The dogs have given me permission to “bark about” an issue that many senior cats deal with. After all, they share their home with two felines and even though they won’t admit it, they are all friends and care about each other! Plus they agree that “meowing about” just doesn’t sound as good as “barking about”!
I want to be clear that neither of our cats have been diagnosed with arthritis. I did, however, read an interesting article on the subject which led me to suspect that our elderly cat Conrad might suffer from it. I thought that other cat families may be interested in what the symptoms could be if they want to watch for it in their own cats, as well as sharing a bit about the issues we’ve been dealing with as Conrad has aged.
Conrad got a clean bill of health at his last yearly vet appointment. Even though he will no longer groom himself and won’t always use the litter box, our vet felt those were all things that were part of his normal aging. He had also lost some weight at one point, and his thyroid was checked and found to be normal. He eats and drinks fine, and all his bodily functions are normal as well.
A few months back I read an article on VetDepot.com (if you would like to read the complete article, click here). It listed some of the symptoms of feline arthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis) as the following:
- Cats may stop grooming themselves.
- They may have difficulty rising, climbing, and jumping.
- They may become grumpy, and less sociable and playful.
- They may have accidents because of difficulty getting in and out of the litterbox.
- They may eat less, resulting in weight loss.
- Inactivity can cause a loss of muscle mass.
- They may be noticeably stiff and sore, and may limp.
Conrad has most of these symptoms, except that he has become more sociable as he has aged, though he can be grumpy at times (but who wouldn’t be when a 68 pound puppy thinks you want to play with him). He also definitely eats more, not less. He doesn’t limp and doesn’t show signs of being stiff and sore, but he does stand and lie in some strange positions sometimes.
Now, after reading how arthritis is very under-diagnosed in cats, I wondered if our vet had missed something. But we decided for many reasons not to pursue it further with our vet at this time. Conrad is at least 16 years old (he came from a shelter and may be even older than that), and he hates being put in the crate and going to the vet. I don’t want to put him through a whole lot of stress, and possibly needing x-rays or other tests. His condition hasn’t changed in months (if it was progressing we would take him in), other than the fact that he looks scruffier because he doesn’t groom himself.
We decided instead to just try giving him a joint supplement to see if that made any difference in how he got around. After weeks of being on that, we didn’t see any significant changes, even though we thought here and there we might have seen some improvement (I’d get excited if I actually saw him washing a paw!). We decided to switch and try a different kind of supplement….Revitamal. We did see one significant change….he put on some weight! At this point we are going to keep him on some sort of senior cat supplement, and maybe we’ll hit on something that shows an even bigger improvement.
I feel badly that Conrad is kind of a mess from not grooming himself. I’d like to put him in a soapy bath and clean him up good! But again, I’m not going to put him through that kind of stress. We try to brush him, but he often bites us when we do. So I brush or comb him a little bit here and there, and wipe him down with a wet cloth when he’ll tolerate it. When he is due for his next wellness check I will bring up arthritis to my vet. But my research turns up that supplements are perhaps the best form of treatment, since cats do not tolerate NSAIDS, a common treatment for canine arthritis, as well as dogs do.
Another thing to do is to just adjust their environment to keep them comfortable. We feed Conrad in our bathroom on the floor with the door closed so the dogs don’t bother him. We frequently carry him downstairs to his kitty litter to reduce accidents in the house. He has many comfy beds to lie on, and we feed him most times when he is hungry (which is quite often!). We are just doing our best to make his senior years as comfortable and stress free as possible (Luke gets scolded when he harasses him).
Obviously, I am not a vet and I am just sharing how we are dealing with Conrad’s issues. You may choose to deal with things differently if you are in our position. I often worry we are not doing the right thing, but we’ve made our decisions based on knowing Conrad’s personality. Everyone with pets knows that it is a constant struggle to balance out running to the vet for every little thing, and missing something they should have gone to the vet for. Our choices might be different if we saw these issues in Samantha, who is far younger at 12 years old, and not skittish like Conrad has always been.