7 Signs of Arthritis in Cats

By Lorie Huston, DVM on Jun. 4, 2013
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How to Spot Arthritis in Cats

By Lorie Huston, DVM

Arthritis is one of the most common ailments seen in middle-aged to older pets. Even younger cats, under the right circumstances, can suffer from arthritic changes. Arthritis causes changes within the affected joints that are painful for the affected pet. This pain is responsible for many of the signs associated with arthritis in cats. Here are seven of those common signs.

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1. Limping

You may see your cat limping or favoring one or more of his legs, depending on which legs and which joints are arthritic. In some cases, the limp may seem worse when your cat first rises and become less noticeable as your cat “warms up” by moving around.

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2. Difficulty Moving

Your cat may also become reluctant to do things that were previously easy for her to accomplish. For instance, your cat may stop jumping onto countertops, perches and other high areas because of the pain and discomfort.

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3. Spinal Issues

Arthritic changes can occur not only in the legs but also in the various parts of the spine. These changes may result in a sore neck, an abnormal posture with a “hunch” in the back, or lameness of one or both hind legs.

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4. Tiredness

Your cat may tire more easily. For cats, this may mean less motivation to play games and signs of pain when she does. Your cat may also spend more time sleeping and/or resting.

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5. Irritability

Arthritic cats may become irritable. They may snap and/or bite when approached or handled, particularly if the petting or handling takes place in a manner that increases their pain.

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6. Muscle Atrophy

Arthritic cats often develop muscle atrophy or dying off of the muscle tissue due to inactivity and decreased use of the muscles. A cat with atrophied muscles in their legs will have a leg which looks thinner than a normal leg.

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7. Licking, Chewing & Biting

Cats affected with arthritis may also begin to lick at, chew or bite at body areas that are painful. This may even reach the point of causing inflamed skin and hair loss over affected areas.

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Arthritis Treatment for Cats

Though arthritis cannot be cured, there are various remedies and procedures that can help ease the pain for your cat. Consult your veterinarian for advice if you believe your cat is suffering from arthritis.


Arthritis in cats can be particularly hard to spot. Many arthritic cats simply become less active. Often, this change in behavior corresponds to the cat becoming older and a cat owner may simply assume that the change is normal when, in fact, your cat may actually be decreasing his activity level because he is in pain due to arthritis.