Cats are known for their lithe and limber movements. They pounce, walk and stalk with the utmost grace. Some cats, however, might not be moving as cat-like as they should. This can be a sign of arthritis. Knowing how to spot certain cat problems and diseases and any changes in behavior can mean you know to take them to a vet to be checked and ease their pain and suffering quickly with a prompt diagnosis and the right treatment.

Cats have a strong survival instinct. This means they are very good at hiding signs of pain so as not to appear weak and vulnerable to attack. Therefore, any sign of behavioral change should be taken seriously and acted on swiftly.

Arthritis can occur in cats of any age, it isn’t necessarily due to old age. Certain breeds like Main Coon and Siamese are prone to hip dysplasia which can cause arthritis while other cats may have suffered a trauma which has damaged a joint. A fall, or impact can result in a injury that heals with an abnormal joint conformation which, in turn, can cause arthritis.

Signs of arthritis or degenerative joint disease in your cat can include reduced movement, stiffness, difficulty in jumping, squatting and even grooming. They may also show signs of displeasure when being handled or just generally less interested in interaction.

When you take your cat to the vet, they may be able to detect discomfort, pain, swelling or other changes in the affected joints. If there is any uncertainty, your vet may want to use X-rays but this is not always necessary. If the diagnosis is uncertain, simple anti-inflammatories might be prescribed.

The best medicine for arthritis and degenerative joint disease in cats is prevention. First and foremost is to prevent obesity. Many cats in Hong Kong are indoor kitties so make sure, if your cat can’t go outside, that you give her plenty of opportunity to play and exercise at home. Toys, cat trees and even good old fashioned stacks of cardboard boxes make for a great substitute for climbing trees and hunting. It will also keep her stimulated and emotionally healthy as she can act out her wild side.

Diet is just as important, not only to ensure she isn’t consuming too many calories, but to ensure she is getting the right nutrients for a healthy body. You can also include dietary supplements, this is especially useful in older cats, breeds who are susceptible to hip displaysia or cats who have had an injury to their bones and joints. Chondritin and glucosamine are two supplements that help to maintain and repair cartilage while omega-3 fatty acids decrease joint inflammation. Omega-3 from fish oils has been shown to help prevent arthritis in cats and can also help boost many other physiological systems in the body.

Look for vet approved supplements or foods fortified with the nutrients and supplements your cat needs and, as always, consult your vet if you notice any changes in your feline friend.