthritic joints in cats, showing osteophytes (bone spurs) and soft tissue mineralization.

X-rays usually require sedation, which not all owners are comfortable with. However, if your cat is being sedated or undergoing general anesthesia for another procedure, such as a dental, it would be helpful to use that opportunity to X-ray their joints.

It is important to note that changes on X-rays can be subtle and only show the secondary bony changes that occur later in the disease process, not damaged cartilage. In one study, more than 50% of joints that were visually inspected and found to have cartilage damage did not have noticeable signs of arthritis on X-rays.4 Therefore, cats that seem painful should be treated regardless of how their joints look on an X-ray.

Two techniques, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a scan that produces detailed images of inside the body, and arthroscopy, which involves inserting a camera into the joint, can be used to evaluate the cartilage to assess the extent of damage and confirm a diagnosis of arthritis. However, these diagnostics would be unreasonable for most owners and cats.

Assessing and Monitoring Your Cat's Pain

To help you assess how painful your cat's arthritis is, we created the Pain Score for Arthritis in Cats. It has been designed to encourage you to observe your cat's behavior, for both subtle and more obvious changes, which may indicate pain and discomfort. It can also be used periodically to help monitor your cat's response to treatment and establish whether their pain is improving, indicating a successful intervention, or if it's the same or worsening, indicating adjustments to their treatment plan need to be made.

It's important to note that pain assessment is a complex process that requires careful observation, interpretation, and clinical judgment. The pain score has not been scientifically validated and is unable to capture all aspects of your cat's pain experience. Therefore, it's important to use discernment and always consult your veterinarian to discuss your cat's health and pain management.

Pain Score for Arthritis in Cats

Instructions: please select the option for each behavior that most closely describes your cat. All assessments must be completed before pressing the 'Calculate' button.







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House Soiling


What is the Best Treatment for Arthritis?

The best treatment for arthritis in cats is a combination approach, which includes pain-relief medications, joint supplements, environmental modification, alternative therapies (such as acupuncture and laser therapy), weight control, mild regular exercise, and surgery (selected cases). 

Arthritis is incurable, therefore, treatment aims are to reduce pain and minimize further degeneration of the joints. To help your cat with arthritis, vets will give pain-relief medications and may start them on joint supplements and a prescription diet. 

Pain-relief medications are vital to improving their quality of life and mobility. Joint supplements and prescription diets may help slow the progression and allow fewer pain-relief medications to be used, but the positive benefits can take 4-6 weeks to be noticed. Alternative therapies like laser and acupuncture can also help manage arthritis. Surgery can be performed in certain cases, but this is less common with primary arthritis since multiple joints are often affected, so surgery is not feasible.

Cat arthritis treatment costs include:

  • Pain-relief medications, estimated at $80-$1000 a year
  • Joint supplements, estimated at $40-$180 a year
  • Prescription mobility diets, estimated at $500 a year
  • Veterinary visits every 3-6 months

While a treatment may work well for one cat, it may make little difference or cause unwanted side effects in another. Therefore, different combinations and doses of medications need to be trialed strictly under the guidance of your vet. You should also be aware that different drugs will be available depending on where you live in the world, and some of the same drugs will have different licenses in different countries.

1. Medications

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDs) 

Meloxicam (Metacam) and robenacoxib (Onsior) are anti-inflammatories for cats. Both are flavored and typically administered without too much difficulty. Usually, they are reduced to the lowest effective daily dose to minimize potential side effects while providing continual pain relief.

Are NSAIDs Safe?

Many older cats also have chronic kidney disease (CKD) and NSAIDs have generally been considered to be contraindicated. However, multiple studies5, 6, 7, 8 have shown they can be safely given long-term at a lower dose, provided the cats with CKD are stable. One study found that NSAIDs may even slow the progression of CKD in some arthritic cats,6 perhaps because they felt better and were more mobile, leading to better nutrition and water intake.

To ensure the safe use of NSAIDs, they must only be administered to a well-hydrated cat (wet food or frequent administration of subcutaneous fluids helps if they have CKD and are prone to dehydration), who is eating well, has a good body condition score, a stable weight, and doesn't have gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting or diarrhea. They must always be given with food at the lowest effective dose (based on their lean body weight if they're overweight) and not used with steroids, diuretics, or ACE inhibitors. Bloodwork and urine should be checked prior to their use and monitored.

