December 5, 2022

General Medical Issues

Osteoarthritis in Cats: How to Recognize and Treat It

by Countrycare Veterinary Professional


Have you ever wanted to be like Dr. Doolittle and talk to animals? How exciting life would be! Like most pet owners, sometimes I wish animals could just tell us when or where it hurts. Oftentimes, subtle body language is their only signal.

My cat, Whitey, is 15 years old. He’s always had a happy-go-lucky, go-with-the-flow personality. He’s the first one to introduce himself to a new furry (or scaled!) member of the family, and he loves to wrestle with his feline housemate, Stratta. Whitey is also polydactyl, which means he has extra toes!    

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

My polydactyl cat

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed Whitey grunting a bit as he jumps down from the couch or the bed. Additionally, he is not playfully running up and down our hallway as much as he used to. I even notice a limp at times.

Knowing that arthritis was a good possibility (due to the extra toes and the way he walks), I brought him in for an exam with Dr. Strickfaden. After a thorough exam and radiographs, Dr. Strickfaden confirmed that Whitey has osteoarthritis.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is painful, and it is surprisingly common. With this condition, the joint tissue gets worn down and the bones start to rub together. This disease is not curable, but you can manage it in a way that allows your cat to resume normal activities. 

Approximately 60% of cats 6 years of age and older have some form of this disease. Because many cat owners thought their pets were just getting older, they didn’t recognize the signs of osteoarthritis. Many owners were unaware their pets could develop this condition.

Unrecognized osteoarthritis pain can change many aspects of your cat’s life and behavior. Pain can progress in frequency, duration, and severity, and your cat may start to withdraw. He may not want to play or interact with the family.

What to Look for in Your Cat

Use this simple 6-item infographic of common feline behaviors to help you determine if your cat may have osteoarthritis pain.

checklist for osteoarthritis

Graphic courtesy of Zoetis Petcare

If you see your cat struggling with any of these activities, schedule a visit with your veterinarian. She will provide a comprehensive exam and discuss the best options for your cat.

Treatment for Osteoarthritis

Previously, the main treatment for osteoarthritis was steroids. While these medications help with this disease, they cause other unwanted side effects. 

A new treatment option, Solensia, recently became available. Solensia is a monthly injection your veterinarian can administer to help your cat get back to feeling his best.  This treatment works like your cat’s own antibodies to reduce pain signals in the body.

After Whitey received Solensia, he stopped complaining as much when he jumped down from the bed. And, he has resumed his late-night zoomies. Whitey will need monthly injections to keep his pain under control, but I’m so glad he’s acting like a kitten again!

Becky, countrycare animal complexBecky is the Patient Care Coordinator at Countrycare Animal Complex and has been serving pets and their people here for over 18 years. As a Certified Fear Free Veterinary Professional, she educates our staff on making our patients as comfortable as possible while they are here. Becky practices what she preaches with her 17 pets (not including fish) at home.