While cats are typically graceful and agile creatures, illness or injury can result in discomfort and limping. Today, our Stockton veterinarians discuss several possible causes of your cat's limping and when it's time to see the vet.
My Cat is limping. Why would this be happening?
If you notice your cat limping, there could be several causes. If your cat is limping from a front or back leg, make an appointment with your vet.
Signs & Symptoms of Limping
Here are some of the most common symptoms and signs of limping in cats.
- Walking at a slower pace
- Unable to walk or run normally
- Refusing to place any weight on the leg
- Not placing a paw on the floor correctly (referred to as 'knuckling')
- Swelling or abnormalities around joints
- Loss of muscle mass in the affected leg
- Challenges with walking up or downstairs, or jumping to and from heights
- Pain and general signs of discomfort
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:
- Torn or infected nail
- A foreign object stuck in their paw
- Fractured or sprained leg caused by trauma (falling, being hit, or landing awkwardly)
- Walking across a hot surface (hot gravel, pavement, or stove)
- Being bitten by a bug or other animal
- Ingrown nail or claw
Why is my cat limping but not in pain?
Owners may be perplexed as to why their cat is limping but does not appear to be in pain. Limping is usually a reaction to an injury or abnormal anatomy, and your cat may or may not be in pain. The limp can affect one or more legs and can be chronic or intermittent. As with humans, it may be worse at certain times of the day than others, such as first thing in the morning, late at night, or after rest or exercise.
Crying out may not be the only sign of pain. Regardless of whether your cat is in pain, the underlying cause of the limping must be addressed.
What should I do if my cat is limping?
If your cat is limping, wait for them to relax and calm down before assessing their leg. When they are calm, carefully examine their leg and paw for sensitive areas and look for an open wound, swelling, redness, or dangling limbs. Beginning with their paw, work your way up.
If it is a thorn or excessively long nails, simply 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 determine the cause of the limp and your beloved kitty continues to limp after 24 hours, schedule an exam with your veterinarian.
It may seem strange, but determining whether your cat's leg is broken can be difficult because the symptoms can mimic those of other injuries or sprains (swelling, limping, leg held in an unusual position, lack of appetite), which is why it's always best to contact your veterinarian.
To avoid the condition worsening, restrict your cat's movements while you wait for your veterinarian appointment. This can be accomplished by placing them in a room with low surfaces or by placing them in their carrier. Assemble a comfortable sleeping area/kitty bed for them and keep them warm with their favorite blankets. Maintain an eye on their situation.
When should I take my cat to the vet for limping?
If your cat is limping, you should take it to the vet to avoid infection or to get a proper diagnosis. Make an appointment with your vet if your cat has any of the following:
- 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 put off seeing your veterinarian. If your cat limping has a visible cause, such as bleeding, swelling, or the limb is hanging strangely, contact your veterinarian right away to avoid infection or a worsening condition. If you are unsure how to handle the situation, you should contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the next steps to take.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.