It may be hard to believe the kitten who used to leap from your kitchen counter to the top of the refrigerator is now a senior citizen, moving a lot slower than she used to. Though arthritis is not common in cats, it can affect them in a variety of joints. Fortunately, there are plenty of home remedies you can offer to make your kitty more comfortable.
Symptoms of Arthritis
Of course your cat has slowed down in her old age, but pay attention to her and watch how she moves. She may be hesitant about jumping onto the couch with you, or climbing steps much more deliberately than normal. Getting in and out of the litter box may be more of an event than previously, so she may have more accidents than she's had in the past. Cuddles can change too; she may not care to be petted or picked up like she did in her younger days. Lethargy, stiffness, lameness, muscle wasting and loss of flexibility are all signs that she's having joint pains.
The vet can confirm your cat's arthritis with an exam and X-rays. As well, there are a variety of medications the vet can prescribe, including pain medication and anti-inflammatories to give your cat some relief. Sometimes, a corticosteroid is helpful for a short period of time to decrease inflammation.
Over the Counter to Your Home
Green lipped mussel extract helps dogs, horses and cats cope with arthritic joints. It contains chondroitin, glycosaminoglycans and glucosamine sulphate, in addition to other helpful ingredients, such as minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. It's commercially available in a formulation for cats, with dosing information included, so you can administer it easily at home. Your vet may be able to recommend a supplement with chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine, which can help a mild case of arthritis. Those supplements may be challenging to administer, as they require a long-term commitment -- potentially to your cat's dismay, as they're in powder or capsule form.
If you want to go with natural remedies to ease your cat's discomfort, there are a variety of homeopathic options. Popular choices include arnica, effective for pain and swelling after an accident; belladonna, for hot, swollen joints and hypericum, for pain relief. Other options include guaiacum, celery seeds, meadowsweet, devil's claw, comfrey and burdock. If you want to use a homeopathic remedy, consult a veterinarian to learn about potential interactions or complications, as well as dosing information.
Home Health Care
You don't have to brew a tea, give a shot or pop a pill to make your cat more comfortable. If your cat is carrying some extra weight, the first order of business is for her to get to a healthy weight. Carrying extra ounces -- or pounds -- will put more stress on her joints. Weight loss should be gradual; cats who lose weight too quickly can become seriously ill. A little exercise will help your cat, usually in the form of brief, gentle play, as well as gentle massage. Your vet can show you what's appropriate for your cat and what should be avoided. Make sure her litter box, food and water dishes are easily accessible, and make sure she has a cozy bed or blanket -- or two -- available to snuggle up in. You can gently groom her, keeping her tidy in the places she can't quite reach anymore. She may find a warm compress on her sore joints soothing.