Cats are usually graceful, agile creatures. That said, illnesses or injuries can cause discomfort and limping. Here, our Baltimore vets list a few reasons your cat may be limping and when to take your four-legged friend to a vet.
My cat is limping. Why is this happening?
If you've discovered your cat is limping, this might be occurring for many reasons. Whether your cat is limping on a back leg or front leg, we always recommend booking an appointment with your vet for an exam to diagnose the underlying cause.
Signs & Symptoms of Limping
Common signs and symptoms of limping in cats include:
- Unable to walk or run normally
- Refusing to place any weight on leg
- Walking at a slower pace
- Not placing paw on the floor correctly (referred to as 'knuckling')
- Pain and general signs of discomfort
- Swelling or abnormalities around joints
- Loss of muscle mass in affected leg
- Challenges with walking up or down stairs, or jumping to and from heights
Causes of Limping in Cats
Many pet parents come to us asking, "Why is my cat limping all of a sudden?" Here are some common causes of limping in cats:
- Foreign object stuck in their paw
- Torn or infected nail
- Walking across a hot surface (hot gravel, pavement or stove)
- Being bitten by a bug or other animal
- Ingrown nail or claw
- Fractured or sprained leg caused by trauma (falling, being hit, or landing awkwardly)
Why is my cat limping but not in pain?
Sometimes, cats may limp but not appear to be in pain. Limping is typically a response to abnormal anatomy or an injury and your four-legged feline friend may or may not be in pain. The limp can affect one or multiple legs, and may be chronic or come and go. Like humans, the limp might be worse at some times during the day rather than others, such as first thing in the morning when waking, late at night, or after exercise or rest.
Signs of pain may not be limited to crying out. Regardless of whether your cat is feeling uncomfortable, a vet will need to address the root cause of the limping.
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:
- They have been limping for more than 24 hours
- The limb is dangling in an odd position
- 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.