How do I know if my cat has arthritis?

There are a number of things to look out for which may indicate your cat has arthritis. While we may think some changes are just old age, they may actually indicate the presence of joint disease which may lead to discomfort and pain for your cat.

Don’t let your feline friend suffer in silence and read on to find out all about what arthritis is, how to tell if your cat may have it, and what to do about it?

What is arthritis?

Arthritis or degenerative joint disease is a condition of joints that produces degenerative, progressive and irreversible changes. The changes include inflammation, loss of cartilage (which acts as the shock absorber in the joints), and the formation of osteophytes which are pieces of bone laid down in an effort to protect the joint surface. There can also be thickening and scarring of connective tissue around the joint.

Arthritis occurs in older cats as a result of years of wear and tear on the joints. There are a number of risk factors which may increase the risk of arthritis in cats such as genetics, certain joint problems like hip dysplasia or patella luxation (kneecap instability), injury and trauma and finally obesity!

Signs of arthritis in cats

Cats are masters of hiding discomfort and pain so often do not demonstrate obvious signs that you may expect. They may even restrict their activity to minimise the use of sore joints, in particular they uncommonly show obvious signs of limping which is usually seen with dogs who suffer from arthritis.

Common signs of arthritis in cats:

  • Altered grooming (may see a scruffy and matted coat)
  • Reduced activity (increase time sleeping and resting, reduced interaction)
  • Reluctance to climb or jump onto furniture
  • Change in toileting (not using the litter tray as can’t get into or out of it)
  • Temperament changes (more irritable or grumpy, avoiding interaction)

It is worthwhile to note that cats can spend up to 90% of their day sleeping so any signs of arthritis that they may show will only occur in a short window of time for the owners to detect. Furthermore cats will very rarely vocalise when in pain, so it is important to know the signs to look out for. Even if you are not sure if your cat has arthritis, it is worthwhile taking them to the vet for a check up for a clinical assessment and further work up, if required.

How is arthritis diagnosed in cats?

Arthritis is more common in older cats, so it should be looked for in any cat from 7 years of age or older.  A diagnosis is based on signs and changes you notice in your cat’s behaviour, along with an examination by the vet and any further tests like x- rays. 

The vet may be able to detect pain, discomfort or any swelling in the joints by examining your cat, as well as look for signs of muscle wasting and stiffness. Imaging, like x-rays are not always required and usually a trial treatment with medications may be used.

Further tests like blood and urine tests may also be performed especially before starting on some medications. 

Treatment and management of arthritis in cats

The treatment and management options for arthritis are what we call multimodal where we combine medication and supplements with environmental and behaviour changes. This seems to be the most effective way we can manage arthritis and it is important to note that there will be large individual variation.

As described above we focus on management of the disease as it is not possible to cure arthritis. The goals are to make your cat more comfortable and to minimise further changes to the joints if possible. 


Your vet will determine if medication is required and in many cases this can be the best treatment option for your cat. 

The most common medication for arthritis is non-steroidal anti- inflammatories such as meloxicam. This medication does not come without risks and often blood tests will be required to especially monitor your cat’s kidney function.

There are also the options of injections for your cat but again this will depend on individual cases. A newer injection which your vet may prescribe is called Solensia. It is made from an antibody (a cat specific protein) which is designed to recognise and attach to a protein called nerve growth factor (NGF) which is involved in the regulation of pain. It then is able to neutralise NGF, blocking it almost completely and thereby alleviating pain. 

Another injection (pentosan polysulphate) used off label in cats has been shown to preserve joint health and provide pain relief. 

Other options include opioids (temgesic or tramadol) especially for those who either can’t tolerate the other medications or who need a higher level of pain relief, and gabapentin which is beneficial for nerve pain and has some sedative effects in cats.

Supplements and food

There are several dietary supplements and diets available for cats with arthritis. They usually contain a combination of essential fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation as well as glycosaminoglycans (glucosamine and chondroitin) which help to repair and build cartilage. The benefits of these supplements will be variable and are more effective if combined with other management tools.

Weight control is a very important strategy in the management of arthritis in cats as being overweight can exacerbate arthritis so should be avoided. There are a number of diets that can assist with this including lower calorie options, prescription weight-loss diets and even diets containing joint care ingredients.

Environmental and enrichment strategies

Modifying the environment can help improve your cat’s quality of life when they are dealing with arthritis. Some ideas include

  • The use of a soft  and comfortable bed, placed in an easily accessible location
  • The use of steps or ramps to provide access to higher places that they may like to seek
  • Low rimmed litter trays and enough of them placed in easily accessible places
  • Still encourage gentle exercise by playing with them and can use interactive toys to help and stimulate their interest
  • Groom them regularly as they may have difficulty grooming themselves if their joints are stiff

Wrap up

The most important take home message for this blog would be that cats don’t display what one might think are obvious signs of arthritis. It is important to look out for the subtle changes they may indicate joint disease and have these confirmed with your vet. An arthritic cat is not just an old cat but there are plenty of management tools we can use to make them more comfortable and thrive in their senior years. 

