Imagine you’re watching your cat play, jumping and pouncing, running from room to room, when suddenly the thought hits you: Do cats have knees?
They definitely have joints, but they don’t look like human joints. If they do have knees, how many do they really have? Two, four? And what about elbows? How does it all work?
On the more practical side of things, you might notice your cat isn’t as sprightly as they once were. Is your cat missing the pep in their step? It could be joint issues that need attention.
We’ll discuss all this and more, so read on to learn all about cat and joint mobility.
Do Cats Have Elbows Or Knees?
Cat have joints that function like knees and elbows, but they’re not called knees and elbows. Felines have what we would consider elbows and wrists on their forelimbs. The wrist is right by the toes, with the elbow being the next joint further up the leg.
The cat’s “knee,” called the stifle joint, is located close to the hip on the hind legs. The muscle on the cat’s hind leg hides the knee joint, so it’s not easy to see. That means what we consider the knee on a cat’s hindleg is actually their ankle, called the hock. This joint bends backward and is the visible joint on the back leg.
Are Cat Knees Different From Human Knees?
Cat knees are similar to human knees, but they are located in different spots. Cats are unique because they have a joint that bends in a different direction than ours. This joint can be considered the cat’s ankle.
What Causes A Decline In A Cat’s Mobility?
The two greatest factors that result in poor mobility in cats are joint health and obesity. It is common for joint issues to progress with age, but obesity can drastically stimulate joint aging. Extra weight leads to more pressure on the joints, causing inflammation, pain, and decreased mobility.
The most common reason for a decline in a cat’s mobility is osteoarthritis, also referred to as degenerative joint disease (DJD). Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage, the spongy tissue that cushions the space between bones, weakens and ultimately deteriorates. The absence of cartilage in the joint causes bones to rub together, leading to inflammation. Movement becomes increasingly difficult and painful.
Like all creatures, cats want to avoid pain. If walking and jumping are going to cause pain, they will limit their movement, reducing their overall mobility.
Aside from weight gain and aging, various conditions contribute to osteoarthritis and reduce mobility:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Cruciate ligament disease
- Hip dysplasia
- Intervertebral disc disease
- Trauma (including declawing)
Signs Of Declining Cat Mobility
It’s not always easy to recognize a cat in pain. Watch out for these signs of pain and mobility problems.
- Reluctance to move
- Reduced jumping
- Hunched back
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of muscle mass
- Weight gain
- Sensitivity to being touched
- Unkept appearance (greasy hair, flaky skin)
- Accidents outside the litter box
If you see any of these symptoms or behaviors, contact your veterinarian. These are signs of musculoskeletal problems and could mean your furry friend needs treatment.
How Do I Keep My Cat’s Joints Healthy?
1. Keep Your Cat Active
We all know the phrase, “If you don’t move it, you’ll lose it.” Like humans, cats need regular activity to keep their bodies strong and joints lubricated. Exercise reduces bone loss and strengthens the muscles around joints. Without daily activity, your cat may lose their mobility, making daily to-dos—like jumping on the counters or chasing their favorite feather toy—much more difficult.
Keep your cat active with the following tips:
- Play throughout the day. Engaging in multiple play sessions gives your cat the opportunity for additional exercise.
- Install cat shelving or buy a cat tree to encourage additional movement. These physical challenges promote jumping and climbing to keep your cat’s joints healthy.
- Use bubbles and lasers to get your cat moving. Some bubbles are even catnip scented. To get your indoor cat really moving, consider a cat wheel. Not all cats take to the exercise wheel, but they are a fun and safe way for your cat to get a killer workout.
- Use puzzle feeders or have your cat forage for food. Cats in the wild work for their food, which makes it all the more rewarding. Use puzzle feeders to stimulate your cat’s predatory nature and keep them occupied throughout the day.
2. Control Your Cat’s Weight
Weight gain can play a huge role in joint pain and loss of mobility. Monitor your cat’s food intake and avoid free feeding if your cat is prone to overeating. Obesity prevention is crucial for joint health, as the extra weight can put more pressure on the joint and cause inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Weight control is not only crucial for joint health, but it also prevents additional health conditions related to obesity, like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Overfeeding is a common occurrence, especially as a cat age. As cats age and become less active, they will require fewer calories. Feeding table scraps and offering too many treats can contribute greatly to obesity. Over the course of the day, you might not realize how many calories your cat is really consuming.
If you think your feline needs to lose a few pounds, talk with your veterinarian. A physical exam will be done, possibly with additional diagnostic testing. Different breeds have unique body types, and your veterinarian will be able to give your an idea of what your cat’s ideal weight should be and how to reach it safely.
Your vet may instruct you to use certain food or reduce the portion of your cat’s normal food. Free feeding should stop while your cat is on a diet. If your kitty is upset with their new diet, use puzzle feeders to keep them distracted. Or, feed smaller meals more often so your cat is fooled into thinking they’re getting more than the restricted amount.
3. Schedule Regular Veterinary Visits
Schedule regular checkups to ensure your cat is being treated for any underlying conditions. There are a variety of conditions that may affect your cat’s mobility, including arthritis and diabetes. Even something as simple as an overgrown nail can change your cat’s activity level. It’s not always easy to recognize when your cat is sick or in pain, so regular vet visits will ensure your cat is in tip-top condition.
4. Give Supplements For Joint Health
Consider supplements for preventative and maintenance care. Look for a joint supplement that uses any of the following ingredients:
- Fish Oil: This healthy fat contains omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation.
- Glucosamine: Glucosamine is used by the body to rebuild cartilage.
- Chondroitin: Chondroitin blocks enzymes that break down cartilage and help build new cartilage.
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): A sulfur that reduces inflammation and may reduce pain.
- Green-lipped mussels: This supplement contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), like fish oil, but also Eicosatetraenoic Acid (ETA). ETA blocks enzymes that break down cartilage, reduces inflammation, and provides mild pain relief.
5. Modify Your Space
If your cat struggles with mobility issues, consider environmental modifications to help your furry friend get around the home. Climbing and descending stairs might be too painful, so ensure their food, scratching post, and litterbox is in an easily accessible location.
Station-heated pet beds around the house to soothe aching joints. Use portable ramps or stairs to ensure your cat can still reach their favorite napping areas. To help reach high places, you can use multi-tiered cat trees or furniture so your pet can make a series of small jumps that are less harsh on the joints.
Purchase a litter box with a low entryway so your cat can easily enter and exit without straining their joints. Provide several low-sided litter boxes to prevent accidents and make life more convenient for your kitty.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do Cats Have Knees Facing Different Directions?
Cats don’t have four knees. The “knees” on the front legs are actually their elbows.
What Is A Cat’s Knee Called?
The cat’s knee joint is technically referred to as the stifle joint.
So, there you have it! Cats have both elbows and knees. Mobility issues can quickly lead to health decline, so take care of your kitty’s joints with regular exercise and a healthy diet.