NINE LIVES BY STACY N. HACKETT
MIN D & B O D Y M y first cat, Jordan, began to walk a bit slower and with less “spring” in his step in the last few years of his life. He could still jump up on the bed and make it up the stairs, and every once in a while he would get the “cat crazies” and race around the house, but he didn’t have the limber, fluid grace he had as a younger cat. Our vet assured me that this was a natural slowing process of Jordan’s aging and not symptoms of arthritis. Some of the symptoms my vet mentioned — the appearance of stiffness when a cat woke up
from a nap, limping that affected one or more limbs, or difficulty jumping to spots
he easily accessed before — were re-emphasized by Elaine Wexler-Mitchell, D.V.M.,
ABVP, of the Cat Care Clinic in Orange, California ( catcare.com). She said these are
“signs that degenerative joint disease, better known as osteoarthritis, exists.”
Dr. Wexler-Mitchell further explained that this condition develops when the
cartilage between bones breaks down and no longer cushions the joints, allowing
friction to occur. The resulting inflammation of the joints is called arthritis.
Arthritis is not the only malady to affect a cat’s joints. Other conditions include
displacement of the kneecap, hip dysplasia, and joint trauma (including ligament
tears). A hereditary disorder, kneecap displacement occurs when the kneecap (
patella) does not develop normally. This condition may be accompanied by other abnor-malities of the cat’s hind leg, such as the hip joint, femur, or tibia. Hip dysplasia is
another hereditary condition involving abnormal development of a cat’s hip joints.
Kittens typically don’t suffer from arthritis but might inherit the tendency to
develop kneecap displacement or hip dysplasia. A kitten can also experience
joint trauma if one of her limbs becomes twisted.
As a kitten, our black-and-white domestic shorthair (Tux) wedged one of
his front legs in a small hole in the decorative woodwork on a dining room
chair and wrenched it out before we could ease it out gently. When he start-
ed limping, we had him examined by our veterinarian. Luckily, Tux had only
the feline equivalent of a strained muscle, and we just helped him rest and
recover. We also modified the chairs to
prevent further incidents.
Don’t worry: If your kitten
seems to totter around on unsteady
legs. Young kittens can be wobbly
and not always sure on their feet.
She’ll gain her footing as she grows.
Be concerned: Limping,
avoiding activity, and cries of pain are
warning signs. If your kitten displays any
of these, have her examined by a vet as
soon as possible.
Adults are susceptible to joint trauma, and
older adult cats might begin to show signs
of arthritis. “Cats don’t complain about their
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