Skip to main content

4 useful tips to help your arthritic cat this fall

Arthritis in cats often goes unnoticed because they are masters at hiding symptoms of pain. This is an instinct that kept them safe in the wild, where any signs of weakness made them vulnerable to predators. However, a 2002 study published in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine revealed that as many as 90% of cats age 12 and older show signs of arthritis. Veterinary experts say that arthritis in cats is usually caused by ongoing wear and tear but can also be a result of other factors such as genetics, infection, and cancer. The most common joints affected in cats are the elbows, hips, and spine.

Know the symptoms

  • Reluctance to jump up or down from furniture, including sleeping areas
  • Difficulty getting in or out of high-sided litter boxes, which may result in accidents outside the litter box
  • Stiff gait when walking
  • Reduced grooming due to pain and the development of matted and scruffy coats
  • Overgrooming of painful joints, resulting in hair loss or infected skin
  • Personality changes, including becoming aggressive and less tolerant of being petted, held, or brushed
  • Stops using scratching post, so nails get long
Cat wrapped in fleece blanket.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to keep an arthritic cat comfortable in autumn

You can do many things around the house to make life more comfortable for your arthritic cat. For example, provide easy access to food and water dishes and litter boxes. Install a ramp or steps to help your cat reach favorite places and provide an orthopedic bed to support aching joints. Cold weather can increase the pain of arthritis, so when temperatures drop in the fall, you’ll need to provide additional comfort. Here are four tips for helping your arthritic cat when the weather turns cold.

Keep temperatures comfortable in the home

You probably turn the heat down in your home before leaving for the day. Keep your kitty’s comfort in mind, though, before setting the thermostat. According to experts at The Rescue Vets, cats need to maintain a body temperature of over 90 degrees, so keeping your thermostat around 70 is a good way to ensure they’ll stay cozy when temperatures drop outside. If you turn the heat down too far while you’re out, that can leave your cat struggling to stay warm. Also, don’t turn the heat off if you’re going on vacation and your cat is home alone. If it’s especially cold outside, you should consider putting the heat up a few degrees. How do you know if your cat is cold? If your cat’s ears, paws, and the tip of her tail feel cold, your cat is probably uncomfortable.

Provide a warm bed for sleeping

A heated cat bed can provide great comfort to an arthritic cat. These beds can either be self-warming or corded. Self-warming cat beds have a thin layer of reflective material such as Mylar tucked inside the cushioning. This material will reflect your cat’s body heat back to her to provide comfort and warmth as she sleeps. Corded heated cat beds come in a variety of shapes such as igloos, pods, and A-frames, so you can choose a shape based on your cat’s sleeping preferences. If your cat is too stiff to curl up in a ball, or if she has difficulty stepping over things, then a round bed with high sides isn’t a good option. She might prefer a flat heating pad that she can easily step onto and sprawl on for comfort. Be sure to use only pads designed for pets; many of these are activated by an animal’s weight and will heat only to a safe temperature to avoid burns. And read the instructions carefully when using heated pet beds or pads.  If you do use heated pet beds, don’t forget to provide alternate sleeping areas or comfy blankets in favorite spots around the house so your cat can relocate if she gets too warm.

Provide access to sunny spots in the house

You’ve probably noticed that your cat naturally seeks the warmest spots in your home. Sunlight pouring through the windows is especially exciting for kitties who love to bask in the rays. Choose the best sunny windows in the house for catching the morning and afternoon sun and place comfortable cat perches at each location. Your cat will be delighted to follow the sun around. You’ll want to make sure your kitty is comfortable on her perch by sealing off any areas of the window where you can feel drafts coming through.

Encourage your cat to move

Pets with arthritis benefit from regular activity. For example, low-impact exercise such as walking reduces pain and stiffness in joints. Joyce A. Login, a veterinary specialist at Zoetis who has a special interest in pain management, believes that providing mental stimulation through play also helps arthritic cats. She recommends encouraging your cat to use her natural predatory instincts by chasing toy mice and then allowing her to “catch their prey.” Some cats enjoy obstacle courses of cardboard boxes or paper bags. Just be sure to stay with them and dismantle the obstacle course when the fun is over.

Cat playing with toy mouse.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Veterinary experts say that many pet parents mistake symptoms of arthritis for normal aging in cats. If you notice behavioral changes in your cat and if she’s moving around less, it’s a good idea to take her for a health checkup. Getting your pet’s symptoms diagnosed is important, as your veterinarian can recommend medications or therapies to help keep your cat comfortable.

Editors' Recommendations

Vera Lawlor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
Why does my dog have diarrhea? (and when it’s time to see the vet)
Your dog has the runs — should you run to the vet?
A close-up of a husky in sunlight

Being a dog parent can be a joyful experience — no matter what your boss thinks of you, you can count on your pup to show you affection when you walk in the door. In exchange for their unconditional love and affection, dogs require that we take care of them and — sigh — pick up their poop (your neighborhood's code enforcement requires the latter, to be more precise). Cleaning up after a dog also gives pet parents a role they may not have expected when they brought their furry friend home: Poop inspector.

Poop is a sign of a dog's overall health. Regular, firm stool that resembles a caterpillar is one sign your pup is feeling well. If the stool is loose, you may need an answer to the question, "Why does my dog have diarrhea?" That depends. While we can't answer the question definitively, we can provide some common causes of diarrhea and what to do.

Read more
Why do dogs’ anal glands fill up? Here’s what to know
How often you may need to take your pup to the vet to relieve this issue
A small dog sits on the table at a vet office

In pet ownership, as in all life, you run into hurdles. Some dogs never have an issue with their anal glands, but they can come as a surprise to even veteran owners who suddenly see or smell something off. Unfortunately, you'll quickly discover how difficult (and gross) these little sacs can be. But dogs with particularly tricky bathroom issues will require a little maintenance and extra attention to the butt area.
What are anal glands?
There's no delicate way to say this: They're two smallish glands on either side of your pet's butthole. From an evolutionary perspective, the anal glands give off a unique scent, and the idea is that it acts as a canine's signature. Anal glands aren't analogous to anything we have as humans, so definitely don't worry about your own body expressing anything like this. However, many pups wind up having issues in this department and find themselves unable to empty them on their own.
Why do dogs' anal glands fill up?
Certain underlying problems, like obesity and poor diet, might make a dog more susceptible to gland issues. Smaller breeds also tend to struggle a bit more since their whole area is more compact. You may find your pooch expressing their own glands, licking the area, or scooting. That means it's time for an inspection.

How do you prevent anal gland issues?
Talk to your vet about what could be causing Fido's difficulties, as it can vary, but generally, you'll want to look at how much food and exercise they're getting. Additionally, a supplement, like a probiotic, will frequently take care of the issue. This works mostly by firming up the poop but can also introduce good bacteria to his gut.

Read more
Wondering how to keep cat warm in cold weather – here are 9 effective ways to help your pet stay toasty
Try these tricks to keep your cat from being cold
A Maine Coon cat reaches his snow-covered paw toward the camera.

There are many reasons why your feline fur baby should remain exclusively indoors, but it's all the more important to keep your cat inside during the winter months. A blanket of snow may look stunning, but it makes it difficult for outdoor kitties to find their way home. The potential for accidents also increases due to decreased visibility and the presence of black ice.

Even if your cat stays indoors all the time, you'll still need to take extra steps to keep her warm during the cool weather. Some homes are naturally drafty, and with snow and ice accumulating on utility lines, the chance of power outages increases as well. Wondering how to keep cats warm in cold weather? Here are nine useful tips to get you started. 

Read more