Arthritis is the progressive deterioration of cartilage surrounding the joints - particularly the elbow, shoulder and hip joints. If your feline friend doesnt have enough cushioning between their bones due to cartilage breaking down, daily movements can feel stiff and painful.
Not only is arthritis a common condition (especially in older cats), it’s also one that often goes unnoticed.
Why? Because cats are sneaky!
Here's everything you need to know about arthritis in cats, including the causes and symptoms to look out for, and the steps you can take to support your cat’s joints as they age.
Arthritis causes & symptoms
The signs of arthritis aren't always obvious, thanks to the cat's biological tendency to ignore pain (in the wild, cats do anything they can to avoid appearing weak, because predators are more likely to target injured animals). They’re very good at masking discomfort - which makes it difficult for pet guardians to recognize the signs of arthritis until the condition is causing their kitty a lot of pain.
With this in mind, it’s worth paying close attention to your cat’s daily habits so you can pick up any subtle changes, such as:
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Struggling to use the litter box or cat door
- Hesitancy to run, jump, or climb
- Difficulty moving around
- Lack of desire to play
- Lameness in one or more legs
- Lack of interest in grooming or over-grooming sore joints
Joints naturally degenerate as part of the aging process (all that jumping and tree climbing takes its toll over the years!), so older cats are more likely to suffer from arthritis than their younger counterparts.
In saying this, there are other conditions that can lead to arthritis at any age - such as joint abnormalities or injuries. Overweight cats are also more at risk of developing arthritis, so helping them maintain a healthy weight is important.
The ‘prevention’ (AKA high-meat!) diet
The old saying 'prevention is the best medicine’ is particularly relevant when it comes to your cat’s diet, because a high-meat, biologically-appropriate diet is one of the best ways to reduce joint inflammation and keep your cat mobile and happy as they age.
A quality diet won’t just help your cat maintain a healthy weight (which reduces pressure on their joints), it will also give them the important nutrients their bones and cartilage need to stay strong. Here are a few of the star nutrients you’ll find in ZIWI Peak recipes, which add a (natural) nutritional boost to the whole-prey diet:
Glucosamine is a substance that helps form and repair the cartilage of your cat’s joints. It’s abundant in New Zealand Green Mussels - the only species of mussel to contain a bioactive protein that acts as anti-inflammatory and helps repair muscle and increase joint function. You’ll find a minimum of 3% New Zealand Green Mussels in all ZIWI Peak recipes.
Calcium & phosphorus
Calcium is an essential nutrient for cats (meaning they must consume it in their diet) and it needs to be balanced with phosphorus (phosphorus is attracted to calcium, and together this power couple is what gives bones and teeth their strength). Balancing the two isn’t hard when your cat is eating bones as part of their diet - and with high inclusions of meat, bone and organs in all ZIWI Peak recipes, you can be confident your kitty is getting adequate calcium and phosphorus!
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are great for skin, coat, heart, and joint health. Research suggests they can also reduce the inflammation associated with arthritis! You’ll find omega-3 fatty acids in all ZIWI Peak recipes (thanks to those powerful New Zealand Green Mussels), but they’re highest in our Mackerel & Lamb recipe.
Other things you can do to help
Alongside changes to their diet, you can help to keep your cat feeling comfortable as they age by:
- Giving them a safe and comfortable bed to rest and sleep
- Providing steps or ramps to any hard-to-reach spaces
- Ensuring the cat door is easy to open and the litter tray has low sides
- Assisting with grooming
- Encouraging them to exercise (even small, gentle movements go a long way in preventing musculoskeletal weakness with age)
Your cat is part of the family, so we understand how tough it can be to see them suffer from arthritis. If they are in a lot of discomfort, it’s a good idea to take them to the vet who may be able to advise treatments or supplements to help manage your family member’s symptoms.
At home, however, switching to a high-quality, high-meat diet is one of the best things you can do to support their joints and boost their overall health and immunity (you can learn more about why it’s the ideal diet here).