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Can cats develop a fear of jumping, and should I be worried?
kittyandkato posted:
Out of nowhere, my cat seems afraid to jump up (into the window, onto the bed, etc.). Jumping down doesn't seem to be a problem, but when he wants to get up somewhere, he pulls himself up with his front paws, rather than springing off from his rear paws. His legs and paws don't seem to be causing him any pain and his appetite and personality are normal, so I don't think he is sick. But he has never had trouble jumping or shown trepidation about it before. He is a senior (approximately 10 years old), but just recently got a clean bill of health from the vet.

Any thoughts about what's going on? Should I be concerned?
srstephanie responded:
Hi kittyandkato,

I'm not so sure I would jump to the conclusion that he doesn't have any pain. The refusal to jump up on things is one of the most common and classic symptoms of osteoarthritis (now commonly called "degenerative joint disease" DJD) in cats. I had a geriatric kitty who had symptoms of arthritis very similar to your cat ... i.e. she would put her front paws on something and then with a small hop would pull herself up with her front legs. Veterinary researchers are discovering that DJD is much more common in middle aged and older cats than they once realized ... because cats generally don't limp or become vocal with pain.

I'm not a vet and there may be other causes, but I'd encourage you to take him to a vet and let the vet know of his reluctance to jump. Your vet may want to do x-rays (though DJD doesn't always show on x-rays) ... or may want to try giving some pain medication to see if it helps.

If your vet feels that DJD may be a factor, you might also try giving a neutraceutical like Cosequin (a veterinary formulation of glucosamine and chondroitin). One of the leading veterinary researchers on treating pain from DJD in cats is Dr Duncan Lascelles at NC State. He feels that Dasuquin works even better in cats. Dasuquin is the same as Cosequin (by the same company) but adds avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU). Both Cosequin and Dasuqun come as capsules that can be pilled, but are made specifically to be pulled apart and the powder sprinkled on food. Here is a link about Dasuquin:

Another treatment along the same lines is Adequan which is given by injection, generally once a week for a month or two and then monthly which can be easier for some cats than trying to get them to eat something in food or take a pill.

Cosequin, Dasuquin and Adequan, I believe are all considered quite safe in cats and frequently recommended by vets ... and will not interfere with any pain medications that your vet may also want to give. All three generally take a couple months to build up before effects are seen, so they are not an instant cure but can help long term.

One other adjunct treatment that helps some cats is acupuncture. I had acupuncture done on my cat. I don't know how much it helped her ... she didn't start jumping on things again ... but the treatments really relaxed her and she enjoyed them, nearly sleeping during them. If your vet feels it is worth trying, be sure to find a vet that is certified in acupuncture.

I may be jumping to a conclusion on arthritis/DJD ... but your description sounds very much like that would be a possibility. Sometimes the only sign of joint pain in a cat is the cat's refusal to jump. I remember well the first time my cat suddenly couldn't jump up on a chair. From then on, I used boxes to make steps for her to get up to her favorite places. Anyway, I think that it is worth having your cat checked and asking your vet about it.

Good luck.

Stephanie in Montreal
Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP responded:
Changes in behavior like this are an early warning sign that something is wrong. Arthritis may be the issue but this symptom can also be caused be early diabetes, neurologic diseases, electrolyte imbalances, and muscle loss from many other diseases. If your veterinarian hasn't just run a set of lab tests on your cat, please have him do so. If he has, a set of x-rays will diagnose arthritis and several other diseases.

Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP
The Cat Doctor
Board Certified in Feline Practice


William Draper, DVM, better known as "Dr. Will," is a well-known small animal practitioner in the Atlanta, GA area. He grew up in Inglewood,...More

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