Daily NSAIDs should always be used with caution. Still, if there is a chance to improve a cat's quality of life, then discussing the risks and benefits with your vet is advised.


Gabapentin is generally considered safe to use long-term for chronic pain, especially if there is a neurological or spinal component. Initially, mild sedation can occur, but this effect tends to wear off after 1-2 weeks.


Tramadol can be beneficial and cause no side effects in some cats, while in others, it can cause dysphoria. It has a bitter taste that can make it challenging to administer.


Amantadine is good for chronic pain but does have a bitter taste that can make it challenging to administer.

Tip: place bitter-tasting medications in an Empty Size 4 Gelatin Capsule, so your cat can't taste it and it is easier to administer.

Adequan and Cartrophen 

Injections administered by a veterinarian that help reduce inflammation and improve joint health. Adequan is given as a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection twice weekly for 4 weeks. Cartrophen is administered as a subcutaneous injection once a week for 4 weeks. They are not licensed for use in cats but are frequently used.

Frunevetmab (Solensia) 

Solensia is a monthly subcutaneous (under the skin) injection that can be given lifelong for feline osteoarthritis. It's an ideal solution for cats who are difficult to medicate. Solensia is an antibody that targets nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein that's increased in arthritic joints and activates pain signals. By binding and blocking NGF, the pain signals are reduced.

Positive effects may be seen within the first week, but it can take several months to see the full effects. In a clinical trial, the most common side effects were mild skin issues, such as inflammation or itchiness, which resolved even with continued treatment. There was no evidence of kidney or liver side effects.

Solensia for cats

Videos: Before and After Treatment With Solenisa

2. Joint Support Supplements

Although many owners report positive results with joint support supplements, clinical studies demonstrating efficacy in cats are lacking. However, one study found feeding a diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin over a 9-week period significantly increased activity in cats with arthritis.9 Another study found arthritic cats who were given an omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for 10 weeks had less stiffness, increased activity levels, and more interactions with their owner.10 Green-lipped mussel oil and fish oil are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. 

Supplements can be trialed to find out which, and if any, work well for your cat while recognizing that it can take several weeks to see results. Always purchase from a reputable company that produces high-quality supplements and can be easily contacted for further information about their products. Also, if your cat has another illness or receives medications, check with your vet first that there are no potential issues. 

Recommended Joint Supplements




  • Glucosamine and chondroitin: natural components of cartilage that may have cartilage-protecting effects and help reduce inflammation
  • Avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU): extracted from plant oils and help reduce inflammation
  • Boswellia serrata extract: also known as frankincense and has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Tasty sprinkle capsules for easy administration
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Vital Pet Life Salmon Oil

  • Rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation
  • Certified marine-friendly and sustainable
  • Free from mercury and heavy metals
  • A healthy option for the environment and your cat
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  • Green-lipped mussel: a high-quality, concentrated oil sustainably sourced from New Zealand, with over 90 different fatty acids, including omega-3, to help reduce inflammation
  • Tiny softgels that are easily hidden in canned food, a pill pocket, or punctured with a needle and squeezed onto food
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Flexadin Advanced

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: help reduce inflammation
  • Undenatured type II collagen (UCII): produced from chicken sternums and is thought to work by modulating the immune system to help prevent it from attacking damaged joint cartilage
  • Highly palatable chews that can be broken up to make it easier for your cat to consume
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  • Contains high levels of a combination of ingredients, including glucosamine, MSM, DMG, and green-lipped mussel, to help support joint health
  • Chicken-flavored chews that can be given as a treat or broken up and mixed into their food
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3. Prescription Diets

Therapeutic diets make it easy to ensure your cat gets their daily dose of joint supplements. For example, Hill's Prescription Kidney and Mobility Diet is a complete and balanced diet that supports cats with both chronic kidney disease and arthritis, since they are two diseases that commonly occur together. It is enriched with omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation, plus glucosamine and chondroitin to help maintain healthy cartilage, and has been clinically proven to increase activity levels in 28 days.

