Cat Arthritis Pain Relief

What can I give my cat for arthritis pain relief?

Finding your cat pain relief can be tricky, but not impossible! If you are concerned that your cat may be in pain, talk to your veterinarian. Pain relief for cats with arthritis can come from a variety of sources – from simple home remedies to professional physiotherapy. Let’s take a closer look…

How does my cat feel the pain of arthritis?

All mammals feel pain in a similar manner. Pain happens when the brain senses a noxious stimulus somewhere in the body. Pain can be a sign of inflammation and it also acts as a warning to help prevent further bodily harm. Cats can feel pain from a variety of sources, whether it is due to arthritis, an injury or some other cause.


Cats are stoic creatures and hide their pain well. Pet parents need to be aware of signs that your cat may be in pain, such as:

  • Change in personality
  • Less affectionate
  • Becoming more aggressive
  • Walking stiffly or slowly
  • Limping
  • ‘Hunched’ back appearance
  • Decreased appetite
  • Doesn’t like to be stroked or brushed
  • Moving away from your touch, hissing, growling or striking out
  • Urinating or defecating outside the litter box
  • Sleeping more
  • Lack of interest in play or toys
  • Reluctance to use stairs
  • Reluctance to jump up or down

Pain Relief for Cats with Arthritis

Pain relief for cats can come from a variety of sources. Let’s take a look at a few:


NSAIDS for arthritisNSAIDs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs decrease inflammation in the body and help to control pain. There are different types of NSAIDs and only a few are safe to give your cat pain relief. Metacam (meloxicam) and Onsior are examples that your veterinarian may prescribe for pain but like all drugs come with pros and cons.

Over-the-counter (OTC) ‘human’ NSAIDs should never be given to cats. Drugs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are toxic to cats. Aspirin is not recommended unless your veterinarian has given you a very specific dose for your cat. Common NSAIDs used in dogs, like Rimadyl (carprofen) should not be used in cats.



Joint Supplements

Joint supplements for Cat arthritis

Joint supplements can be purchased online at reasonable prices. Many good quality joint supplements have a combination of ingredients that help to nourish cartilage within the joint, decrease inflammation and control pain. Joint supplements may provide pain relief for cats with arthritis.

Look for a joint supplement that contains ingredients like:

  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin sulfate
  • Avocado/soybean ultrasaponifiables
  • Vitamin C
  • Essential Fatty Acids (omega-3, omega-7)


Beware of Essential Oils and Cats

Cats are very sensitive to essential oils. Some, such as tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil, can cause skin damage and potentially liver damage. Using an essential oil diffuser in the home can be very irritating to the respiratory tract of cats. It is highly recommended to seek out advice from a holistic veterinarian before using essential oils for cat pain relief.

Acupuncture for cat pain relief

Acupuncture is an ancient form of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Energy is believed to flow through meridians in the body. When the energy, or chi, is disrupted, disease processes occur. Pain can be controlled by stimulating different places (points) along the meridians.

This may surprise you… but acupuncture can also be used for cat pain relief. Two different techniques are commonly employed – dry-needle or wet-needle technique. For cats that are less likely to sit still during a dry-needle session, wet-needle is the injection of a liquid (often B-vitamins).


Opioid drugs, or drugs with narcotic-like activity, are often used for pain relief in cats with arthritis that is moderate to severe. These medications are easily compounded into liquid forms and can be given by mouth. Your veterinarian can prescribe drugs such as buprenorphine and tramadol to help provide pain relief for cats with arthritis.


Gabapentin is in a class of drugs all its own. It is used in human and veterinary medicine for seizure patients and for pain control. It controls pain by blocking signals within the nerves and brain. Gabapentin is available in liquid oral forms and can be compounded specifically for cat pain relief. It is often used in combination with other drugs for cat pain relief or for cats that cannot take NSAIDs.

Cat Pain Relief – What’s coming in the future?

New pain control medications are being explored every day for our pets. One that is sure to make headlines if it comes to pass is Cannabis use in cats. Cannabis oil has shown promise in rat studies for pain control associated with tumors. In the future, more research and data may be available to make cannabis oil legal for veterinary use. Until that time, please stick to legal, safe alternatives for your kitties.

Quality of Life and Pain Control

We want our beloved four legged family members to live as long as possible – as comfortably as possible. If you are concerned about your cat’s well-being and need cat pain relief – talk to your veterinarian as soon as you can. Set up an appointment and discuss your treatment goals and preferences.

Helping cats with ArthritisWritten by Dr. Deborah Shores, veterinarian, freelance writer and consultant. With a B.S. in Animal Science from Berry College in Rome, Georgia and a D.V.M. from Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine Deborah has a special interest in animal behavior and nutrition.