This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Which cat arthritis pain medications are best?

Cats with arthritis are often less mobile than those without the condition. This is mainly because arthritis causes pain in the joints. Luckily, there are prescription pain medications you can give to your pet to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis. One of the best ones is Onsior Tablets for Cats. Before getting medication, consult a veterinarian to ensure it’s the right option for your feline friend.

What to know before you buy cat arthritis pain medications

What is arthritis?

Similar to humans and dogs, cats can also develop arthritis. Also called osteoarthritis, this is a degenerative disease that occurs in the joints and starts to worsen over time. It’s typically associated with aging and can affect 70% to 80% of cats that are at least 12 years old, according to PetMD.

As cats get older, the cartilage surrounding their joints starts to deteriorate. This causes the bones to start grinding into one another uncomfortably or painfully. It also leads to inflammation and stiffness. The most commonly affected joints are the:

  • Hips
  • Spine
  • Elbows

Signs your cat might have arthritis

Cats are often good at hiding when they’re in pain, which makes it difficult to tell when they have a health issue. However, here are a few signs that your pet could have arthritis:

  • A previously active cat hesitates when it comes to jumping, running or playing.
  • It starts to complain or seems to be in pain when you pick it up.
  • A litter box-trained cat now eliminates outside the litter box. This is common when the sides of the box are too high and the feline has trouble getting in or out of it.
  • It avoids grooming itself or seems to have trouble reaching areas that were previously accessible.
  • Other normal behaviors start to change, especially those associated with mobility or activity.

Cause of arthritis in cats

Besides aging, there are several possible reasons why cats develop arthritis, such as:

  • Genetics
  • Direct physical trauma (e.g., falling from up high)
  • Certain diseases or infections (e.g., joint infection, eroded cartilage)
  • Torn or injured ligament
  • Obesity

Since the exact cause or causes can vary, it’s important to speak with a veterinarian if you think your pet has arthritis. They can assess your cat and diagnose whether it has the condition or something else.

Prescription vs. nonprescription medication

Most pain medications that treat arthritis in cats require a prescription. However, there are a few over-the-counter options you could consider, including:

  • Chondroitin or glucosamine: This supplement can support bone and cartilage health.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: These supplements could reduce joint inflammation, alleviate pain and boost mobility.
  • CBD — some treats and supplements for cats use cannabidiol and could help with pain.

Over-the-counter options are usually less effective than prescription medications. Consult with a trained veterinarian before giving your pet anything to make sure it’s safe for them.

What to look for in quality cat arthritis pain medications


Cat arthritis pain medication usually comes in the following forms:

  • Tablet: Capsules or tablets are common. Some cats ingest them when mixed in with their food. If you have a pickier cat, hide the medication in a moldable treat and give it to it that way.
  • Liquid: For cats that refuse to swallow tablets, liquid medication is another option. Mix it into your pet’s wet food or use a dropper to administer it directly into your cat’s mouth.
  • Injections: If your cat has severe arthritis or refuses to take medication, take it to the veterinarian for routine injections.


There are many types of pain medication for cats with arthritis, including:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Onsior, can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
  • Gabapentin helps with chronic pain, reduces anxiety and helps prevent seizures in cats. It can also be used in conjunction with certain NSAIDs.
  • Corticosteroids and opioids for cats with severe arthritis.

Remember, most of these medications require a prescription from a veterinarian. Once you choose one, it’s typically a good idea to stick with one rather than switch between them. Follow the advice or instructions your veterinarian gives for the best results.

Side effects

Pain medication for cats could result in certain side effects or complications, such as:

  • Decreased energy levels
  • Vomiting
  • Changes in eating or drinking
  • Frequent or painful urination
  • Discoloration or yellowing of the eyes or gums

Some medications, such as NSAIDs, could cause long-term problems to the heart, stomach, kidneys, intestines or other organs. Keep an eye out for any radical or concerning changes in your cat’s behavior, coat or skin once it’s on medication.

Quantity and dosage

Medications come in different quantities, depending on the form. Tablets, for example, often come in a 30- or 60-day supply. Most types of medication are not meant for long-term use, so expect a limited amount.

The dosage depends on the veterinarian’s recommendation. This could be a specific number of tablets each day. Or it could be a certain amount of milligrams for liquid medication.

Make sure you follow the instructions on the prescription or container carefully. If you notice minimal improvement or side effects, speak with your veterinarian immediately.

Alternative forms of treatment

If the pain medication isn’t working, or if you’d rather not go that route yet, here are a few alternatives:

  • Over-the-counter arthritis supplements for pain, such as omega-3s and Dasuquin
  • Weight loss for cats with obesity
  • Warm or cold compresses
  • Laser therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery

How much you can expect to spend on cat arthritis pain medications

This depends on the type, quantity and dosage. For tablets, expect to spend around $0.10-$0.20 each. A bottle of liquid medication costs $10-$20, on average.

Cat arthritis pain medications FAQ

Can cats take pain medication meant for humans?

A. No. Giving your pet medication meant for humans could result in health problems, such as kidney or liver damage, blood clots and other health complications.

Is there a cure for arthritis in cats?

A. Unfortunately, no. If your pet has arthritis, speak with your veterinarian about the best way of improving its quality of life. Also, make the environment easier for your cat to maneuver by adding things such as steps so it can get around. Use a litter box with low sides, too.

When should a cat take arthritis medication?

A. In most cases, the best time to give a cat medication is before they eat. Check the instructions on the container, though, as some painkillers should be given at different times.

What are the best cat arthritis pain medications to buy?

Top cat arthritis pain medication

Best Onsior Tablets For Cats

Onsior Tablets for Cats

What you need to know: This prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication can help reduce inflammation, alleviate pain and improve mobility.

What you’ll love: It’s meant for older cats that weigh at least 5.5 pounds. It comes with three 6-milligram tablets.

What you should consider: It requires a prescription and is not a long-term solution.

Where to buy: Sold by Chewy

Top cat arthritis pain medication for the money

Best Dexamethasone (Generic) Tablets For Dogs And Cats

Dexamethasone (Generic) Tablets For Dogs And Cats 

What you need to know: These generic tablets can reduce inflammation, swelling and other symptoms related to inflammatory conditions.

What you’ll love: Besides helping with inflammation, it can also ease pain and improve your pet’s mobility. It comes in different dosages, such as 0.5, 0.75, 1.5 and 4 milligrams.

What you should consider: It requires a prescription, which Chewy can verify and fill.

Where to buy: Sold by Chewy

Worth checking out

Best Prednisolone (Generic) Oral Solution

Prednisolone (Generic) Oral Solution

What you need to know: For cats that refuse to take solid medications, this liquid solution is a great alternative.

What you’ll love: It helps with pain and inflammation, which can improve your pet’s mobility. It can also be used to soothe other conditions, such as breathing problems and allergies. The medication is also fast-acting.

What you should consider: It comes in cherry and raspberry flavors, which can put off some cats.

Where to buy: Sold by Chewy


Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Angela Watson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.