“An unkempt hair coat can be a sign of a cat who’s uncomfortable when they’re grooming themselves,” Dr Howard adds.
“Their coat becomes matted and there’s more dead skin and more oil in their hair coat because they can’t groom themselves comfortably anymore.”
Reduce the risk
While some breeds and larger sized cats will have a greater genetic predisposition to arthritis, the biggest risk factor after old age is being overweight, as it puts more pressure on the joints.
“Keeping your cat in a good body condition and on really good quality nutrition is setting them up as best as you can,” Dr Jenkins says.
If your cat is showing some of the subtle arthritic signs, it’s important to take them to the vet to start a management plan.
“We might find that there’s some joint swelling and a reduction in the movement of the joints – if there’s an area that we’re worried about, we’ll progress to radiographs,” Dr Jenkins says.
“Management involves making sure their bodyweight is optimal – slow, controlled weight loss to their target weight is single-handedly the most effective way to reduce pain for them.”
Your vet can advise you about how to safely reduce your cat’s calorie intake without compromising their nutrient intake, and potentially start a more comprehensive treatment plan to prevent further joint decline.
“If the cat is obviously in discomfort, you might use some pain relief and there’s definitely physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and acupuncture as well,” Dr Howard says.
“There’s good evidence for using green-lipped mussel supplementation in cats for anti-inflammatory benefits – published studies show that in just a few weeks, ease of mobility and perceived comfort levels may improve.”
Dr Howards adds that anecdotally, there’s evidence that suggests using glucosamine and chondroitin supplementation can be beneficial as a preventative because they provide the building blocks of healthy joint cartilage.
Take a look around your home and consider if there are ways you can make simple modifications to increase your arthritic cat’s quality of life.
“If there’s a bed they like to go on, have some kind of stool or step so they can get up there more easily,” Dr Jenkins says.
“Look at their litter tray too – is it hard for them to get into it? Do you need a bigger tray or a shallower dish?”
Meanwhile, try to encourage gentle play to keep their joints limber and strong.
“Gentle exercise is really important for managing joint health – some cats actually really enjoy going for a little walk using a cat harness; there’s mental stimulation as well,” Dr Howard says.
“Soft bedding is always nice too, particularly for old cats that really like to sleep a lot during the day.”
Learn about pet supplements and more tips to help care for your cat’s joints from PAW by Blackmores® at www.blackmores.com.au/paw-by-blackmores.