Getting old isn't any easier for felines than it is for people. As Kitty ages, he might come down with arthritis, resulting in swollen joints and general stiffness. However, arthritis isn't the only reason joints swell up. Swelling means that fluid is filling the spaces inside the joints.
Cats don't show evidence of arthritis the way dogs or people do, so you have to keep an eye out for changes in an older feline's behavior. He might not be as active as he once was, or avoids climbing up on formerly favorite perches, such as sunny windowsills. Swollen joints can indicate arthritis, as the cartilage cushioning his joints from his bones begins to degenerate. His joint might actually make a creaking noise when he gets up from a prone position or otherwise moves around. Take him to the vet for an examination. She might recommend medications or supplements to ease pain. Keep Kitty at a healthy weight, as excess pounds put more stress on his joints.
If Kitty goes outside or isn't receiving a monthly topical flea and tick preventive, he could pick up disease from a tick bite. Although ticks carry a variety of diseases, one in particular might cause joint swelling as a symptom. That is Lyme disease, which also affects humans, dogs and horses. If Kitty also exhibits weight loss, lack of appetite, lethargy and fever, Lyme disease could be the culprit. Your vet tests Kitty's blood for evidence of Lyme disease. If he's positive, antibiotics can get him back on track.
If Kitty appears with a suddenly swollen joint, it could be due to trauma. Check his leg or wherever the swelling appears for signs of injury. Be careful - Kitty is likely in pain. Take him to the vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
The largest joints in Kitty's body are his hips. Hip dysplasia results from abnormalities in the joint, which might be a condition present from birth but progressively worsening as Kitty ages. Symptoms of hip dysplasia include joint swelling, lameness and obvious pain. Your vet performs an X-ray of the hip to make a definite diagnosis. While there is no cure, she can prescribe pain medication to ease his discomfort. Again, keeping Kitty at a healthy weight also eases symptoms. If Kitty is severely afflicted and his femur doesn't fit into the hip joint, surgery might be required.
If Kitty suffers from arthritis, ask your vet about giving him supplements such as glucosamine, chrondroitin sulfate or methyl-sufonyl-methane, better known as MSM. While you can purchase these products over-the-counter or online, ask your vet for brand and dosage recommendations.
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.