Arthritis means inflammation of a joint. The disease has many types and causes, including old age and previous trauma to a joint due to infection or injury. Osteoarthritis frequently affects cats' elbows, backs and hips and joints in the hind limbs, and its prevalence increases dramatically with age. More than 80 % of cats older than 11 years old have it. In the case of congenital arthritis, some breeds are genetically predisposeds. Osteoarthritis is a joint disease characterized by degeneration of the fibrous caps covering the articular surfaces of the bones. Your cat may have a mild to severe lameness in hind or front legs upon standing, thickening of the joints of affected legs, overall stiffness, and apathy. Although it doesn't disappear, the lameness usually improves after mild exercise. If you gently move the affected joints, you may hear a grinding noise of cartilage or bone grating against each other. You may notice the presence of a mild fever that seems to randomly appear, disappear and reappear. These symptoms may develop slowly over the course of several years.
There is no effective means of arresting the progression of osteoarthritis in older cats; treatment is usually symptomatic, directing at relieving any significant pain and assisting the cat in getting to his or her favorite resting spot. Unfortunately, most drugs that are useful for the symptomatic relief of arthritis in people, dogs, and other animals are toxic to cats. One of the safest drugs for people and dogs, aspirin, can cause severe illness in cats and should only be used under veterinary supervision. Fortunately, few cats with osteoarthritis show discomfort and intermittent lameness or lameness that is only present on arising usually needs no treatment.
Recently, scientists at the University of Montreal's Quebec Research Group in Animal Pharmacology have found a way to recognize and treat osteoarthritis in cats. Their study demonstrated that daily oral meloxicam administration over four weeks provided various levels of pain relief, depending on the amount of the drug the cat was given. Cats that were in treated with the high dosage continued to enjoy pain relief for five weeks after dosage stopped. None of the cats had any side-effects. (source: "Diagnosis and Treatment Now Possible for Osteoarthritic Cats" sciencedaily.com)