Limping In Cats: Causes And When To Head To The Vet

Whether your feline friend is a homebody or an outdoor adventurer there is a myriad of ways that your cat could injure a leg or paw and wind up limping. Injuries aren't the only reason for cat limping, and today our Monroe vets share a few common reasons for limping in cats and what you should do.

Limping In Cats

Unfortunately, our pets aren't able to tell us how they are feeling, or what hurts, which can make figuring out why your cat is limping challenging. Cats can limp for many reasons whether they are limping from their back leg, or limping from their front leg such as getting something stuck in their paw, a sprain, a break, or even an ingrown claw.

Remember, if your cat is limping it's a sign that they are experiencing pain, even if they don't look like it (cats are really good at hiding pain).

It's always best to take your cat to the vet if they have a limp in order to avoid conditions like infection and to prevent symptoms and discomfort from worsening. The cause of your cat's limp might not be easy to spot but the treatment could be as simple as trimming their claws or pulling out a thorn.

That said, if you're a pet parent it's a good idea to monitor your animal's health regularly, and watching how they walk is a part of that. Always keep an eye out for swelling, redness, and open wounds. If you see any of these call a vet immediately.

Reasons Why Your Cat May Be Limping

Below we have listed a few common reasons why your cat might be limping:

  • Injury due to puncture (e.g. sharp stone, thorn)
  • Sprained or broken leg (e.g. car accident, falling, or landing wrong)
  • Walking across a hot surface (stove, hot gravel, or pavement)
  • Ingrown nail/ claw
  • Being bitten by a bug or other animal
  • Infected or torn nail
  • Arthritis

What To Do About A Limping Cat

If your cat is limping keep them calm and relaxed as you evaluate their leg. Be gentle and run your fingers along the area, watching and feeling for any sensitive areas and keeping an eye out for wounds, swelling, redness, and in extreme cases dangling limbs. Start at your kitty's paw and work your way up.

If something has injured the paw (e.g. a thorn from the garden), use clean tweezers to gently remove it before cleaning the area with unscented soap and water. Be sure to keep an eye on the area to ensure that an infection doesn't take hold as the puncture wound heals. If overgrown nails are the issue simply trim your cat's 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.

It could be difficult to see if your cat's leg is broken because the symptoms could mirror other injuries like sprains (swelling, a limp, leg being held in an odd position, lack of appetite). This makes it imperative to call your vet if your cat has persistent limping.

While waiting for your veterinary appointment you have to limit your cat's movements to keep them from causing further injury or making it worse. 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 keeping them warm with their favorite blankets. Continue to monitor their situation.

When To Head To The Vet

It is always a good idea to take your cat to the vet for limping to prevent worsening symptoms and to get a proper diagnosis. If any of the following situations apply to your cat make an appointment with your vet:

  • You can't identify the cause
  • Limping for more than 24 hours
  • Swelling
  • Open wound
  • The limb is being held or is hanging in an odd position

Don't wait 24 hours if there is a visible cause 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.

If your cat is limping contact us to book an examination with our experienced vets. Our Monroe team can diagnose the cause of your feline friend's limp and provide effective treatments.