Risk factors, activity monitoring and quality of life assessment in cats with early degenerative joint disease

  • Evangelia Maniaki

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science (MSc)


Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is one of the most common causes of chronic pain in cats. Two studies were designed to identify risk factors for DJD in 6-year-old cats by examining prospective data from a longitudinal cohort study, and compare the activity profiles and quality of life of cats with (cases) and without (controls) early owner-reported signs of impaired mobility using orthopaedic examination, accelerometry and owner-completed questionnaires (Feline Musculoskeletal Pain Index (FMPI), VetMetrica). 
Binomial logistic regression using backwards elimination identified four risk factors for increased owner-reported mobility impairment score in 6-year-old cats: entire neuter status at six months of age (OR=1.97, 95%CI 1.26–3.07), sustained trauma before six years of age (OR=1.85, 95%CI 1.3–2.6), outdoor access at six years of age (OR=1.67, 95%CI 0.96–2.9), and overweight/obese status at six years of age (OR=1.62, 95%CI 1.13–2.33). Case cats scored significantly lower than control cats for the FMPI (p=0.003) and the VetMetrica domain of comfort (p=0.002), but not vitality (p=0.009) or emotional wellbeing (p=0.018). Total pain (p<0.0001), crepitus (p=0.002) and thickening (p=0.003) scores were higher in case cats. Accelerometry differentiated cases from controls with a 90.9% accuracy.  
Risk factor analysis demonstrated that obesity, outdoor access, and a history of trauma predispose cats to developing DJD, whereas neutering appears to decrease that risk. Changes in joint health as detected by orthopaedic examination and accelerometry reflected owner-reported mobility changes, differentiating cats with early DJD-related signs from healthy cats, whilst the VetMetrica comfort domain score indicated an impaired quality of life of cats with early DJD compared to healthy cats. Being able to recognise signs of mobility impairment earlier would allow interventions aimed at slowing DJD progression, thereby improving feline health and welfare. These findings have identified that orthopaedic examination, FMPI and accelerometry are effective in identifying early DJD-related mobility changes in cats.
Date of Award29 Sep 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorEmily-Jayne Blackwell (Supervisor) & Sorrel J Langley-Hobbs (Supervisor)


  • cat
  • feline
  • degenerative joint disease
  • osteoarthritis
  • mobility
  • Bristol Cats study
  • risk factors
  • obesity
  • trauma
  • outdoor access
  • neutering
  • accelerometer
  • activity monitor
  • quality of life
  • feline musculoskeletal pain index
  • VetMetrica

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