My cat is limping. Why would this happen?
If you've caught your cat limping, this might be occurring for many reasons. Whether your cat is limping from a back leg or front leg, we always recommend scheduling an appointment with your vet for an exam.
Signs & Symptoms of Limping
Here are a few common signs and symptoms of limping in cats:
- Loss of muscle mass in affected leg
- Abnormalities in or swelling around joints
- Refusing to place any weight on leg
- Walking at a slower pace
- Pain or general signs of discomfort
- Challenges with walking up or down stairs, or jumping to and from heights
- Not placing paw on floor correctly (referred to as 'knuckling')
- Unable to walk or run normally
Causes of Limping in Cats
We see many pet parents who come in asking, "Why is my cat limping all of a sudden?" Common causes of limping in cats include:
- Being bitten by a bug or other animal
- Sprained or fractured leg caused by trauma (being hit, falling, or landing awkwardly)
- Foreign object stuck in a paw
- Torn or infected nail
- Walking across a hot surface (pavement, stove or hot gravel)
- Ingrown claw or nail
Why is my cat limping but not in pain?
Our clients sometimes wonder how their cat could be limping but not appear to be in pain. Usually, limping is a response to abnormal anatomy or injury. Your feline friend may or may not be in pain as a result.
The limp can impact one or multiple legs, and may be chronic or come and go. Like humans, the effects of the limp may be worse at some times of the day compared to others, such as first thing in the morning, late at night, or after exercise or rest.
Signs of pain may extend beyond crying out. Regardless of whether your cat appears to be feeling uncomfortable or pained, the root cause of limping will need to be addressed by a vet.
What should I do if my cat is limping?
If your cat is limping, wait for them to calm down and relax before you assess their leg. When they are calm carefully assess their leg and paw by running your fingers down the site for any sensitive areas and look for an open wound, swelling, redness, and dangling limbs. Start at their paw and work your way up.
If it is something such as a thorn or nails that are too long just gently pull the thorn out with tweezers or cut their nails as usual (or have it done by your vet). If you are unable to figure out the cause of the limp and your beloved kitty is still limping after 24 hours make an appointment with your vet for an exam.
It may seem strange but it can be challenging to tell if your cat's leg is broken because the symptoms could mirror other injuries or a sprain (swelling, a limp, leg being held in an odd position, lack of appetite) which is why it's always best to call your vet.
In order to prevent the condition from becoming worse, limit your cat's movements as you wait for your vet appointment. Do this by keeping them in a room with low surfaces, or putting them in their carrier. Make sure they are comfortable by providing them with a comfy place to sleep/kitty bed and keep them warm with their favorite blankets. Continue to monitor their situation.
When should I take my cat to the vet for limping?
If your cat is limping, it is always a good idea to schedule a visit with your vet take your cat to the vet to prevent infection or get a proper diagnosis. If any of the following situations apply to your cat, make an appointment with your vet:
- The limb is dangling in an odd position
- They have been limping for more than 24 hours
- There is swelling
- An open wound
- You're unable to identify the cause
Do not wait to see your vet if there is a visible cause of your cat's limping such as bleeding, swelling or the limb is hanging in a strange way, call your vet immediately to prevent infection or a worsening condition. You should also call your vet if you do not know how to handle the situation, your vet will be able to give you advice on the actions you should take next.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.