Objectives Feline osteoarthritis causes pain and disability. Detection and measurement is challenging, relying heavily on owner report. This study describes refinement of the Montreal Instrument for Cat Arthritis Testing, for Use by Veterinarians. Methods A video analysis of osteoarthritic (n = 6) and non-osteoarthritic (n = 4) cats facilitated expansion of scale items. Three successive therapeutic trials (using gabapentin, tramadol and oral transmucosal meloxicam spray) in laboratory cats with and without natural osteoarthritis (n = 12-20) permitted construct validation (assessments of disease status sensitivity and therapeutic responsiveness) and further scale refinements based on performance. Results Scale osteoarthritic sensitivity improved from phase I to phase III; phase III scale total score (P = 0.0001) and 4/5 subcategories - body posture (P = 0.0006), gait (P = 0.0031), jumping (0.0824) and global distance examination (P = 0.0001) - detected osteoarthritic cats. Total score inter-rater (intra-class correlation coefficients [ICC] = 0.64-0.75), intra-rater (ICC = 0.90-0.91) and overall internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha = 0.85) reliability were good to excellent. von Frey anesthesiometer-induced paw withdrawal threshold increased with gabapentin in phase I, in osteoarthritic cats (P <0.001) but not in non-osteoarthritic cats (P = 0.075). Night-time activity increased during gabapentin treatment. Objective measures also detected tramadol and/or meloxicam treatment effects in osteoarthritic cats in phases II and III. There was some treatment responsiveness: in phase I, 3/10 subcategory scores improved (P <0.09) in treated osteoarthritic cats; in phase II, 3/8 subcategories improved; and in phase III, 1/5 subcategories improved (P <0.096). Conclusions and relevance The revised scale detected naturally occurring osteoarthritis, but not treatment effects, in laboratory cats, suggesting future potential for screening of at-risk cats. Further study is needed to confirm reliability, validity (disease sensitivity and treatment responsiveness) and clinical feasibility, as well as cut-off scores for osteoarthritic vs non-osteoarthritic status, in client-owned cats.