Skeletal Disorders in Cats

Because of their larger bones, Persians are prone to hip dysplasia.

Because of their larger bones, Persians are prone to hip dysplasia.

Kitty has 245 bones, 40 more than you do. Some disorders can affect his skeleton, resulting in extra bones, pain or a funny way of walking. While some can develop as Kitty ages, many are inherited from his mom and dad.


Similar to the human variety, arthritis occurs when the joints become inflamed and painful. This is usually the result of aging, as the natural cartilage cushion between his joints becomes less flexible over time. It can also occur if Kitty has suffered an injury, infection or dislocation of a joint. If Kitty's joints are getting achy, he'll probably get around less, spending even more of his free time napping. There's no cure for arthritis, but anti-inflammatory drugs and supplements to replenish cartilage can give relief.

Hip Dysplasia

If Kitty's hipbones didn't develop properly, he has a disorder called hip dysplasia. Over time he'll lose function in his hips, since the ball joint doesn't fit in the socket properly. This usually leads to arthritis in the hip joint, which makes it difficult for your cat to get around. The disease is genetic, meaning he got it from Mom and Dad. The larger bones of breeds like the Maine Coon and Persian make them more prone to the disorder. In severe cases your cat may need surgery to repair the joint. More commonly his vet will give him anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling.

Extra Toes

Cats usually have five toes on each front paw and four on each back paw. However, if your Kitty is polydactyl, he'll have extra toes, usually on his front paws and sometimes on all four. Polydactyl kitties are also known as Hemingway cats, bigfoot cats and six-toed cats, and in the past were prized by sailors who believed they were better mousers. The record for the most toes belonged to a kitty who had 28—fully 10 more than usual. While your cat's feet may look a little funny, his bonus toes won't affect his ability to get around.

Flat-Chested Kitten Syndrome

Flat-chested kitten syndrome is a result of malformed ribs. An affected kitten will look normal when he is born, but in a few weeks his chest will appear sunken in. His spine may also appear curved. The malformed chest can squish his organs out of place, putting pressure on his lungs and making it hard for him to breathe. If the case is mild, he may grow out of it. Unfortunately, severe cases can be fatal.

Spondylosis Derformans

Spondylosis deformans is a rare disease that typically affects Kitty when he gets older. Bony spurs will develop along his spine. These may only affect small portions of the spine, but they could develop along most of his vertebrae. If he has a mild case, he may not show any symptoms. If he's got a lot of bony spurs he may have trouble getting around and have less energy. If the condition puts pressure on his spinal cord or surrounding nerves, it could cause neurological side effects. Most cases don't require any treatment. If it's painful, his vet can give him steroids or anti-inflammatory drugs for swelling and pain. In severe cases he may need surgery to remove the spurs.

About the Author

Melissa Schindler has been writing professionally since 2010. She writes about pets, animals, technology and parenting for various websites. Also a fiction writer, she is author of "Houston After Dark." She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas State University.

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