Pet Insurance 101: A Guide for new Pet-Parents

What is pet insurance?

According to recent surveys carried out by Animal Medicines Australia, nearly 70% of all Australian households own a pet! We have one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world and pets have become a part of our families. But it comes with no surprise that as much as they enrich our lives, they come with both big personal and financial commitments. Many pet parents don’t realise the high cost of unexpected veterinary bills and this can be assisted with pet insurance.

Pet insurance helps cover the costs of unexpected veterinary expenses, should your pet require them in instances of unexpected illness or injury. Pet insurance is designed for those unexpected events that are challenging to budget for. It can be useful to ask yourself the question “Would you be able to afford unplanned large veterinary expenses if your beloved pet becomes sick or injured?”. Pet insurance helps to give you the ability to consider all treatment options without being overwhelmed by the cost.

It’s like Car Insurance …

Another way to think about pet insurance is that it resembles car insurance in that the premium you pay correlates to your pet’s risk of incurring expenses such as age and breed of your dog. Another similarity is that pet insurance covers for unexpected veterinary expenses (like a car crash for car insurance) rather than routine, expected health maintenance such as vaccinations, health checks and parasite preventatives (just like routine servicing of your car which is not covered by car insurance).

Pre-existing conditions?

An important note is that pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions. Subsequently any illness, injury or condition that occurred prior to purchasing the insurance policy or within an applicable exclusion period will not be covered for. Therefore, it is often recommended to get pet insurance for puppies and kittens before they have had the chance to acquire any conditions. The younger the pet is when you get pet insurance, the better the chance that you pet will have fewer pre-existing conditions!

Both puppies and kittens can be curious, accident and illness prone by eating things they shouldn’t or getting into places they shouldn’t and having pet insurance gives you peace of mind that you can afford what could be life saving treatment they may require. This can be especially beneficial if your pet then requires specialist treatment or surgeries, that can be in the thousands of dollars. Keep in mind that pet insurance does not cover everything and there are some conditions and exclusions, but still it would be very reassuring knowing you have cover for the unexpected big bills.

Use our quote tool to see what your monthly premiums would be.

How does pet insurance work?

You start by personalising the level of cover you need for your pet!

Annual limit (maximum payout): $10K, $17.5k or $30k for dogs and $2.5K, $5K or $10K for cats.
Benefit percentage: 70%, 80% or 90%;
Annual excess $0, $75 or $150;

Pet Circle Insurance has no sneaky sub-limits.

What does ‘no sneaky sub-limits’ mean?

The annual limit is the amount of money you can claim back each year in total, with no sub-limits.

If you have an annual limit of $30k (subject to any chosen annual excess) you can claim vet costs and treatment up to that limit each year. Lots of other insurers place additional cap or limit (so called sub-limits) on the amount you can claim for certain conditions or treatments like tick paralysis or hip replacements – not us!

A benefit percentage means the portion of the claim you will receive back from a claim.

For example, if your pet’s treatment comes to the cost of $1,000, you would pay your vet directly and then make a claim with the insurer. Say your annual excess is $150 and your benefit percentage is 80%, then if your claim is approved, you will receive [$1,000-$150 (excess)= $850] x80% = $680 reimbursed to you.

The annual excess is the amount that you (the pet owner) pays towards a claim. Once you have paid your annual excess, then any future claims during the same period of insurance (ie 12 months period) will not have the annual excess deducted. Lots of insurers have an excess for each claim or condition, but ours is a single annual amount for all claims and conditions.

How does the claims process work?

After treatment, we need to review the receipt as well as any medical history from your veterinarian in order to process a claim. You will then get reimbursed into your bank account when the claim is accepted.

You just log into our handy-dandy customer portal, where you can upload everything. If we need more information, we will follow up with your vet for you.

Written by Dr. Angie, the brilliant veterinary mind behind Pet Circle Insurance. With over 15 years of experience in the veterinary field and hands-on experience in handling insurance claims, Angie is a trusted and reliable source of truth when it comes to all things pet-related. Her passion for small animal medicine, nutrition, and the human-animal bond shines through in her work with the Pet Circle Veterinary Squad, where she provides top-notch advice and support to pet owners.

Should my cat be indoors only or outdoors?

You may have recently bought a kitten or recently adopted a cat and are now deciding “should my cat be indoors only or outdoors?”! This is a very personal choice with benefits and disadvantages to both, so I will share my thoughts and experience below to help you with the decision.

Indoor life for a cat

Many people prefer to keep their feline companion indoors and because of this, there are many products and information to help best equip them for a happy and fulfilled indoor life!

Keeping a cat indoors may decrease some risk of injury that they can experience if they were allowed outdoors. This includes: being hit by a car, dog attacks, cat fights, paralysis ticks and snakes (just to name a few)!

I do still like to recommend using some preventatives that includes tick control as ticks can still be brought inside by humans or other pets who are allowed outdoors. Indoor life is not free form risk and cats can still get sick, injured and stressed living indoors so pet insurance is still a good idea for indoor cats, just be aware of what accidents or illness are covered by ‘indoor ‘policies.

