Why Is My Cat Limping?

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Is your cat limping and you don't know why? It could be their paw, a muscle, or a joint that's bothering them — but they won't be able to meow the exact location of what's ailing them. Cats may limp for a variety of reasons. So, it's important to understand what to look for and learn how to help alleviate their distress

Common Causes of Limping

Sometimes, your cat may be limping from a simple accident. They may have got something stuck in their paw pad, or they may even have a slight muscle strain. Wait until your cat is calm and lying down. Then, try to inspect their leg and paw. Look for noticeable swelling, redness or signs of pain like meowing or flinching when you lightly touch the area. Wag! points out that a cat with a paw pad injury, such as an ingrown claw, may also lick one paw excessively or avoid walking on that foot. Even if you don't see any swollen paws, and they seem to be doing most of their usual activities, a little limp may warrant calling your veterinarian to prevent an infection setting in.

One danger for cats that can sometimes cause leg injuries is "high rise syndrome," says the Animal Medical Center of New York. A curious cat can easily jump out of an open window and fall. Make sure your windows have strong screens and never leave them open when you're not at home. Even a jump from a high bookshelf can injure an elderly (or a very small) cat, so be aware of how much access they have to high perches.

Arthritis is another issue that can cause cat limping. An older cat who walks stiffly, no longer jumps onto or off of the couch, or suddenly becomes reclusive may be suffering from joint pain. Your vet may recommend changing their food to one that supports joint health or fixing them a new napping corner in a warm, low-to-the-ground spot.

If things do not improve within twenty-four hours, it is best to have the limp looked at by a vet to avoid any long-term damage. Cats are great at hiding their pain, so if they are showing signs, it is likely severe enough that your vet should take a look. Your vet may also take an X-ray to determine the cause of your cat's leg injury.

Getting to the Vet

If your cat is in pain, the process of coaxing them into their cat carrier for a trip to the vet may be more difficult than usual. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make the trip less stressful for you and your fur baby:

  • Try putting a blanket or shirt that your cat likes to snuggle up to on inside the carrier — one that smells like you may calm them down. Line it with a sprinkle of catnip or a treat and one of their favourite soft toys.
  • If your cat will not go into the carrier on their own, handle them gently and be cautious about forcing them into the carrier. You don't want them to injure themselves more. You can put them on a blanket and wrap them up to help them feel secure before placing them in the carrier to risk injury to them or yourself.

When to Be Concerned

Unfortunately, some cat leg injuries will take time to heal. You may have heard of athletes suffering from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, but did you know cats can also have ACL injuries? The Atlantic Veterinary Hospital writes that kitty ACL tears usually result from jumping or falling from high places, and are more common in overweight cats. A visit to the vet will confirm if the injury requires surgery, pain medication, or another treatment.

When cat limping is more severe due to an injury or serious illness, it is very important to limit your cat's movement and not allow them to jump or run. Consider borrowing a large dog crate to keep your cat contained while they heal. Make sure you get one large enough for them to have space to walk around between a small litter pan, water bowl and bed or blanket. You can also give them a room in your house, away from other pets and children.

Even if you don't give your kitty a private room, you'll need to make sure their litter box is one that does not require much effort to get into and out of. A shallow baking tray or a small pan for kittens will keep them from injuring themselves further or eliminating outside the box from pain.

It is also important that you never give your cat medication for their pain that your vet did not prescribe. Over the counter medication that is made for humans can be toxic to cats and can make the situation exponentially worse.

Whether your cat is limping due to something minor or major, it is still important to spend quality time with them and try to keep your kitty calm and relaxed. Giving them extra cuddles and some special treats (but not too many) will make the recovery time more bearable as well. It is also important to note that because your cat can't be as active during their recovery time as normal, they won't be able to get adequate exercise. It is important to follow your vet's recommendations for properly feeding them so that they do not put on unnecessary weight and exacerbate their leg injury. As a pet parent, it's never fun to see your pet in pain, but if you follow your vet's recommendations, your companion will be back to their frisky self before you know it!

Contributor Bio

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.