Managing osteoarthritis in cats involves both delaying its onset and slowing its progression. The implementation of a suitable lifestyle can help prevent debilitating forms of the disease, especially when it is initiated at a young age.
1. Prevent osteoarthritis in cats with good monitoring
All pets require regular veterinary follow-up to prevent possible health problems. Your knowledge of the animal is essential to detecting the symptoms of osteoarthritis. In addition, the knowledge of your veterinarian is essential to adapt the care throughout his life. By monitoring its growth, weight, diet or the healing of any injuries, the veterinarian will be able to limit as much as possible the wear and tear of the cartilage responsible for osteoarthritis. Even if your cat seems perfectly healthy, continue the check-ups with your veterinarian.
2. Track the growth of a cat
Deficiencies in kittens can be the cause of malformations that promote early osteoarthritis in adulthood. Here again, your veterinarian’s role is crucial: by closely monitoring your animal’s growth, he will adapt the foods and rations to his nutritional needs. These evolve not only according to its age, but also its race and its weight. Also stay alert for the slightest sign of pain. Signs of pain in cats are often inconspicuous, making some injuries invisible. However, poorly treated muscle, ligament or bone trauma can also promote the onset of osteoarthritis.
3. Monitor your cat’s weight for disease prevention
The greater the fat mass, the more stress is placed on the joints when moving around. This additional joint stress accelerates the wear and tear of the cartilage. Prevention therefore begins with controlling your pet’s weight, from an early age and throughout his life. Determine with your veterinarian the optimal weight for your cat, then adapt his diet accordingly.
- In case of overweight or obesity, a diet is generally essential. Consult your veterinarian to establish a suitable feeding program.
- Even if your cat is at an ideal weight, watch her progress. In case of change, adapt the size of the rations, always under the advice of your veterinarian.
Foods of poor nutritional quality can also promote overweight or provide insufficient amounts of nutrients. Choose quality products designed for your pet’s needs, recommended or approved by your veterinarian. It can be croquettes, but also home cooking, as long as the composition and size of the rations are adequate. As you get older or in the event of warning symptoms, your veterinarian may suggest that you enrich your pet’s diet with food supplements aimed at strengthening his joints.
4. Promote the activity of a cat to prevent osteoarthritis
As a rule, cats regulate their amount of exercise on their own. However, age, illness or the onset of pain due to osteoarthritis can cause a decrease in activity. This in turn can lead to weight gain, loss of muscle mass and joint flexibility, all of which are factors that promote and maintain osteoarthritis. To maintain moderate but regular physical activity, tailor the exercises to your pet.
- Play with him by stimulating him with his favorite toys. A string or a laser can sometimes be sufficient. If he already has osteoarthritis, limit the jumps.
- If they’ve gained weight as a result of decreased activity, consider investing in a kibble dispenser toy, which combines physical activity with eating.
- In town, some cat owners walk their pets on a leash. Not all cats are receptive to this method, but if yours likes it, it can help maintain activity levels.
5. Cat arthritis: adapt its living environment to its age
Preventing osteoarthritis in cats also concerns elderly animals, whose weakened joints must be spared. Almost 80% of cats over the age of 11 suffer from osteoarthritis.
- To avoid over-straining the joints of an aging cat and simplify his daily life once diagnosed with osteoarthritis, opt for a litter box with low edges. High sides require extra effort, and a cat in pain may eventually relieve itself outside the litter box to avoid having to step over it.
- From a certain age and especially if osteoarthritis is already present, it will be preferable to remove all the elements that are at height or install a ramp system. Steps are not recommended, even with a stepped effect, if your cat has osteoarthritis of the hip or knees.
- If you own a vertical cat scratching post, consider swapping it out for a horizontal one. The movements required place less stress on the joints.
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Osteoarthritis in cats cannot be cured, but can be effectively curbed. To delay its onset, then limit its impact on the animal’s quality of life, prevention is the key: consult your veterinarian to set up appropriate monitoring.
Article reviewed and validated by veterinarian Dr. Michèle Gorissen
To read also: Osteoarthritis of the cat: prevention, symptoms and treatment