Top 10 Symptoms of Arthritis in Cats + Signs of Pain

Just how can you tell if your cat has arthritis?  What are the signs of pain in cats?  The last thing you want is for them to be really painful and suffering in silence.  They can be great at hiding their pain but they do give us some clues so join me as I go through the 10 main symptoms of arthritis in cats.


Cats are the great hiders of disease and so it can be much harder to spot when they have a problem.  Arthritis is no different.  Cats tend to adapt their behavior much better and as a result you may only notice signs of a problem when things are much more advanced.  Or if you know what signs and symptoms to look for!

Limping in severe pain

So what are the signs your cat has arthritis?  What symptoms do you need to look out for that indicate they might be in pain?  It's easy, they limp right?!  Well they might limp but cats will actually often only limp when they are in severe pain and not in the early days of the disease.  Remember arthritis is progressive so we want to be picking it up before the pain is so severe our cat is limping.

So while limping is a sign of arthritis in cats, it is often much more subtle that it is in dogs and may even be absent despite significant joint pain.

Trouble climbing and jumping

Climbing and jumping are my 2nd and 3rd signs of arthritis in your cat that you might notice.  These activities put a lot more stress through the joints and so can be very painful in arthritis cats.  You might notice your cat doesn't come upstairs much anymore or spend time on the roof or up a tree when they used to spend a lot of time there when they were younger.

In the same way, jumping will be reduced.  Your cat may still be able to get up on the table but rather than taking just a single spring to get there, they first jump onto a chair to make each jump smaller.  When getting down you may also notice them hesitating.  they know it is likely to hurt so have to psych themselves up first.

Reduced grooming and matted fur

Cats normally spend a lot of time grooming.  When arthritic though, stretching and reaching all areas becomes too painful and even the most fastidious of groomers may struggle to maintain a sleek coat.  This means that a common symptom of arthritis in cats is their hair coat becoming matted and unkempt.  You might notice that there appears to be a lot of loose hair on your cat that would normally be groomed out and that you just never see them licking themselves anymore.

Sleeping all the time

My 4th symptom of arthritis in cats is the fact that they will seem to sleep more.  Cats are great at modifying their behavior to cope with the pain of arthritis.  When they are lying still in their bed they are not so painful and so this is where they might spend the majority of their time.  You may also find that they change where they sleep.  Preferring to curl up in low accessible places as opposed to the high spots they used to prefer.  It might just be too painful to get to their favorite spot these days.

Stop playing and inactivity

After all this, you wont be surprised by the 5th arthritis symptom. A painful cat is not a playful cat.  You won't be able to tempt them with a toy mouse or a laser beam.

All of these points lead to a massive reduction in general activity levels at 6.  As a result your cats claws may start to become quite overgrown.  In some cats this can be to such an extent that they actually curl round and grow into their own pads.  This is incredibly painful in it's own right, just adding to the pain of arthritis.

Cats are great at hiding their pain. Make sure your cat is not suffering in silence from the pain of arthritis

Stop using litter tray

At 7 we have the fact that a cat with arthritis may really struggle to get into their litter tray. If you have a high sided litter tray or if the tray is not easy to access then you might find that your cat starts having accidents and urinating outside of their litter tray.

Become reclusive

As things get worse, and at number 8, your cat may reduce its interaction with you.  They may no longer come to greet you when you get home from work or may not come and sit on your lap in the evening.  It may be too much for them to get to you and they may also be anticipating the fact that actually being stroked and played with, however gently, is going to hurt them.

Change in personality and behavior

Tied in with this, and my number 9 sign of arthritis in cats, is them seeming to be grumpy when handled.  They may just seem to grumble or go rigid.  They might though hiss or even scratch or try and bit when you pick them up, quite out of character.

And so at number 10 we have a change of character with aggression and grumpiness being hallmarks of severe pain being present.  You might just think your cat is getting old and cantankerous.  In reality they are just in constant pain and it's no surprise they become permanently grumpy.  Take that pain away and you will give them a new lease of life!

So those are my 10 signs of arthritis in cats.  If you notice any of them make sure you get your cat checked out by your vet.  Your cat deserves to be pain free in their old age so let them have the quality of life they deserve.

What signs have you noticed in your cat that makes you think they have arthritis?  I'd love to read them in the comments below.

Our Pets Health: because they're family.