It’s always a worry to see your cat limping. And there’s usually a good reason behind it. Unlike dogs though, cats aren’t always that vocal when it comes to expressing pain.
In fact, according to some studies, felines are highly adept at disguising their discomfort. But their silence doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing discomfort.
So what causes limping in cats?
Why is My Cat Limping all of a Sudden?
There’s a numerous reasons why your cat might be limping all of a sudden.
Bear in mind that what follows is meant for purely informational purposes. If you suspect that your cat is in any pain or discomfort, be sure to contact a vet.
Here are some of the most common causes.
Cat arthritis causes the joints to become inflamed and usuually affects the spine, hips and knees.
Symptoms include pain in the hind leg s lameness and difficulty standing up.
The most common type of arthrtis in cats is osteoarthritis.
This is results in inflammation in the cartilage and joint space, resulting in pain and stiffness in the joint.
This often leads to decreased mobility.
- Soreness in the Joints and Paws
- General Stiffness
- Reduced Activity
- Difficulty Getting Up from Lying or Sitting Positions
Cats should be provided with a soft bed to sleep on, with low litter trays to reduce the stress on their joints when they go to the bathroom. Also try to encourage gentle exercise.
Since arthritis is an inflammatory condition, it can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs or supplements like glucosamine.
These meds can reduce inflammation in the joint space. Glucosamine also helps rebuild cartilage so that it functions better.
Unfortunately, broken bones are a fairly common occurrence with cats, especially considering how active they are.
They’re most often the result of falling from a considerable height or road traffic accidents. Physical confrontations with other felines can also result in breaks or fractures.
A broken bone in a cat is not always easy to identify. The symptoms can range from limping, reluctance to move the limb and difficulty standing up.
There may also be swelling or bruising around the area of the injury.
- Difficulty Walking or Moving Leg
- Leg Hangs Loose
- Fast Breathing (Shock)
- Crying When touched
- Sudden Lameness
A broken bone requires immediate medical attention, so be sure to contact your vet or local animal hospital for advice.
Try to keep your cat comfortable as is possible while under your care.
With all likelihood, an x-ray will be performed to determine the extent of the injury.
In some cases, a broken bone/trauma may damage the surrounding nerves.
Nerve damage can also be caused by infection, disease or a congenital ailment.
The symptoms of nerve damage vary depending on the nerves affected. For instance, a spinal injury is known to cause paralysis in the hind legs.
Together with weakness and a loss of sensation in the limb, this is one of the main signs of nerve damage.
- Unsteady Walking
- Paralysis or Weakness In One or More Limbs
- Inability to Climb Stairs or Jump Onto furniture
- Loss of Bladder Control
- Abnormal Gait
Nerve damage in cats needs to be treated as soon as possible.
Typical treatments include anticonvulsants, anti-inflammatory medications and muscle-spasm relievers.
These can help to reduce pain and inflammation, although in some cases surgery may be necessary.
Soft Tissue Injury
One of the most common reasons that your cay may limp, soft tissue injuries are often caused by trauma. This may be because of a fight with another cat, or a road traffic accident.
Cats can also be injured by falling from heights, getting hit by an object or any other sudden movement that causes them to put abnormal strain on a muscle or tendon.
- Inflammation and Tenderness
- Inability to Bear Weight
- Can’t Move Joint
- Rapid Breathing
- Lack of Appetite
- Excessive Licking of Affected Limb
You should consult your vet who’ll identify the type of soft-tissue injury your cat has suffered.
In terms of home treatments, provide fluids, food, warmth and comfort. You could also apply an ice pack or towel to the injury.
Try to get your cat to rest and stay off its feet. If he doesn’t show signs of recovery after a few days, you should consult your vet.
Cat Paw Injury
Cats can suffer from paw injuries that are often the result of something as simple as a cut, scratch or embedded foreign object.
Most injuries occur when the cat has been in contact with sharp objects or chemicals.
Blistering from hot concrete or tarmac is fairly common too, as are infections such as Pillow Foot.
This condition, known as Feline Plasma Cell Pododermatitis, can result in lesions and abscesses on the paw.
A paw injury might also be caused by an overgrowing claw that’s become deformed and is piercing the skin.
Then you’ve got insect bites and plant stings from species like stinging nettle.
