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What are the symptoms of arthritis in cats?

Did you know that cats can get arthritis? In fact, studies have shown that up to 60% of cats have evidence of arthritis on their x-rays. This means that a fairly large percentage of our furry felines are suffering from the pain of arthritis and may not be receiving the help they need!

It can be difficult to recognize signs of arthritis pain in cats. However, being able to recognize the symptoms of discomfort is the first step towards getting your beloved furry feline the help they need to continue to maintain their mobility and independence! So - what signs should you be looking out for?

  • Reluctance to jump

If your pet is experiencing any pain or discomfort in their hindlimbs, one of the first things that you may notice is reluctance or difficulty jumping. Perhaps your cat had a favorite perch or windowsill that they have now abandoned in favor or a cozy spot on the floor. This could be a sign that it hurts them to jump and they have decided it’s easier for them to relax lower to the ground. You may also notice that they continue to try to reach their favorite perch, but perhaps they have to sink their claws into the material to help pull themselves up. Another common finding owners report is that their cat who was once a rockstar and launching themselves onto their perch, now may occasionally slip and miss their mark.

  • Missing fur

Overgrooming can be a sign of discomfort in cats. Similar to how humans may rub an area that is painful or tingly to try and soothe the achiness, cats may spend time overgrooming an area that is painful. The most common areas to find over groomed as a result of pain are over the joints or along their back. If you find that your cat is overgrooming, it’s important to first follow up with your primary care veterinarian to ensure that pain is the cause and not a skin condition or other medical concern. Your veterinarian will do a physical exam and may take x-rays to better detect painful and arthritis joints.

  • Decreased physical activity

Many times pet parents attribute their pet’s decreased activity levels as a normal part of the aging process. However the old adage “age is not a disease” holds true. If your cat is slowing down - not playing with their feather toy or doing the zoomies through the house like they used to, this may be an indication that your pet is suffering from pain.

Acupuncture can help manage arthritis pain in cats!

Once your cat has been diagnosed with arthritis it’s important to consider the treatment options to help manage their pain. Cats metabolize medications differently than dogs, so veterinarians are limited in terms of the prescription medication options available to manage pain. Acupuncture is a great treatment option for cats with arthritis. Acupuncture is a non-invasive, generally pain free treatment option and most feline patients tolerate the treatments really well.

Acupuncture appointments are scheduled for 30 minutes and the needles generally remain in place for 12-25 minutes depending on the patient. Anywhere from 4-20 needles may be placed during the session and most cats relax and take a nap during their treatments. Typically patients need to commit to once weekly treatments for 4-6 weeks before we can taper their treatments. For most patients maintenance treatments every 3-6 weeks can help keep them pain free and mobile between sessions.

Healing Tails is proud to be one of only a handful of veterinary clinics in the Chicagoland area offering acupuncture treatments for cats and dogs! We look forward to meeting you and your furry friend soon! Click on the image below to request more information on our acupuncture services and a team member will be with you shortly.


Dr. Arielle Herndobler is the owner and founder of Healing Tails, a clinic located in Chicago focusing on physical rehabilitation and holistic medicine for pets. She is certified in acupuncture, certified veterinary spinal manipulation therapy (chiropractic) and physical rehabilitation.

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