Hill's Kidney and Mobility Diet

Hill's Kidney and Mobility Diet

  • Controlled phosphorus and low sodium support kidney health
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin support joint health
  • Clinically proven to increase activity in 28 days
  • High level of essential amino acids for building muscle

4. Alternative Therapies

Laser therapy, acupuncture, and Assisi Loops are non-invasive therapies that may help relieve pain. They require repeated treatments, and some owners and veterinarians find them beneficial.

5. Surgery

Surgery is not commonly used as a treatment for arthritis in cats as typically multiple joints are affected, so targeting an individual joint is of limited benefit, or the joint disease is not amenable to surgery. However, for selected cases, total hip replacement, arthrodesis (fusion of bones in a joint), removal of cartilage and bone fragments from joints, correction of a luxating patella, or spinal decompression surgery may be considered.

How Can I Improve My Cat's Comfort?

1. A Comfortable, Cozy, Warm Bed

The ideal bed needs to be easy for your cat to climb into and out of, ideally with an orthopedic foam base to support their joints and a soft, cozy lining to keep them comfortable. It should also have the option to be heated if you live in a colder climate or position it next to a radiator. The location should be easily accessible (at floor level or provide steps) and in a quiet, draft-free area of the house. Blankets can also provide extra comfort, which should be made of materials that won't catch on their claws.

K&H Thermo-Kitty Fashion Splash Heated Bed

K&H Thermo-Kitty Heated Bed

  • Heated, soft bed provides a warm, cozy place to sleep
  • Orthopedic foam base provides comfort for joints
  • The stuffed bolster makes it easy to access while providing security

2. Provide Stairs and Shelves

Cats like to be high up to observe their surroundings and feel safe. Whether they prefer the window sill, sofa, dining room table, or top of a wardrobe, they should be able to access their favorite spots without making large jumps. The strategic placement of a stool or box can make a big difference, or you can use steps and shelves designed for cats.

Steps and shelves should be non-slip and wide, so they are not at risk of falling off if they lose their balance, such as the Best Pet Supplies Steps or Frisco Cushioned Wall Shelf. Initially, treats may be required to coax them and increase their confidence.

Resting and hiding places should be where they feel safe, so cats shouldn't be removed from these locations to receive medications or for any other reason.

Best Pet Supplies Foam Steps

Best Pet Supplies Steps

  • Help your senior cat access the bed, tall couch, table, or window sill
  • Made from soft yet firm foam and non-slip material
  • Wide without gaps, so your cat is not at risk of falling off
  • Come in a variety of colors and sizes

3. Slip-Resistant Surfaces

Some arthritic cats may lose their balance or feel unsteady walking on slippery wooden or tiled floors. Placing rugs along routes they regularly walk can help them to feel more secure and comfortable.

4. Raised Water and Food Bowls

Crouching down to eat and drink can be painful if their elbows, knees, neck, or back are sore. Therefore, raised food and water bowls may be more comfortable for arthritic cats. Some cats will eat and drink less if they have to walk a long distance to get to their bowls or if they are challenging to reach, so bowls should also be easily accessible and kept where they spend most of their time.

It's important that an elderly cat stays well-nourished and hydrated. Often they develop other diseases in their older age, such as chronic kidney disease, which causes them to urinate more than usual. Having easy access to water is essential to avoid dehydration. For additional tips on how to keep a cat hydrated, read How to Get a Cat to Drink More Water.

Lionwei best raised food and water bowls for cats with arthritis

5. Easy Access Litter Boxes

Litter boxes should have a low and easy-to-access entrance at the front. If a cat has arthritis in their hips, knees, or back, they may not be able to hold a squatting posture to urinate, so high sides can help reduce the chance of them inadvertently urinating over the edge. Litter boxes should be kept in areas your cat can easily access and won't have to walk far to reach.

Sandy clumping litter, such as Dr. Elsey's Premium Litter, is gentler on their feet than pellets or crystals. It should have a depth of around 3-5 cm and be cleaned regularly.

PetFusion Non-Stick Litter Box

PetFusion Non-Stick Litter Box

  • Low entrance for senior cats to easily access
  • High sides contain litter and prevent accidental toileting over the edge
  • Spacious and easy to clean

6. Flat Scratching Pads

Some cats may find it uncomfortable to use a scratching post if their back legs struggle to support their weight. Instead, they may prefer flat scratching boards. Ensure all their scratchers are in easy-to-access locations, close to where they spend most of their time.

