Arthritis is a common condition that affects cats, causing pain and discomfort in their joints. While there are various treatment options available, including medication and physical therapy, an often overlooked approach is diet. Today, our Union City vets explain how cat food can help manage arthritis.

Arthritis Vs. Osteoarthritis in Cats

First, to clear up any confusion, let’s discuss the difference between arthritis and osteoarthritis in cats. Arthritis is a general term that refers to inflammation of the joints, whereas osteoarthritis specifically refers to the degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone.

In this post, we will be discussing treatments or arthritis in cats, not treatment for osteoarthritis in cats.

Your Cat & Arthritis

Cats, like humans, can also suffer from painful arthritis. Some studies have shown that as cats age, the incidence of arthritis increases. In fact, X-rays have revealed that around 90% of cats over the age of 12 show evidence of arthritis in one or more joints. 

With cats living longer than ever before, it is becoming increasingly likely that every cat owner will eventually have to deal with this issue. 

However, there is good news. Nutritional science has shown that pet owners can greatly improve the quality of life for their arthritic cats by selecting an appropriate diet tailored to their cat’s specific needs.

How, exactly, can diet help with my cat's arthritis?

Diet can play a crucial role in managing a cat's arthritis by controlling their weight. Recent research has shed light on the significant impact of fat accumulation in overweight and obese cats with arthritis. This fat not only adds extra stress to their joints, but also releases inflammatory hormones, intensifying inflammation and causing additional pain. 

Consequently, weight and obesity play a more crucial role in the development and progression of arthritis in cats than previously believed.

But ensuring a healthy body weight for cats is usually not your only concern. The aim is to also assist them in burning fat while also maintaining or increasing muscle mass. Consulting with your veterinarian should help you select a good diet for your cat. It can also help with daily portion control.

Furthermore, certain dietary supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine, can have anti-inflammatory properties and promote joint lubrication, helping to manage arthritis symptoms in cats. Your veterinarian should be able to make supplement recommendations based on your cat's individual needs.

After successfully reducing your cat's weight, you should notice a significant improvement in their condition. With less weight, there will be less stress on their joints, resulting in greater mobility and less pain. Furthermore, your cat's overall health and energy levels may improve, as maintaining a healthy weight has numerous health benefits.

What about exercise?

A healthy diet combined with regular exercise is always a good way to help your cat manage its weight. However, you don't want to put too much strain on your joints with vigorous exercises. Low-impact exercises are best for treating arthritis in cats.

Low-impact exercises like controlled walking or swimming can help manage a cat's weight. Incorporating interactive toys that encourage movement, such as puzzle feeders or laser pointers, can also help to reduce joint stress.

How To Tell If Your Cat Is Overweight

To determine whether your kitty is overweight, try the tips below.

Look for Your Cat's Waistline

  • Look down from above at your cat as they stand. Look for a small indentation above your cat's hips, where their waist should be (this can be difficult with long-haired cats). If you can't see their waist or their sides are bulging, your cat is probably overweight.

Feel for Your Cat's Ribs

  • When your cat is at a healthy weight, you should be able to slightly feel their ribs by gently running your hand along their chest. If you can't feel your cat's ribs, your cat may be overweight. 

Struggling to Jump

  • Cats are built to be quick runners and jumpers. If your cat has to try several times before jumping up onto their favorite piece of furniture, or if your cat gives up entirely, their weight could be the issue.

If you suspect that your cat’s arthritis may be due to their being overweight, get in touch with Reelfoot Animal Hospital to schedule a check-up to ensure your cat's overall health and well-being.