Degenerative Joint Disease in Cats

Osteoarthritis in Cats

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), is defined as the progressive and permanent long-term deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints. Arthritis is the medical term for inflammation of the joints, while osteoarthritis is the term referring to a form of chronic joint inflammation caused by deterioration of joint cartilage.

Cats are susceptible to DJD, with older animals being at the highest risk.

Symptoms and Types

Cats with DJD are unlikely to exhibit lameness, instead having difficulty grooming, jumping onto furniture, or accessing the litter box. A stiff-legged gait, decreased range of motion, and increased irritability may also be apparent.


There is no known cause for primary DJD. However, there are a wide variety of causes for secondary DJD, such as trauma, abnormal wear on joints and cartilage, or a congenital defect present at birth such as an improperly formed hip (also known as hip dysplasia).

Causes of secondary DJD in cats include dislocation of the knee cap, hip dysplasia, and a variety of joint diseases.

Obesity is another factor for DJD, as it increases stress on joints.


Diagnosis of DJD may be settled upon based on an assessment of historical symptoms, such as decreased activity or stiffness, as well as a physical examination which will reveal a decreased range of motion, stiff-legged gait, deformity of the joints, and swelling or pain in the joints.

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