A tired old gray tubby cat.

Arthritis in Cats: What Do Vets Recommend?


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Did you know 61% of cats over the age of 6 years suffer from arthritis – something that can worsen in the cooler months, which we’re heading into right now? As cats age beyond this the number is even higher: 90% of cats over the age of 12 have some form of arthritis. Vets are constantly dealing with cat arthritis treatment needs, doing their best to manage and mitigate this condition.

Just like in humans, arthritis causes your cat pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving. We look at what causes arthritis in cats and how vets approach it.

a close-up of an older cat's face.

What causes arthritis in cats?

Arthritis most commonly affects the hips and spine, but can affect any joint in your cat’s body. The exact cause of cat arthritis isn’t fully understood, but it’s believed to be a combination of factors, including:


As cats become older, their joints can begin to wear down, which can lead to arthritis. As mentioned, studies have shown that up to 90% of cats over the age of 12 years have evidence of arthritis on X-rays. To learn more about how cats age, check out our piece called How Long Do Cats Live For?


Different cat breeds are more prone to arthritis than others, so paying extra attention to preventative measures can be highly valuable with these types of cats. They include the Persian, Scottish Fold, Maine Coon and Siamese cat.


Excess weight puts extra stress on the joints, which can increase the risk of arthritis. Frequently check your cat’s weight against the average cat weight and take action if they’re creeping upward. Being overweight places undue pressure on their muscles, ligaments, bones and joints, leading to degeneration. Did you know the Maine Coon is more prone to weight gain and obesity than others? Research your cat’s breed to know their needs.

fat cat lying on scales for national pet obesity day

A previous injury, such as a broken bone or torn ligament, can increase the likelihood of your cat developing arthritis in the affected joint. Speaking of cat injuries, read the answer to ‘How do I know my cat’s leg is broken?’.

Infection or immune system disorders

In some cases, arthritis may be caused by an infection or immune system disorder such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or lupus.

Developmental abnormalities

Cats with hip dysplasia, luxating patella, osteochondritis dissecans, panosteitis and hypertrophic osteodystrophy or other developmental abnormalities may be more prone to arthritis.

Wear and tear

Overuse or repetitive use of joints can cause wear and tear, leading to arthritis. Unlike us, cats don’t engage in strenuous exercise, lifting weights, manual labour or other activities that cause wear and tear. However, age, obesity and injury can all lead to wear and tear on their joints.

Be sure to check out this pet health insurance claims data for more insights on Kiwi pet health.

Vets and cat arthritis treatment

It’s important to work closely with a veterinarian to develop a cat arthritis treatment tailored to your cat’s specific needs and to monitor their progress closely. Early detection and intervention can help slow the progression of arthritis and improve your cat’s quality of life.

Vets generally recommend combining a number of treatments, including:

Pain management medications

Firstly, your vet will likely want to alleviate any pain your fur kid is experiencing. They may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as meloxicam or firocoxib, which can help reduce pain and inflammation. These can have potential side effects, so your vet will want to monitor and manage their use closely.

Joint supplements

You vet could suggest using supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin to help support joint health and reduce inflammation.

Weight management

Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce stress on the joints and prevent further damage. If your cat is overweight, your vet may put them on a diet or weight management plan.

Physical therapy

Exercise, massage, and range-of-motion exercises can help you loosen up your cat’s joints and reduce stiffness. Your vet may recommend certain gentle movements to practice.


In severe cases, your vet could end up needing to perform surgery to repair or replace damaged joints.

Environmental modifications

In addition to their advice on cat arthritis treatment, your vet may recommend ways you can make your cat’s environment more comfortable. Providing soft bedding, raising their food bowl, adding low-sided litter boxes, and bringing in ramps or steps to access high places can help make daily activities easier for arthritic cats. Check out this video from the 2.23 minute mark for tips on adapting your home:

Also read our piece on How to Safeguard Against Arthritis in Dogs and Cats.


Here are some of the most asked questions the internet sees on cats and arthritis.

Can cats get arthritis in their back legs? 

Yes. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, including the hips, knees, and ankles. In fact, developing it in the hind legs is quite common in older cats, particularly those that are overweight or have suffered previous injuries or diseases that affect their joints.

Is arthritis in Burmese cats genetic?

There’s some evidence to suggest arthritis in the Burmese cat may have a genetic component.

A study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery in 2016 found Burmese cats had a higher prevalence of degenerative joint disease (DJD), a common form of arthritis, compared to other breeds. It also found the Burmese had a higher incidence of DJD at a younger age compared to other breeds, suggesting genetics may play a role in the development of the condition.

However, it’s important to remember this condition can have multiple causes, including age, injury, and obesity, and that not all Burmese cats will develop it. While genetics may increase its risk in your Burmese, as mentioned earlier in this article, other factors such as diet, exercise, and environmental conditions also play a part.

A Burmese cat can make a great pet, like this dark-brown fur baby closing its eyes after cat arthritis treatment.

Is my cat in pain with arthritis?

It’s possible that your cat is experiencing pain with this condition. Since it causes inflammation and damage to the joints, they may also have stiffness and difficulty moving. However, cats are very good at hiding their pain so it can be difficult to detect it in its early stages.

Here are some signs to look out for:

  1. Limping or favouring one or more limbs
  2. Difficulty jumping or climbing stairs
  3. Reluctance to play or groom
  4. Irritability or aggression when touched or picked up
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Hiding or avoiding interaction with family members

As mentioned above, your vet can recommend a treatment plan to manage their pain and improve their quality of life.

Pet insurance for a softer landing

One of the best ways to safeguard your cat against a wide range of unforeseen illnesses and injuries is having a quality cat insurance plan. If you’re covered for a particular condition you won’t have to question the cost of the bills versus the long-term health cost on your pet.

Good veterinary care when your fur kid needs it can help identify problems as they arise, leading to better management plans or preventative measures. You can get one or more months of free cat insurance with PD Insurance when you sign up online, depending on your pet’s age. Click below to find out more.

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