Cats typically move around gracefully and stealthily, but when suffering from illnesses or injuries, pain and limping can hinder their elegant movements. Today, our Palmdale vets share some causes of limping in cats and when it might be time to schedule a checkup.
Why is my Cat Limping?
There are many possible reasons your cat may begin limping. No matter which leg they seem to be favoring, it's always ideal to schedule an appointment with your vet for a checkup.
Signs & Symptoms
Some of the most recognizable signs and symptoms of limping in cats are:
- Walking at a slower pace
- Unable to walk or run normally
- Refusing to place any weight on a 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)
- Bites from insects or other animals
- Ingrown nail or claw
Why is my cat limping but not in pain?
Occasionally, limping can be caused by an injury or abnormal anatomy and your kitty may or may not be in pain. The limp can affect any number of legs and can be chronic or acute. Just as it is in humans, the severity of the limping and pain associated can be worse at certain times of the day or after certain activities.
Your cat may respond in many different ways to the limping and its cause. Regardless of whether your cat is in discomfort or just physically showing signs, the best course of action will always be to determine the cause of the limping.
What should I do if my cat is limping?
If you notice that your cat is suddenly limping, do not assess their legs until they are calm and relaxed in order to avoid further distress. When they are calm carefully assess their leg and paw by running your fingers down the site and checking for any sensitive areas or open wounds, swelling, redness, and dangling limbs. Start at their paw and work your way up.
Sometimes it may be something small such as a thorn or sliver, these objects you can gently pull out with tweezers. If the object is too large or you are unable to figure out the cause of the limp and your furry friend is still limping after 24 hours it is then best to make an appointment with your vet for an exam.
Occasionally it may be a more complicated situation such as a broken limb or sprain and these may be more difficult to distinguish because the symptoms could mirror other injuries (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 keeping them warm with their favorite blankets. Continue to monitor their situation.
When should I take my cat to the vet for limping?
In order to prevent infection and ensure a proper diagnosis, it is always best to schedule an appointment with your vet in the event that your cat begins limping. If any of the following situations apply to your cat, call your vet immediately:
- 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
If the visible cause of your cats limping is noticed to be bleeding, swelling, or the limb is hanging in a strange way, this could potentially be an emergency situation and you should 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 people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.