Whether your feline friend is an indoor cat or outdoor adventurer, there are many ways for your cat to injure a leg or paw and wind up limping. But injuries aren't the only reason for cat limping. Here, our Oakland 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 when there is a problem, 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 legs, or limping from their front legs. Some causes can be 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 good at hiding pain).
It's always best to take your cat to the vet if they have a limp to avoid the possibility of infection and to help keep their condition 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. 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:
- Something stuck in their paw
- Sprained or broken leg caused by trauma (being hit, 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
Steps to Take if Your Cat is Limping
If your cat is limping keep them calm and relaxed as you assess their leg. Run your fingers down the leg watching and feeling for any sensitive areas and keeping an eye out for open wounds, swelling, redness, and in extreme cases dangling limbs. Start at your kitty's paw and work your way up.
If it is something such as a thorn gently pull the thorn out with tweezers and clean the area with 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 cat is still limping after 24 hours make an appointment with your vet.
It could be hard 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.
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 and keeping them warm. Continue to monitor their situation.
When You Should Take Your Cat to the Vet
It is always a good idea to take your cat to the vet for limping to prevent infection or 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
- They have been limping for more than 24 hours
- There is swelling
- An open wound
- The limb is dangling in an odd position
Don't wait 24 hours if there is a visible cause such as bleeding, swelling or the limb is hanging strangely, 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.