Managing Joint Pain in Cats

Tami J. has an older cat named Tigger who's having pain issues.  Tami writes:

Tigger is older - 16 yrs - and his hips are bothering him. Can I give him aspirin, ibuprofen, or any over the counter medicine for pain?

Tami, it's very important that you avoid giving any human medications to Tigger, especially NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).  NSAIDs can be particularly harmful to cats.  This group of drugs includes such common human medications as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and aspirin.  Avoid these.

Joint pain is a complicated subject and something that almost every senior cat will experience.  They'll try to hide it, of course, so you're obviously a loving and attentive caregiver to notice.  Your first course of action should be to discuss possible treatments with your veterinarian.  We know how stressful a vet visit can be for an aging kitty, but it can be worth it in the long run. 

One of the most successful treatments we've seen is acupuncture.  Don't laugh!  There are now acupuncturists who specialize in treating animals.  It can be a highly effective method to lessen joint pain.

As to things you can do at home, there are a number of good supplements on the market.  The most effective ones include both glucosamine and condroitin.  We've linked to a couple of products below that are designed to be mixed with wet food.  As with any supplement, you'll want to at least check with your vet before giving one of them to Tigger.

 
 
 
 

The only other things you can do, Tami, is to try and make Tigger comfortable.  Adding ramps or little steps so he can get to his favorite window or up onto the bed will help.  You should make sure the sides of his litter box aren't too high as well.  Heat will help Tigger feel better, so make sure he has lots of warm bedding.  Thermal mats like the ones below can be warmer than traditional cat beds, or they can be added to his favorite spot.

 
 

There are also electric warmers and even microwavable ones, but we've yet to find one that we'd definitely recommend.  The electric ones are potentially hazardous (we'd prefer not to mix electricity with cats) and the microwave ones just don't give off heat for more than a couple of hours.

Tami, we hope you're able to comfort Tigger, and would love to know what does and doesn't work for you.  Thank you for caring for him.  He's lucky to have you!