How to Tell If Your Cat Has Arthritis

How to Tell If Your Cat Has Arthritis


By Dwight Alleyne, DVM

Every cat owner knows that their feline friends can turn anything into a jungle gym. They jump from tall shelves with ease, twist and turn their bodies in unimaginable ways, and zip around the living room with the speed of an Olympic athlete. Their distinctive athletic ability makes it hard to imagine that anything could slow them down. 

Many cat lovers may be surprised to find out that, just like humans, cats can develop painful arthritis. 

How can you tell if your cat is experiencing arthritis symptoms? They're a stoic species by nature, which can make it hard for humans to know when they're in pain. In this article, we'll discuss some of the telltale signs that your cat is uncomfortable, and review a few natural treatment options you can use to help ease their symptoms.

Telltale Signs Your Cat Is in Pain

Cats by nature don’t like to exhibit pain. It’s part of a survival instinct cats have, as any sign of injury can show weakness. And any signs of weakness can make them easy prey or lose their position of power. This requires us as cat owners to detect any subtle changes that may indicate discomfort. Behavior and activity changes are the most common changes you will recognize.

Activity and Movement

If you have a cat, you already know how active they can be— especially during that infamous kitty hour in the middle of the night. If you are noticing a decrease in activity, it may indicate cat arthritis. Regarding mobility, you might observe that your cat is unwilling or unable to jump onto their favorite high spot. You might also notice that they appear stiffer and less graceful than their usual gymnast-like selves, or that climbing in and out of their litter boxes seems more challenging. You could also notice a general change in activity. Your cat may want to sleep more than usual, not even wanting to wake up during mealtime. They may neglect favorite toys due to lack of energy or comfort level.


Every cat has a great unique personality. When that changes, it may be a sign they are in pain. If your friendly and cuddly cat all of a sudden becomes very grumpy and standoffish, it’s worth looking into. You might also observe the opposite effect, where a cat that likes to be by themselves is suddenly clingy. 


Cats are one of the few pets that care about their appearance. They are constantly grooming to keep themselves clean. If you notice a change in their fur, that may indicate a lack of grooming. Since grooming often requires bending the body in different ways, if they are uncomfortable, they will groom less. Also, they may use the scratching post less, leading to overgrown nails.

Ways to Alleviate Cat Arthritis

Now that you can recognize the signs your cat may be uncomfortable, consider these options to help them feel like themselves again.

Nutritional Supplements

Nutraceuticals are oral nutritional supplements that may have benefits in treating chronic pain in cats. Glucosamine is a common nutraceutical used to manage arthritis and comes in a powdered form for easy administration.

Acupuncture in Cats

This ancient Chinese therapy has been proven to help with chronic pain conditions. It involves the placement of needles in specific areas of the body, promoting release of the body’s natural opioids. Acupuncture could be a great option for cats who don’t tolerate other treatment options.

CBD for Cats

While there are no current studies on the effect of CBD oil in cats with chronic pain, results based on a recent study indicate it could be effective in dogs with arthritis. Anecdotally, pet owners and veterinarians are seeing similar results in cats on CBD. And since both cats and dogs (and humans!) contain similar endocannabinoid systems, it is not a huge leap to think these findings may apply to cats as well. If you think your cat could benefit from CBD, talk to your veterinarian. Check out Heelr CBD tinctures and chews once your kitty is approved.

Other Pain Relieving Options

If natural remedies don't appear to be helping at all, talk to your vet about prescription pain relief options. 

Dr. Dwight Alleyne is a veterinarian who has over a decade of experience treating cats and dogs. He is also the creator of the Animal Doctor Blog, where he provides general health advice and pet-product reviews.


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