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MOST OLDER CATS DEVELOP CHRONIC PAIN

but cats are experts at hiding signs of pain and illness,

making regular veterinary care of utmost importance.

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HOW TO IDENTIFY

THE MORE SUBTLE SIGNS

OF ARTHRITIS PAIN IN YOUR CAT

OSTEOARTHRITIS (OA), commonly known as degenerative arthritis, is a chronic disease and a frequent cause of pain in older cats. In fact, osteoarthritis (OA) has been reported to affect more than 90% of cats older than 10 years of age.  


Pets have a limited ability to clearly communicate when they are experiencing pain, and often fail to exhibit obvious signs of pain such as limping or crying out. The recognition of feline arthritis can lead to life changing medical intervention which can help manage a cat’s chronic pain, but too often, the signs of chronic pain in cats are so subtle they can be missed. When early signs of pain are missed or dismissed as aging, then the inflammation associated with the arthritis continues to build, contributing to damage in the joint further increasing pain associated with arthritis. 

 

With degenerative arthritis affecting so many older cats, tips to help owners identify if their cat is suffering from pain are key. These tips may help owners avoid overlooking or dismissing the less obvious signs of pain as merely signs of old age.

 

Clear signs, such as limping, are unlikely to be exhibited by cats with mild to moderate joint pain. It is more common to notice changes in:

 

  • WHAT THE CATS DO or don’t do
  • HOW THE CATS ACCOMPLISH their activities
  • THE FREQUENCY that the cats carry out their routine activities


THE MOST IMPORTANT THING:

OBSERVE YOUR CAT’S BEHAVIOR

AND ACTIVITY LEVEL

IS YOUR CAT PAINFUL?

THE COMMON CLINICAL

SIGNS OF 

DEGENERATIVE ARTHRITIS  

Recognizing pain in cats can be difficult. Sometimes, less activity and increased sleeping is related to an overall level of discomfort and pain.  Listed here are other common examples of pain manifestation that can be more easily recognized, if you know what to look for. 


  • Changes in movement ability
  • Difficulty with stairs 
  • Stiffness upon rising  
  • An inability or reluctance to jump  
  • Limping  
  • Pain when petted  
  • Decreased grooming activity
  • Behavior and attitude changes such as decreased willingness to interact with people and other pets 
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CHANGES IN MOVEMENT ABILITY:  If your cat no longer moves with the ease and ability they once did, then chances are this is not due to age alone. They may be painful.  Some common issues with movement are:


  • The cat no longer glides quickly and smoothly up, or down, the stairs but rather does so slowly and stiffly.  


  • The cat always pauses or hesitates to “think” about it before they jump up or down.


  • Asking to be lifted where they used to always jump with ease such as the bed, cat perch, windowsill, or couch.  


  • No longer seeking to jump up at all to perch in favorite high places.


  • Reluctant to go up or down stairs. 


  • Choosing to make multiple short jumps rather than using one large jump up or down.


  • Stiff and slow to rise or settle down to rest.

LITTER BOX USE AND BEHAVIOR: If your cat’s posture has changed when using the litterbox your cat may no longer assume the usual squatting position because it is uncomfortable.  

  • If they stand to urinate, they may miss the litter box entirely.
  • Reluctance to use the litterbox.  This can be a complicated issue in some cats, but if your cat was always consistent about using the box and now, they are not, pain could be involved. 
  • Hip and lower back pain especially can make it difficult for your cat to make the high steps necessary to climb in and out of the litter box.  This can cause them to go near the box but no longer in it as well as choose another place in the house entirely.  By the same token, if the litterbox placement is a problem (such as up or downstairs) then similar issues can occur when pain is involved.
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EXAMPLES OF CHANGES

ASSOCIATED WITH PAIN

GROOMING: Healthy cats usually groom frequently during the day.  When they start to look scruffy, or their coat mats then that often means something is wrong.  This can be a sign there is pain involved. Twisting and turning to reach the same spots may be painful, so the cat stops trying.  Some cats may over groom until they cause bald spots around the painful area of their body

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ATTITUDE/BEHAVIOR: If your cat always seemed to enjoy being stroked or petted, and now they object to it, move away, or behave aggressively, that can be a sign of pain.  Some examples of this behavior change might look like:


  • Your cat may tolerate touching but flinch over certain areas.  
  • Perhaps the cat was once friendly and enjoyed new people but now hides or reacts negatively when new people try to touch them.  
  • Growling or hissing when approached by family members can also be a sign the cat is uncomfortable and choosing to guard themselves from being touched in ways that they now find painful.
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OBSERVE YOUR CAT CLOSELY

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YOU

ARE YOUR CAT'S BEST ADVOCATE AND

WILL BE SPEAKING

FOR YOUR CAT

Think about these different types of actions and behavior and observe your cat closely. When your cat visits the veterinarian for a check-up, your cat can’t tell the vet about changes in their level of pain or discomfort. This is why your observations are so important.  


Your observations are vital to the evaluation of your cat’s condition and progress. 

You are your cat’s voice.

HAVE YOU OBSERVED SIGNS OF CHRONIC PAIN IN YOUR CAT?

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SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT with your veterinarian for a routine check-up or a geriatric exam to get a baseline of your cat’s health.


If your cat is suffering from pain, there are options to help treat the pain, including a free treatment study currently enrolling feline patients in 15 cities across the US.


If your cat is over 10 years old, it may be eligible for a free arthritis exam as part of Scout Bio’s feline pain study.

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