ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: I read that most older cats have arthritis. My 14-year-old female spayed cat does not show any overt signs of pain. She is a little overweight (working on it) but is otherwise healthy. I’m planning on getting ramps and stairs for her, a more accessible litter box, and she already has heated beds. Should I ask my veterinarian about putting her on a daily pain medication even though she doesn’t seem to be in pain?
Dr. Nichol: Your natural empathy benefits everyone around you. The stairs and ramp will make it easier for your senior cat to reach high perches and, of course, her bathroom, avoiding the embarrassment of, you know, accidents. As a youth she might have pole vaulted over the tall sides of a litter pan but that ramp will make the loo more accessible.
It is true that aging kitties experience degenerative joint disease but even the most observant cat parents can be fooled. In the wild, besides being predators, cats can also be prey. They are social creatures but, unlike people and dogs, they seldom cry out to their comrades for help. Many cats would rather die (literally) than show their vulnerabilities. So they hide their pain.
To gather more information you can ask your cat’s doctor for a trial prescription of an anti-inflammatory/pain reliever. Metacam and Onsior are a couple of good choices. If your kitty becomes more playful and willing to jump and cavort after several days you’ll know that her joints actually were painful. Continued treatment could make a difference but periodic lab profiles will be necessary to avoid liver or kidney issues.
There is a non-drug alternative that can safely reduce joint pain and inflammation over the long term. The Assisi Loop (assisianimalhealth.com) is a pulsed electromagnetic field device that’s easy to use twice daily.
Your feline senior’s weight is an important factor. Beyond the added load that her joints are carrying, her extra body fat causes inflammation. I encourage you to ask your veterinarian about a therapeutic diet that can help your kitty regain her girlish figure. We don’t want her having issues with body image.
Dr. Jeff Nichol provides pet behavior consultations in-person and virtually by telephone and Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.