Cats love the bird’s eye view – jumping up to the window sill for birdwatching or finding that perfect sunny spot. When those favorite spots seem out of reach for your cat, they may be showing you signs of pain due to osteoarthritis.
Chronic pain, like that from osteoarthritis (OA), is surprisingly common in cats. Clinical studies have found signs of osteoarthritis in 61% of cats over the age of six and in 90% of cats over the age of 12. 40% of those cats showed signs of pain. Chronic osteoarthritis pain can become a serious health problem for your cat — without treatment, the pain will continue to get worse. Helping your cat begins by talking with your veterinarian and coming up with a medical treatment plan to relieve your cat’s pain.
Cats hide signs of pain as much as possible (it’s a survival strategy left over from when they lived in the wild). But there’s good news — because you know your cat’s playful ways and what they love better than anyone, you’re the best person to spot when changes in these behaviors could be signs of osteoarthritis pain.
An analysis of around 300 cats with osteoarthritis conducted at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine identified six everyday behaviors that – when they change – strongly correlate with the presence of osteoarthritis pain. These include:
What these changes might look like in your cat is animated in this Cat Osteoarthritis Checklist.
One or more of these changes could also indicate osteoarthritis pain in cats:
Cats hide almost everything, especially pain. They’re masters at disguising their discomfort as part of their survival instinct; this is especially true in the veterinary exam room. Your veterinarian relies on you to report changes in your cat’s behavior seen at home for more accurate diagnoses. It’s a great idea to take videos of your cat doing these activities so you can show your vet next time you see them.
Using an objective screening tool like the Cat OA Checklist is a good first step in measuring where your cat is on the spectrum between “healthy” and a cat with joint disease. Share the results with your veterinarian. If your cat is diagnosed with osteoarthritis, your vet can recommend a safe and effective pain management protocol, which can greatly improve your cat’s outlook and quality of life — not to mention your peace of mind.