Kitty City Cardboard Scratchers

Kitty City Cardboard Scratchers

  • Flat pad recycled cardboard scratchers
  • More comfortable for cats with arthritis in their hips and knees
  • Excellent value pack of 3 that can be flipped over once worn
  • Place them around the house for easy access

7. Encourage Gentle Daily Exercise

Increased movement and mild, regular, low-impact exercise is usually recommended for an arthritic cat. It helps improve muscle tone, reduces joint stiffness, and provides physical and mental stimulation. However, it is important to keep in mind your cat's physical limitations and adjust the activities accordingly.

Recommended For Gentle Exercise

Da Bird Handmade Feather Toy

Da Bird Handmade Feather Toy

Da Bird Handmade Feather Toy

  • Handmade fishing rod-style toy
  • High-quality and durable
  • Mimics a real bird and is irresistible to cats of all ages
  • Gently swish it along the floor to encourage mild exercise
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Trixie Activity Fun Board

Trixie Activity Fun Board

Trixie Activity Fun Board

  • Five games in one
  • Can be used with wet and dry food
  • Encourages gentle exercise
  • Provides mental stimulation
  • Dishwasher-safe
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Cat School Clicker Training Kit

Cat School Clicker Training Kit

Cat School Clicker Training Kit

  • Start with simple tricks that do not put too much strain on their joints, such as "sit," "come," or "shake"
  • Provides mental and physical stimulation
  • Strengthens your bond
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Luxury Cat Tower

Luxury Cat Tower

Luxury Cat Tower

  • Sturdy and stable design
  • Easily access each level
  • A super soft and padded top bed supports achy joints
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8. Outdoor Access

Although your cat likely enjoys spending time outdoors, they may go out less if using the cat flap is painful. They may also feel insecure going outside if they are elderly and worried about other cats in the neighborhood. Therefore, accompany them for short periods in the garden or even build an outdoor enclosure.

9. Monitor Their Weight

Recording your cat's weight every 2-4 weeks provides valuable information about their health. You can quickly identify unintentional weight loss, which could indicate another illness that requires a vet visit. You can also ensure they are not gaining weight, which will put extra strain on their joints.

Beurer Digital Pet Scales

Beurer Digital Pet Scales

  • Accurate, reliable, and comfortable digital scales
  • Easily monitor your cat's weight at home every 2-4 weeks
  • Gain valuable information about their health and detect potential issues early on

10. Gentle Handling

When stroking your cat, avoid painful joints and focus on their head and cheeks, which they find soothing. Avoid carrying a cat with arthritis, but if necessary, support their chest and abdomen fully, and hold them close to your body, so they feel secure.

11. Gentle Massages

The muscles surrounding a painful joint often tighten and spasm, contributing further to their discomfort. Focusing on their front and back legs, and either side of their spine, gently massage the muscles between your thumb and index finger. Use circular motions and adjust the pressure to see what they prefer. 

12. Gentle Grooming Sessions

Arthritic cats may find it too painful to groom themselves. Their fur can become matted, especially around hard-to-reach areas such as the base of the tail, belly, and armpits. Matted fur pulls on the skin and creates further discomfort.

To prevent mats from forming, gently brush your cat daily with a soft brush, taking extra care over painful areas. Gently remove existing mats with a detangling comb or electric grooming clippers. If this is challenging at home, take them to a professional groomer with experience working with senior cats. The groomer may clip their entire coat to a shorter length to prevent mats from reforming.

Since their nails are prone to becoming overgrown due to a lack of movement and an inability to scratch, they should be regularly trimmed with cat-friendly nail clippers, not forgetting the dewclaws on their front feet.

