May 2009 Issue

Is Your Cat Slowing Down?

Consider the possibility that your pet is experiencing pain in her joints. Here's what you can to do help alleviate her discomfort.

At the age of 12, your cat seems to be slowing down a bit, and that could be perfectly normal. After all, a cat of her age ó equivalent to the age of 65 or so in a human ó has been living a full life and deserves to take it easy on herself. Nevertheless, itís a good idea to have the animal checked out by your veterinarian. Itís quite possible that her diminished activity is a consequence not of her advancing age but of a debilitating pain in one or more of her joints. Slowed-down, reclusive behavior is an indication of a joint problem in cats of any age, says Christine Bellezza, DVM, a consultant at the Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicineís Feline Health Center. "Some of the signs are very subtle," she points out. "An affected cat may seem lethargic and may increasingly seek out comforting places to nap ó in a warm corner of your home, for example, or in a spot of sunshine near a window." The reclusive behavior can also be attributed to a deeply ingrained feline instinct for self-protection. A cat may want to conceal its disability for fear of alerting a potential predator to its vulnerability. Other indications that a cat is suffering pain in one or more of its joints may not be so subtle. "The cat may have trouble hopping in and out of its litter box," says Dr. Bellezza, "and it may avoid going up and down stairs." It is also possible for a cat with a severe joint problem to become constipated because it canít position itself properly to defecate. Furthermore, due to joint pain, an affected cat may be unable to groom itself thoroughly.

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