Dear Max,

You were a healthy cat for most of your life. No chronic issues or common problems.

We always fed you a high quality diet, and I think that helped a lot. Good quality nutrition for our pets, just like for us, helps us build and maintain a healthy strong body and immune system. You got regular health care, vaccinations and occasional deworming. Even though you were mostly an indoor cat, some preventive health care was still necessary.

You also had your teeth cleaned every few years, so you made it into your teens with all your teeth and in good general health. You were doing okay, just ‘slowing down’, but the signs of arthritis in cats are subtle. Research shows that most cats will have evidence of arthritis or degenerative joint disease by the age of twelve.

How did I start to look for the signs of arthritis? Well, by just assessing our regular routine and being super sensitive to any changes. Cats very rarely show pain by limping or crying out. Just like us, if there’s a little stiffness, they do their best to get on with the day.

I could see you starting to move around the house differently. You stopped jumping up directly onto the arm of the couch, choosing to jump onto the seat first and then to the arm. You didn’t follow me down the stairs to the basement as much. You were quieter during the day – no more ‘zoomies’, and you wanted to cuddle on my lap for longer in the evenings. You also started missing the litter box on occasion.

None of these things was alarming on its own, but put them all together and we have an old cat who is compensating for arthritis pain in his quiet, dignified way.

So what did I do? Well, you had a visit to the clinic for urine and blood testing. Once that was all clear, we started three different treatments for arthritis at the same time. By using several treatments that work in different ways, I was able to use lower doses and reduce the risk of side effects from the medications. Also, after a few weeks, we were able to wean down to two medications – one a powder and the other a flavoured liquid. We mixed both into your canned food.

I was really proud of the fact that my old cat was still active and mobile even as you neared and passed 17 years of age!

Living with you as you aged taught me the importance of careful observation. Even a small change in your daily routine was a valuable clue to your health.