Arthritis in the Cat

Do you notice that your otherwise fun-loving cat is lying limp in the corner and does not want to move? Then you should take a closer look at your cat’s joints! Read here why arthritis causes lameness in cats and which treatment helps.

What is Arthritis?

With arthritis or joint inflammation, a joint becomes inflamed due to non-infectious or infectious causes. If several joints are affected at the same time, veterinarians also speak of polyarthritis.

Interesting to know:

While the joints are temporarily inflamed in arthritis, osteoarthritis (joint wear or osteoarthritis) permanently damages the articular cartilage. This joint disease, which is common in cats, has no cure.

Symptoms: What are the Signs of Arthritis?

The clinical picture depends on the cause of arthritis. For example, bacterial infections lead to festering ulcers, while non-infectious forms of arthritis in cats have little effect on the color and consistency of the synovial fluid.

If your cat’s joint is inflamed, you can observe the following five distinguishing features:

  1. The affected joint swells a lot.
  2. You can feel increased warmth when you feel it.
  3. Your cat will be in pain when it moves or when you touch the joint.
  4. Your velvet paw is paralyzed or can no longer bend its joint.
  5. The joint area is reddened.

In addition to these signs of inflammation, your cat may want to sleep more or eat less with arthritis. Infectious causes can also cause fever and symptoms in other organ systems, such as the digestive tract or respiratory tract.

Diagnosis: How is Arthritis Recognized in Cats?

As a rule, veterinarians can quickly identify arthritis in cats based on the five typical distinguishing features. To do this, the vet carefully feels the joint and performs some functional tests. He also assesses your cat’s gait to rule out lameness.

In order to confirm the diagnosis of arthritis and rule out other joint diseases, he can use further diagnostic agents during the course of the examination:

Blood test:

With the help of a blood sample, the vet can check your cat’s blood for inflammatory cells. With the result, he can not only locate inflammation but also assess the function of other organs such as the liver or kidneys.

Imaging procedures:

Using ultrasound or an X-ray examination, the vet can examine the joint more closely and narrow down the degree of damage. He can also rule out osteoarthritis by looking at the X-ray, which is necessary for the choice of treatment.

Joint puncture:

The joint fluid (synovia or synovial fluid) is located within the joint. If the vet pierces the joint capsule with a fine needle, he can remove the synovia and examine it for inflammatory cells. This is how arthritis can be diagnosed in the cat.

Arthroscopy (joint endoscopy):

During an arthroscopy, the vet opens the joint and pushes the arthroscope, a tube equipped with a camera, into the joint cavity. He can view the inside of the joint on a screen and locate any cartilage damage or bone cysts. Nowadays, arthroscopy is usually done in a minimally invasive manner. The surgeon will still need to anesthetize your cat.

Therapy: How is Arthritis in Cats Treated?

In order to combat the cause of arthritis in cats and alleviate the symptoms, veterinarians use both targeted and supportive measures:

Targeted Therapy:

For a positive therapy success, it is important to fight not only the inflammation but also the root cause. The vet will give your cat antibiotics if bacteria are involved.

Rheumatic joint inflammation, on the other hand, requires immunosuppressants that suppress the immune system. If the joint is very ulcerated, the vet can open the joint capsule under anesthesia and carefully rinse the joint space.

Supportive therapy:

Anti-inflammatory and pain reliever medications will help improve your cat’s health. To speed up the healing process, give your cat a cool compress around the joint. If your house tiger has a few pounds too much on its ribs, you should also reduce its weight with the help of dietary measures.

Prognosis: is Arthritis Curable in Cats?


If you go to a veterinarian in good time and get your velvet paw treated early, the prognosis for arthritis in cats is favorable in most cases. Although immune-related arthritis is incurable, you can keep your cat from persistent pain with the help of immunosuppressants and pain relievers.

If the situation continues to worsen and conservative measures are no longer possible, you must expect that the joint will need to be stiffened.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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