If your older cat's not as agile as he used to be, he's not alone. Arthritis affects elderly cats as often as it does dogs or people, but felines hide it better. You can't give Kitty the kind of drugs you or Fido might take for creaky joints, but there are medicinal options to consider.
Another term for arthritis is degenerative joint disease, which pretty much explains the condition. Kitty's joint cartilage, the cushions between bones, wears down. That process results in pain and inflammation. You might notice that Kitty's not jumping up on counters or his favorite windowsill any more. He might seem stiff when he gets up, or his joints appear swollen. According to the ASPCA, a cat's elbow joints are the most likely to become arthritic.
If you're feeling stiff and sore, you might pop a couple of aspirin or ibuprofen. That not only won't work for Kitty, it could make him very sick or even kill him. Many of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs vets use to treat dogs also have harmful effects on cats, as felines are extremely sensitive to those medications. One exception is meloxicam, marketed under the brand name Metocam. However, you must be very careful regarding dosage with the liquid oral version, as overdosing is dangerous. Your vet can also give Kitty injectable meloxicam on a regular basis to relieve arthritis pain.
Many of the supplements you see in your local pharmacy and supermarket to relieve arthritis pain in people also come in feline versions. Among the most common are glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, which promote joint health. Nutramax Laboratories' Cosequin for Cats supports the production of cartilage while preventing cartilage degeneration. Unlike many other glucosamine/chronoitin sulfate products marketed for cats or people, Cosequin has been shown to be "effective, safe, and bioavailable in published, controlled U.S. studies," according to its website. Available in fish- or chicken-flavored capsules, you mix Cosequin in with Kitty's food each day.
Methyl-sulfonate-methane is a natural sulfur source. The powder or pill you can purchase over the counter comes from an industrial or medical solvent, DMSO. Not only does MSM act as an anti-inflammatory, but it aids in promoting cartilage repair. Many arthritis supplements contain MSM, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. You can mix MSM in with Kitty's food or give it to him as a pill.
Unless your cat's one of the rare felines who turns his nose up at fish, giving him fish oil supplements for his arthritis should be a breeze. Fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Ask your vet about the best fish oil supplements for Kitty.
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.