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how to help senior cat with arthritis

How to Help Your Senior Cat Cope with Arthritis

Warm snuggles and a calm cat-itude are some of the best parts about being a pet parent to a senior cat. Kittens are so much fun, but if you’re like me, senior cats hold a special place in your heart when it comes to quiet time spent together.

However, as your cat ages, you may notice subtle changes in her agility, activity level, and even litter box habits. And these are very important clues to your senior cat’s health, particularly when it comes to arthritis.

Now that Olivia’s about 13 years old, I’m always watching her as she jumps to see if she slips, is in pain, or simply can’t leap as before. So far, she’s still quite agile but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t experience soreness.

Senior cats and arthritic cats are masters at hiding discomfort, so you need to look for “tell-tail” clues that may indicate arthritis in your senior cat.

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Signs of Arthritis in Senior Cats

Since cats tend to be quieter and more reclusive than other pets, such as dogs, it may take some detective work to find the root of their health concerns. There are however a few common signs that may point to joint deterioration and artists.

  • Decreased activity can be a sign that your cat’s regular activity is becoming too painful for her. It can also be a sign of fatigue, which often accompanies arthritis.
  • Change in litter box habits, like going potty outside the box, can be a sign that climbing in and out of the box is too painful for her joints.
  • No longer jumping, running, or going upstairs may be signs that those activities are too painful to do.

In addition, regular check-ups with your veterinarian, and maintaining good communication between visits will also benefit your cat’s overall health.

You can also talk to your veterinarian about therapeutic options, such as laser treatments, to decide if your cat would benefit.

(If you love and appreciate all the care that your veterinarian office provides, check out How to Thank Your Veterinarian Team for Everything They Do.)

How to Care for a Cat with Arthritis

There are many things that you can do at home to comfort and care for your cat’s sore joints.

Take extra precautions when interacting with your senior cat. Games or activities that she used to enjoy, may now cause pain. And when you pick her up, do so gently, in a way that will not cause pain.

Use heat to naturally soothe your kitties sore joints. You can use a heating pad to do this, however, you will need to closely monitor your cat as many cats tend to enjoy chewing electrical cords which can lead to danger. As a safe alternative to a typical heating pad, choose one that is specially made for pets, like this one. It’s designed with a chew-resistant cord, it’s waterproof, and it’s the perfect size for a cat or small dog. Simply put the pad in their bed or favorite resting spot and let them enjoy the warmth. I would still recommend that you supervise your pet when using any heating pad.

Photo of a Yorkshire Terrier laying in a K and H Pet Products Self Warming Pet Bed

Another option is to buy a pet bed that has warming capabilities like this one. It uses its special insulating materials to trap heat and transmit it back to your pet without the use of batteries or electricity. Plus, it’s super cozy!

Photo of a bottle of Cosequin Joint Health Supplement Capsules for Cats

Use a joint health supplement to slow down joint deterioration. I have found great success in using supplements with my pets. Even when we feed our pets the most nutritious food possible, they often still need a little extra care tailored to their nutritional needs. Adding Nutramax Cosequin to a serving of wet cat food is an excellent option for cats needing extra joint support.

Photo of a bottle of Pet Wellbeing Comfort Gold for Cats

Offer natural pain relief. A natural pain relief product for pets is one thing that I always try to keep on hand. You never know when their arthritis or other health issues might flare up, so it’s wise to keep some in your home to treat your pet’s pain when needed. I like this natural solution from Pet Wellbeing. It promotes rest and relaxation and supports healthy circulation and blood flow to help your pet recover from pain.

The Prognosis for Senior Cats with Arthritis

Cats can live a long and happy life, even with arthritis. We as pet parents though, need to do our part in keeping them as healthy and happy as we can. Simple adjustments can make a big difference and can add to our felines’ quality of life.

Senior cats have a lot of love to give and snuggles to exchange, so don’t let arthritis get in the way of helping them live life to the full!

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience in the industry. She's helped millions of pet parents provide the best care at every stage of their pet’s life.

Her blog, Pet Living with Kristen Levine has been featured in Pop Sugar, Good Housekeeping, New York Times, USA Today, and more.

She's also the founder of FWV Fetching, the first marketing agency exclusively serving pet and animal health companies.

Her early work with the SPCA led her to a lifelong career in the pet industry, advocating for pet adoption and rescue as well as for pets and their parents here on her blog and in the media.

She’s frequently booked on satellite media tours and national shows, like FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, and Daytime, to talk about pet trends and new products.

Insanely passionate about pets since she was a little girl, Kristen has had more than 30 pets in her lifetime — including dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, a horse, a gerbil, mice, and chickens!

In 2022, she launched to help pet parents keep pet homes clean -- to love more, stress less.

Kristen is married and lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her dog Tulip.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. My cat is 13 and she is not wanting to jump off the bed too much, jumping back up she doesn’t have much of a problem but she has started pooping on the bed now too is this also a sign of arthritis?

    1. Hi Tawnee,

      Im sorry to hear kitty is pooping on the bed. Based on your description of her behavior (jumping on bed is okay, but jumping down is not) it does sound like it might be uncomfortable, maybe painful for her to jump down. That could be why she’s not making it to the litter box. She may have some arthritis in her front shoulder or neck joints? I would imagine that would stop her from jumping off of things. But Im not a veterinarian! So, I think you should talk to your vet about this. There are many ways to get her some relief and make her more comfortable. Plus, not poop on your bed!

      Keep me posted!

    2. If your cat is still struggling with the bed, you could try cat stairs! Our two old guys were having similar issues so we decided to get them. Took them a while to get used to them and Dr. Brian (one of our cats) was a bit offended. But after a while they loved them! Use them all the time now.

  2. Our cat, Duffy will be turning 20 in November. She has led a very healthy and full life. It wasn’t until recently that her back legs have been giving out to arthritis and she doesn’t like to be held as often due to presumed soreness. She still maintains a healthy eating and drinking appetite and interacts will the family still. She now urinates very frequently on puppy pads in her favorite corners of the room. She struggles with constipation though. I am afraid to take her to the vet for fear that they will dismiss her struggles too easily and look to put her down. I don’t want her to suffer but I do not feel that she is ready to go. What products are available to help constipation and will help provide some arthritis reflief?

    1. My cat is 16 and also suffers from constipation. We give her wet food or cat broth with Miralax (polyethylene glycol) or Lactulose added to it. We also try as hard as we can to keep her fluid intake high, though she still prefers kibble. Anything to keep her from having to get an expensive enema from the vet again.

      1. Mya ia 17.5 and did have conatipstion, arthritis…..

        Our vet said a diet of ert food, supllemented with a Tbsp of water per feeding would help. We added 1/8 tsp Restoralax (or equivalent) twice daily, and a pinch of Glucosamine once daily.

        No.more constipated kitty, she plays with our 4 year old kitty, antogonizer at times, and “rips” up and down stairs…..

        For arthritis, we heat a bean bag, between a towel…very happy old girl.

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