If your once-agile Kitty doesn't have that spring in his steps -- or jumps -- anymore, it's likely that arthritis is the culprit. Kitty can't take human over-the-counter medications for arthritis, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen. Because cats are so sensitive, just a few medications are prescribed for feline arthritis.
Any mammal living long enough will probably suffer from some degree of arthritis, or joint inflammation. Since felines tend to hide any sort of illness, the onset of arthritis in your cat might not be as obvious as with your dog or even yourself. Yes, Kitty might seem stiff, especially when getting up from a nap, but you might need to use a process of elimination to figure out he has joint trouble. Has he stopped jumping onto counters or other high places? Is he a lot less active than he used to be? Is he not grooming harder-to-reach places? Your vet can examine him during his annual check-up and take X-rays to look for joint changes.
Meloxicam, marketed under the brand name Metacam, is the only non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that can be used for cats. If your vet does prescribe meloxicam for Kitty's arthritis, you must be very careful regarding dosage. Meloxicam is given to felines undergoing surgery as a one-time injection, notes VeterinaryPartner.com, or two or three times per week in an oral solution. Side effects can include vomiting and diarrhea.
You can purchase over-the-counter supplements to help ease Kitty's arthritis, but you should always clear these products with your vet before giving them to your cat. Known as nutraceuticals, supplements such as methyl-sufonyl-methane, or MSM, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate help maintain joint health and prevent cartilage wear. Other supplements that might aid Kitty's joints include fish or salmon oil capsules, which you can squeeze onto his food.
Cosequin and Dasuquin
While Cosequin and Dasuquin are both manufactured by Nutramax Laboratories as joint supplements for pets, the former is available over the counter while the latter can only be prescribed by vets. Both contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate; Dasuquin also contains avocado/soybean unsaponifiables, or ASU, an additional aid for joint health.
If Kitty is in severe pain from his arthritis, nutraceuticals or anti-inflammatories aren't going to the trick. If that's the case, your vet might prescribe an analgesic, which does nothing to slow down cartilage wear but offers pain relief. Pain medications often prescribed for cats include tramadol, a drug similar to codeine; amantadine, a relatively new drug for feline use, and gabapentin, which requires such small dosages for felines that your vet might need to order it from a compounding pharmacy.
Diet and Exercise
While supplements and medications can help cats with arthritis, diet and exercise are just as important. If Kitty is overweight, ask your vet about putting him on a diet to lose those extra pounds. Excess weight strains joints. You can also bond with Kitty while easing his joint pain by giving him regular massages. Those sessions soon turn into a purr-fest.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.