How to identify if your cat has osteoarthritis?
Cats are great at hiding any weakness or pain, a trait inherited from their wild cousins, so it’s very difficult to understand exactly how they feel. We might think they are just a bit more lazy/sleepy as they get older but perhaps, they are actually in a lot of discomfort!
We do not always see limping or lameness in cats, because as predators, they do not show injury as a matter of survival - they have a tendency to hide their pain. They are also light and in the home environment, able to adapt. In addition, OA in cats tends to occur bilaterally- that means in both elbows, both hips, both shoulders and as such, they may be equally sore on both sides. As cat owners, we are often not aware of the disease and therefore we do not notice the symptoms, nor report them to their vet.
Let’s fix that last part, and make sure we all know what to look for. The best way to identify possible osteoarthritis is for owners to be aware of subtle behavioural changes. By observing your cat, you may see early indications of joint pain and discomfort that are normally hidden in an examination.
Signs to look out for include:
- Jumping up
Hesitation, does not clear jump, uses ‘arms’ to pull the body up
- Jumping down
Hesitation, makes small jumps down instead of one big one, reaches downs slowly before jumping
- Climbing up stairs
bunny hop technique with both back legs together, stops for rests
- Climbing downstairs
One stair at a time, holds body at angle to the side, stops for rests
- Decreased grooming
- Difficulty getting up, standing, or walking
- Sensitivity (or vocalisation) to touch
- Changes in behaviour (eg aggression or withdrawn)
- Struggle to move in and out of the litter box or changes in toileting habits
- Hesitant to play, frequently stopping, or reduced exercise tolerance
- Increased sleeping time or hiding more, unwilling to explore