Seeing our feline friends slow down as a result of cat arthritis can be very difficult, and can leave us feeling helpless or frustrated. If you are struggling with this, then the good news is that there are things that you can do at home to help your cat. These are often simple changes, and do not require you to buy expensive equipment, but they can still make a big difference to your cat’s quality of life.
However, it is important to remember that these changes will help your cat avoid activity that is painful, but will not relieve your cat’s pain. It is important to consult regularly with your veterinarian and make sure your cat is receiving appropriate treatment at the right time, including pain relief.
Cats with arthritis will struggle to jump or climb onto higher surfaces. This might mean they will have difficulty getting on to the sofa, or climbing the stairs, or reaching their favourite perch on the window.
In some cases, these issues can be solved by turning one large jump into several smaller hops. For example, a cat with arthritis might struggle to jump onto an armchair from the floor, but would be able to get up more easily if a small stool or low table was placed nearby. If your cat likes to sleep on your bed, then a set of steps may make a big difference. You can often buy cat steps from pet shops or online, but home-made ones can be just as good. Unfortunately, it is not possible to make these kinds of changes in every situation. For example, staircases can be very difficult to adapt for our pets’ needs. Here, it is best to move everything that they need onto one floor of the house, so they do not have to use the stairs more often than they want to. This would mean making sure that they could access food and water, litter trays, sleeping places, toys, and scratching posts, all without needing to climb a staircase.
Good Sleeping Places
Cats with arthritis will appreciate a soft, comfortable bed to cushion their sore joints and help them sleep well. Bedding made from foam can provide softness and support, whilst still being easy for cats to get in and out of. Avoid very soft, deep bedding, as cats may find it difficult to climb around in this. Similarly, it is best to avoid beds with high sides. Arthritic cats also appreciate warmth when they sleep, as the cold may cause flares of arthritis pain. Choose snug, draft-free spots in warm rooms. Cats should always have several sleeping spots that they can choose between, so you could consider putting one of their beds near a radiator.
If your cat is used to toileting outside, you may find they struggle with this more when they develop arthritis. Cat flaps can be difficult to open and climb through, and outdoor surfaces can be more challenging than soft rugs. Cold weather may also be painful for sore joints. This means that it is best to offer your cat the option of toileting indoors. You should provide at least two litter trays in different locations, away from the busy areas of the house. When choosing a litter tray for arthritic cats, make sure that the rim is not too high, so it is not difficult to climb over. The tray should be around one-and-a-half times the length of your cat, to allow them to turn around easily inside. Cats usually prefer litter with a sandy texture (rather than wood chip or pellets), as this feels more natural. A deep layer (2-3 inches) is best both for toileting, and for arthritic cats to walk on.
Raising Food and Water Bowls
Cats with arthritis may find it difficult to bend down to eat food or drink water. Try raising your cats’ bowls up by a few inches, so they do not have to bend their neck in order to reach them. You can buy purpose-made supports for bowls, but a home-made solution such as a small cardboard box may be just as good.
Remember, cats generally prefer wide, shallow dishes so their whiskers do not catch on the rim. Keep water bowls topped up to avoid your cat having to dip their head down. Water fountains can also be useful, as many cats prefer to drink from moving water, and these may be naturally elevated as well.
All of these changes should help your cat to feel more comfortable and relaxed at home, and will help them to live their life more easily as they deal with arthritis. Sadly, however, these steps can only help improve the environment your cat lives in but cannot take away the pain related to arthritis. It is also important to speak to your veterinarian regularly to make sure they are receiving the appropriate treatment. This way, we can make sure that our cats can enjoy a good quality of life for as long as possible.
More useful advice
Learn more about giving your cats, dogs and other pets a healthy and enjoyable life.