Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment for a Cat Limping Back Leg

Pet Care


May 18, 2020

Cats limp for a variety of reasons, and the frustrating thing is that they won’t be able to show you where exactly the pain is coming from. The cause of the limp may not be apparent or dramatic, like falling from a window. This means that you have to find out why they’re limping so that you can help them to elevate the pain.

To find out where your cat is injured, examine the affected limb, and if there is no obvious damage, the situation may not be dangerous. You should observe your cat’s behavior for a day or two. If it does not settle down, then it’s time to visit a vet. Check which leg they bring forward quicker than usual because they do this to return the weight back to the healthy leg faster. Check if they are limping all the time or at certain times.

However, some conditions require the immediate attention of the veterinarian. If the cat was involved in an accident, like colliding with a moving vehicle or any other trauma, seek medical care immediately. The cat is seriously injured if it is not able to place the hurt leg on the floor or cannot walk. Any severe injury left unattended may worsen and lead to more pain and other complications. 

Symptoms Exhibited By A Limping Cat

A cat with a limping back leg will show the following signs:        

  • Difficulty walking or running
  • Lifting one leg when walking
  • Difficulty climbing stairs or jumping
  • Swelling around the injured areas
  • Signs of pain and discomfort
  • Slower walking pace

Common Causes of Limping In Cats

A cat may be limping from a simple accident like something stuck in her paw or a serious ailment like arthritis. Most of the limping in cats may involve joints, nerves, muscles, skin, or bones. The common reasons why a cat may limp on the back leg include:    

  • Trauma

A cat may suffer trauma to the leg leading to broken bones, hips, dislocation, ruptured blood vessels, torn ligaments, or damaged spinal cord. These conditions may be caused by accidents like falling, collision with a moving vehicle, a dog, or another cat’s bite. These traumas are harrowing and can worsen and lead to complete lameness if no action is taken. Take your kitty to the vet immediately for further diagnosis and treatment.   

  •  Arthritis

For older cats, arthritis is a very common condition but unfortunately hard to recognize. This disease causes inflammation of the joints, which leads to pain. The cat becomes less active but will limp from time to time, indicating joint pain. It may become difficult for it to jump on or off the couch. If you suspect that your cat is suffering from arthritis, take them to a vet for further diagnosis, advice, and medication. The vet will determine the kind of arthritis your cat is suffering from and recommend the best treatment. There’s no cure for arthritis, but you can manage it to minimize your pet’s pain and maintain a certain quality of life.    

  • Wounds

Your cat may limp due to a wound; therefore, check the injured leg and look for open wounds, pus, or bleeding. If the wound is partially healed, it may be dry and hot to the touch. Examine from the top of the leg down to the paw and see if you can feel any lumps or fluids. If you find an open wound, you can clean it with warm soapy water and apply a disinfecting ointment. If it’s very deep, take the cat to the vet for professional treatment and dressing.    

  • Infections

Infections, especially those located around the legs, can cause lameness in cats. A cat may suffer from a bite or a cut wound, which naturally, they will lick. The cat’s mouth is full of bacteria, and it can cause infection to the injury. These infections may form pus or abscess, which can burst internally and cause the pus and bacteria to spread over the entire body. You should make sure to treat any infection immediately to avoid further complications. A wound that is not thoroughly cleaned or a cut from a piece of metal can also cause abscess leading to a painful back leg, which results in limping.    

  • Overgrown claws

Although cats generally keep their claws short by scratching on different objects, some neglect them. This can lead to overgrowth. The nails themselves are not painful, but if broken or damaged, it can cause the skin around them to become painful and cause limping. A cat’s claws can grow until they start poking the bottom of their feet. This can cause discomfort, pain when walking, and can even grow into the foot. The overgrown claws can break if the cat experiences trauma and cause damage to the blood vessels around the toe, which can result in bleeding. Clip the cat’s nails regularly to prevent them from overgrowing.    

  • Sprains

A sprain is a trauma to the soft tissue which can occur in the ligament of the cat’s leg. These are the most common causes of limping in cats, especially on their back legs. A cat that has suffered a sprain will meow to alert its owner, show lack of appetite, start panting and may growl when touched. A vet will prescribe rest as the first treatment for a cat that has suffered a sprain, which can take from several days to several months. The vet may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory to ease the pain and speed up the recovery.  

When to See the Veterinarian

Cats know how to hide their pain, so if they are already showing signs of distress, the injury is likely severe. Have a vet examine your cat to determine the extent of the injury. The tests may include x-ray, surgery, or pain medication. Some leg injuries may take time to heal like a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament. If the cat doesn’t show any signs of improvement even after total rest, visit the vet for further diagnosis. 

Some of the injuries caused by trauma may be severe, calling for a veterinarian’s immediate attention. Assess the injury and inform your vet immediately a cat suffers any traumatic accident.  

How to Get Your Cat to a Vet

An injured cat can be aggressive, and getting her into a carrier for a visit to the vet may prove difficult. It can scratch or bite you even if you are the owner, so exercise caution. Handling the cat roughly can worsen the injury and increase the pain. To help lessen the stress and make the transport easier, follow these tips:

If your cat is not aggressive and allows you to carry it, wrap one hand over its body and under its chest. Lift the cat towards you to ensure that it is resting well between your forearm and your body. Place it in a closed box or stretcher, and then transport it to the veterinarian.

If your cat is aggressive, place a towel over its mouth and claws then tie the ends of the towel together, such that it forms a bag. Place the cat in a closed box or a carrier than carry it to the vet. 


A cat limping on its back leg may be a result of various issues, as outlined above. If you notice any of the things we mentioned, examine your cat carefully to determine the severity of the situation and then offer assistance as per the injury. Remember that some injuries may be worse than they appear, so if you are not sure of the extent of the injury, call your vet for advice before handling your cat.