Recognizing pain in cats can be challenging for even the most dedicated cat parent, especially when it comes to chronic pain caused by arthritis. Even veterinarians often overlook signs of pain in cats, partly because some cats won’t show pain in a stressful situation such as being at the vet’s. Cats’ ability to hide pain goes back to their wild origins. In the wild, a sick animal becomes prey, so not showing weakness is crucial for survival.

3 in 10 cats suffer from arthritis, but only 7% of cats with arthritis receive treatment

Because the signs can be subtle, arthritis often remains untreated. As many as 3 in 10 cats suffer from this debilitating condition, but only 7% of cats with arthritis receive treatment.

Signs of arthritis

  • Your cat may be more hesitant to jump, both up or down.
  • Your cat may be reluctant to use stairs.
  • Your cat may be less playful.
  • Your cat may avoid the litter box (getting in and out of the litter box is painful).
  • Your cat may be grumpier than usual.
  • Your cat may change his eating habits.

Since some of these signs can also be indicators of other illnesses, it’s important to take your cat to your veterinarian as soon as possible for an exam and a proper diagnosis.

Cat Red Flags

Zoetis Animal Health created a wonderful website to help you learn more about understanding arthritis and what to look for to determine whether your cat may be in pain. The site is full of great information, including a checklist that lets you save and print your responses so you can share it with your veterinarian.

For more information, visit

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9 Comments on Understand the Signs of Arthritis Pain in Cats

  1. My cat is diagnosed with lymphoma too. And has arthritis. What did you do for the lymphoma? Was your cats passing difficult? I mean, was it hard on the cat? Signed, scared

    • Hi Che, I am truly sorry to hear of this diagnosis. I originally took Theo to see the vet for his decreased appetite when a mass was found. For his lymphoma, I took Theo to an oncologist. She performed a series of tests which confirmed small cell lymphoma and he was prescribed chemo. The dosage was in pill form and he was to take it every two weeks – he had taken two doses before he passed. As this was an aggressive type of cancer, my thoughts were to treat him with chemo and see how he responded. At his first checkup in late October, his test results were good. Afterwards he was his normal self, active and good appetite – I mean looking at him you would never have known he was sick. He was fine until the end of October when his appetite decreased again and the medications he was taking were not working – Mirataz and Prednisone. I ended up having to syringe feed him baby food – he was very weak and was not interested in any food. I decided not to pursue other treatments and did what I could to keep him comfortable, warm, and safe.
      He was diagnosed on 9/24/22 and put to sleep on 11/5/22 so unfortunately it was aggressive. I originally took him to see the vet due to decreased appetite. I think the hard part for him and for me was his continued decline and weakness. As a last ditch attempt to try to get him to eat, I took him to an emergency clinic. As I was getting out of the car, he had a seizure and I thought he had passed but he did not. A short time later, he was put to sleep with me by his side.
      I’m not sure how much more detail you would like but I can provide more if you need. My heart goes out to you and your precious cat. Let me know if there is anything else I can help.
      I am thinking of you during this difficult time.

      • Thank you Gloria. Zak my cat has had 4 chemo treatments, but it seems he’s getting weaker. They say he has 4 more to go. I don’t know what to say or do at this point. Just waiting to see how it goes, wanting to make him comfortable, looking to buy an orthopedic bed for his arthritis…thank you for your precious feedback on what happened to your kitty abd you. My prayers are with you now too

  2. Thank you for the information. I have bookmarked the site. Sadly my beloved cat, Theo passed away from lymphoma four days ago. Among other things, he suffered from OA. One of the things he taught me was to be vigilant about cat health and this article will help.

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