Natural Instincts for indoor cats

Even if brought up indoors from a kitten, cats will still have instincts for hunting, scratching, grooming, and climbing. This is completely normal and these instincts should be encouraged, but in a way that is best suited for indoor life. For example, using cat furniture such as scratching posts will help satisfy the urge to scratch.

Did you know that a cat’s paws contain sweat glands so whilst they are scratching, they are actually marking their territory too! You can also discourage scratching your furniture and sofas by placing double sided tape which cats hate!

Other cat furniture such as hammock beds for windows or walls can be very popular with cats as they enjoy sleeping or observing the world from different heights (while enjoy the feeling of security and privacy). Cats love Being at a height that gives a vantage to survey their territory.

Cat Playtime

Another strong and instinctive behaviour is the hunting instinct. You can help satisfy this urge to hunt by playing with toys with your cat, especially ones that you can dangle and move to allow them to pounce and chase. This can also help strengthen your bond with them.

Grooming your furry-friend

We all know cats love to groom, but did you know why? In the wild felines groom to minimise shedding of their coat which can help lower the chance of leaving behind traces of fur. You can encourage cats to groom by not disturbing them during a grooming session and brushing them regularly to help maintain their coat which can prevent matting and hairballs.


Cats are clean creatures and like a clean litter tray. Instinctively they prefer not to use a dirty tray where the smell can get onto them making it easier for predators to sniff them! Encouraging your cat to use their litter tray is also important to prevent urinary issues and toileting outside of the litter tray.

This can be helped by keeping litter trays clean, ensuring they are placed in a private location and at least two available to use as required. Choice is important, a good rule of thumb is to always have one more litter tray than the amount of cats you own.

Cat Feeding

As mentioned, cats do like to hunt and their feline ancestors had to hunt for their food. Why not make mealtimes interesting and make them work for their food? This can be done by using interactive feeding methods such as treat dispensers, food mazes, puzzles and lickimats for wet food.

This can help to decrease boredom, increase mental stimulation as well as encouraging some more activity (especially for those sedentary and perhaps overweight indoor cats!). Consider dental kibble and treats to help assist with preventing dental disease.

Outdoor Life

Outdoor life for cats can be filled with stimulation and excitement but also provides more danger from outdoor threats. There are things you can do to help keep them as safe as possible whilst roaming outside including considering pet insurance. I would recommend keeping your feline friend indoors for the first few weeks to help them settle into their new environment, this can be a stressful time for them and you don’t want them getting lost and not remembering where home is!

You want to ensure your cat is neutered and up to date with vaccinations before letting them out, this helps to control unwanted pregnancies, spread of diseases and fighting!

Outdoor Enclosure for cats

If you just want your cat to have a taste of the outdoors but still be safe from threats, then an outdoor enclosure is a great option. You can buy one or even design and make one yourself. This allows them to see the outside and experience the feel of the outdoors but not let the get into mischief! You can add to the experience with hammocks, scratching posts, a litter tray, and some toys for them to play with!

How to identify a cat

The most important thing for outdoor cats is the ability to be identified in case they get lost, hurt or in trouble. Apart from a collar with tag (engraved with owner details) there are now tracking devices with gps, where you can track your cat at any time! All cats should be microchipped whether they are indoor or outdoors and these microchips can be scanned at any vet clinic or shelter and their unique number will be associated with your contact details.

TIP! You can attach a bell to their collar, which can help warn birds and other potential prey that they are being stalked! This can reduce you cat brining you a ‘gift’ in the middle of the night.

Safety first

Consider the outdoors environment you intend letting them have access to and nearby areas they might roam. Ensure there are no toxic plants such as lilies, daffodils, tulips, snake plant, aloe vera or floxglove around!  Also make sure there is water available to them when they are outdoors, as they get a lot more physical activity than their indoors counterparts.

Training an outdoor cat

Another tip to try is to train them to come home! You can achieve this by providing tasty treats or meals, calling them and lots of cuddles and affection when they do return. By doing this, you can encourage them to come home before dusk or dark (which is a favourite time for cats to fight!). I would encourage you to let your cat out in the morning rather than night when they could be more easily involved in a road accident in the dark.

If you want to let you cat have a taste of the outdoors but would prefer them not to roam you can let them outside on a harness and lead with you present. This way they can still sniff and walk around, eat some grass, roll on the ground but you know they are secure and won’t be going too far!

Both indoor and outdoor cats can benefit from insurance to help protect them, our policy covers indoor and outdoor cats the same. Outdoor cats can have falls or accidents and often get parasites like ticks, we protect for both.

Dr Angie with Axel

Written by Dr. Angie, the brilliant veterinary mind behind Pet Circle Insurance. With over 15 years of experience in the veterinary field and hands-on experience in handling insurance claims, Angie is a trusted and reliable source of truth when it comes to all things pet-related. Her passion for small animal medicine, nutrition, and the human-animal bond shines through in her work with the Pet Circle Veterinary Squad, where she provides top-notch advice and support to pet owners.