Q: I recently noticed that my 13-year-old cat has stopped playfully jumping up onto shelves and tables. I suspect she has arthritis. What lifestyle changes are recommended to manage her condition?

A: While arthritis is a guess for your kitty’s reduced activity, it’s not the only possible cause. Cats are especially good at hiding signs of their illness, so by the time you notice, it may well be too late to treat. Hence, before speculating further, it is better to pay a visit to your vet so that he can diagnose the cause of the issue, and rule out any other underlying medical conditions. Similarly to humans, cats suffer arthritis in their older age when cartilage in their joints begins to wear out. Without proper lubrication, the joints rub together and become inflamed, resulting in great pain and discomfort. If it is indeed arthritis, your vet will be able to advise on the appropriate diet and prescribe medication for your senior cat. In the meantime, you should make some adjustments to your home, so as to make it easier on your cat’s knees.

Since you’ve noticed her having difficulty reaching areas she used to love, try adding incremental steps so that she will be able to climb to her favourite spots on shelves or the table. Ensure food and water are easily accessible to her, and not in hard-to-reach places. Litter pans should also have steps so that she will not have difficulty climbing in and out when relieving herself. Depending on how severe her pains are, she may or not be able to groom herself at awkward spots. Assist her with daily grooming, so she won’t strain herself when trying to keep clean.