Recommended For Grooming

Zoom Groom

Zoom Groom

Zoom Groom Brush

  • Soft on fur and delicate skin
  • Provides a soothing massage
  • Removes loose fur, keeping their skin and coat healthy
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Detangling Pet Comb

Detangling Pet Comb

Detangling Pet Comb

  • Gentle yet effective at removing matted fur
  • Can be used on long or short hair
  • Both long and short rounded stainless teeth
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Oneisall Cat Grooming Clippers

Oneisall Cat Grooming Clippers

Oneisall Cat Grooming Clippers

  • Low noise to reduce stress
  • Easily cut through matted hair like butter
  • Comfortable to hold and maneuver
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Necoichi Purrcision Cat Nail Clippers

Necoichi Purrcision Cat Nail Clippers

Necoichi Purrcision Feline Cat Nail Clippers

  • Expertly crafted in Japan
  • Thin blades make it easy to see and avoid the quick
  • Extra-sharp edges that cut so smoothly the nail won't be damaged and your cat will barely notice
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What is the Prognosis for Cats with Arthritis?

Arthritis in cats cannot be reversed or cured. However, the prognosis is often good if their pain can be controlled with medications and their environment is modified so they can live comfortably. Many cats with arthritis can live a normal lifespan.

Arthritis is not considered life-threatening unless they have severe pain that can't be controlled with treatment or are too challenging to medicate. If a cat has a poor quality of life and is suffering, humane euthanasia needs to be considered. However, many treatment options are now available to improve their quality of life, so a suitable plain-relief plan can often be established with your veterinarian.To learn more about the life expectancy of cats with arthritis and how to improve your senior cat's quality and length of life, read How Long Can a Cat Live With Arthritis?

How Do You Prevent Arthritis?

Since obesity has been linked with arthritis, maintaining your cat's ideal body weight may help lower the risk, delay the onset and reduce the severity of arthritis. If your cat is overweight, read The Ultimate Weight Loss Plan for Cats. Joint supplements may also help slow the progression of arthritis. Secondary arthritis, when another disorder damages the cartilage, may be prevented or delayed if the underlying cause, such as hip dysplasia or patellar luxation, can be treated early on.

Other Problems to Consider in an Older Cat

Since arthritis is typically a disease of mature and senior cats, it's important to be aware they might have other health issues that need to be managed, such as periodontal disease, cognitive dysfunction, or increased thirst and urination due to chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes. When starting them on pain relief, other medications they receive must be considered to ensure there are no contraindications. During their wellness visits, they should have a full physical exam, blood pressure check, and appropriate blood tests to ensure they are kept as healthy and happy as possible.


  1. Slingerland, L.I. et al. (2011) “Cross-sectional study of the prevalence and clinical features of osteoarthritis in 100 cats,” The Veterinary Journal, 187(3), pp. 304–309.
  2. Hardie, E.M., Roe, S.C. and Martin, F.R. (2002) “Radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease in Geriatric Cats: 100 cases (1994–1997),” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 220(5), pp. 628–632.
  3. Godfrey, D.R. (2005) “Osteoarthritis in cats: A retrospective radiological study,” Journal of Small Animal Practice, 46(9), pp. 425–429.
  4. Freire, M. et al. (2011) “Radiographic evaluation of feline appendicular degenerative joint disease vs. macroscopic appearance of articular cartilage,” Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound, 52(3), pp. 239–247.
  5. Gowan, R.A. et al. (2012) “A retrospective analysis of the effects of meloxicam on the longevity of aged cats with and without overt chronic kidney disease,” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 14(12), pp. 876–881.
  6. Gowan, R.A. et al. (2011) “Retrospective case—control study of the effects of long-term dosing with meloxicam on renal function in aged cats with degenerative joint disease,” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 13(10), pp. 752–761.
  7. KuKanich, K. et al. (2020) “Effects of low-dose meloxicam in cats with chronic kidney disease,” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 23(2), pp. 138–148.
  8. Gunew, M.N., Menrath, V.H. and Marshall, R.D. (2008) “Long-term safety, efficacy and palatability of oral meloxicam at 0.01–0.03 mg/kg for treatment of osteoarthritic pain in cats,” Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 10(3), pp. 235–241.
  9. Lascelles, B.D.X. et al. (2010) “Evaluation of a therapeutic diet for feline degenerative joint disease,” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 24(3), pp. 487–495.
  10. Corbee, R.J. et al. (2012) “The effect of dietary long-chain omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on owner’s perception of behaviour and locomotion in cats with naturally occurring osteoarthritis,” Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition [Preprint].

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