- Excessive Licking of Paw
- Inflamed/Red Paw
- Lesions, Blisters or Ulcers
Should you discover that your cat has its hurt paw, gently examine it to determine the severity. If the paw is bleeding, clean out the wound as best you can with warm water and a cat-friendly antiseptic.
If you find a foreign object, remove it with a pair of tweezers and dry the paw pad. Then apply an antibiotic ointment and bandage.
Superficial abrasions tend to heal by around ten days but deeper injuries can take double the time.
Blistering should be treated by running cold water over the affected paw. Also consider applying a cold compress.
Bites and stings will trigger an immune response from your cat so in all likelihood, he’ll make a full recovery.
However, for Pillow Paw, antibiotics or steroids may be prescribed, while overgrown claws should be seen by a professional.
Although rare, diabetes may also cause limping in cats.
The disease is caused by an inability to regulate blood sugar levels properly.
It’s often the result of obesity, advanced age and physical inactivity.
Additional signs of diabetes include increased appetite, thirst, urination and weight loss.
Limping is also a symptom, albeit one that usually occurs in late-stage diabetes.
This happens when the disease attacks the cat’s central nervous system. It’s known as diabetic neuropathy and can cause lameness, limping and an unusual gait.
- More Frequent Urination
- Excessive Thirst
- Large Appetite
- Weight Loss
- Unusual Gait (Late Stage)
- Limping (Late Stage)
Numerous treatments are readily available such as insulin injections and oral medications.
Specially-formulated diet can also help to stabilise the disease.
Certain parasites can cause limping in cats. For instance, a roundworm species known as Dirofilaria Immitis can enter the cat’s body through mosquito bites and then travel to the heart and lungs, where it starts to grow.
As well as causing heart problems and respiratory infections, it can also make its way to the connective tissues found in the skin of the legs.
This leads to swelling and potentially abscesses. Happily though, such occurrences are extremely rare – this type of roundworm usually dies fairly quickly before reaching adulthood.
- Weight Loss
- Difficulty Breathing
- Leg Abscesses
Should your cat be infected by Dirofilaria Immitis, antibiotic treatment can help although the abscess, if large enough, may have to be drained. Consult your vet for the right course of treatment.
If your cat is limping all of a sudden, this might be due to Feline Calicivirus – a condition that result in lameness of the hind legs.
Starting out as a mild upper respiratory infection, the virus may become serious for unvaccinated cats.
Symptoms are often similar to other respiratory illnesses in cats such as Rhinotracheitis and Feline Herpesvirus.
- Difficulty Breathing
- Lameness in Hind Legs
Taking the cat’s temperature may help to determine if the infection is present. But a fever can of course be caused by many ailments and conditions.
So a vet’s advice is going to be needed. Apart from preventative measures such as a vaccination, there is no treatment for Feline Calicivirus.
In most cases though, your cat’s immune system will fight off the infection, allowing him to recover at home. In serious cases, he might however require professional nursing.
Hip dysplasia is a developmental abnormality in the hip joint of a cat which causes pain and lameness.
It can also cause severe arthritis or osteoarthritis.
In felines, it often occurs when the ball-shaped head of the femur does not fit snugly into the socket on the pelvis.
Joint instability is often the result which causes pain and discomfort.
- Wasting of Legs
- Holding Legs Together
- Overdeveloped Shoulder Muscles
The majority of cats respond well to physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication. Introducing a special diet to encourage weight loss can also be of major benefit.
If these methods don’t work, corrective surgery may be necessary. The prognosis is usually very good.
Fibrotic Myopathy is a chronic condition in which fibrous tissue developers in the muscle fibres.
The cause is unknown and there are often few symptoms.
Sometimes though, cats may experience lameness in their hind legs as well as wasting.
- Lameness in Hind Legs
- Abnormal Gait
Sadly there is no known treatment for Fibrotic Myopathy which is a chronic condition. Permanent disability is often the result.
Please bear in mind though that it’s most commonly found in dogs and is extremely rare in felines. Nonetheless, if you’re concerned that your cat may have this condition, contact your vet for advice.
If you’re cat is limping don’t try to diagnose the issue yourself. The above information is intended as a guide only. Make sure to contact your vet if you’re concerned.