What Causes Limping in Cats?

Pet Care


April 27, 2021

Cats have a reputation for being cool, aloof, and generally hard to read. Even though cats, once they are understood and in the right circumstances, are plenty affectionate and loving toward their owners, they still have traits to them that give off that air of feline coolness.

One such trait is that cats will instinctively try and hide any discomfort that they feel. This is a natural instinct that comes from the fact that they can be hunted as prey in the wild, so they would naturally want to hide if they are weaker than they otherwise would be. However, when they are a domestic pet, this trait can be problematic as you may not know if your cat is suffering from pain or discomfort.

Not realizing your cat is in pain is something you shouldn’t feel too guilty over, as cats are pretty good at hiding these signs. It also means that if your cat is in enough pain for it to be obvious that something is going on, then whatever is going on is pretty severe. For example, consider limping, which would be a sure sign for a predator that the cat cannot get away or fight easily.

If your cat is actively limping, it is crucial for you to get to the bottom of the case and figure out why.

The First Step to Take

When you first see your cat limping, the first thing you should do is schedule a visit with your cat’s vet, and this should go without saying. The veterinary clinic has the equipment needed to X-ray and scan the leg to see what is going on, and the vets themselves have the expertise to draw a conclusion for your cat’s health. You should never wait and see if the limping gets better, as there’s a good chance that your cat is in a fair amount of pain to be limping.

If there are other signs of problems, or you know for a fact that your cat has been injured (such as limping after a bad fall or a bad fight with another animal), you should seek immediate veterinary care for your cat. Signs of a more severe or emergent problem include swelling, an open wound, and if the leg doesn’t appear to be connected the way it should, indicating a break in the bone or a dislocation.

These are signs that there is a bigger problem with the leg than simple joint pain, and these signs also indicate that there is a chance things could get worse, such as a break spreading in the bone or an infection in a wound. As such, a vet can treat the injury to protect against these problems as well as help to make the cat more comfortable.

Joint Pain and Limping

Much like people, as cats age, the chances of developing joint pain increase drastically. Older cats are much more likely to be seen limping, and as unfortunate as it is, this is fairly common and there may not be much you can do about it. In older cats, arthritis is the most common cause of limping and discomfort. Other signs include the cat no longer jumping onto places it liked, becoming reclusive, and walking stiffly, alongside simply being of an older age.

Your cat, especially if it is older, may not be too keen on letting you comfort it if it is in pain. It is a well-known fact that cats tend to become both defensive and aggressive when they are in pain, and they tend to take this out on their owners. In addition to limping, if your cat has a behavioral change such as this, this suggests that your cat is in a fair amount of pain and you will need to do what you can to seek out a vet’s opinion on treatment.

Arthritis is a long-term condition that never really goes away, so if your cat develops it, you will see it limping for a long time, especially on bad pain days. Your cat’s vet will advise you on ways that you can help manage your cat’s pain and adjust both of your lifestyles to ensure that your cat has as many pain-free days as possible. If you know for a fact that your cat has arthritis and you see it limping, it may not be cause for as much concern unless your cat is displaying behaviors it doesn’t always show.

Injuries That Cause Limping

If your cat hurts its leg, it is naturally not going to want to walk on it. An injury that is severe enough to warrant limping is going to be far more common for cats who are allowed outdoors and cats who spend most of their time outdoors, but they can certainly happen to cats who spend their time indoors as well. The most common injuries that would result in limping include trauma, falls, and infections of wounds.

Cats are known for landing on all-fours most of the time, but there are times when this may not always be the best for them. Curious cats who explore windows and balconies may be susceptible to falling from these heights, and even if it doesn’t land on its side or head, the impact may break its leg, causing a limp. In these cases, your cat’s leg may be hanging at a strange angle or it may be dragging its leg behind it.

Injuries to the cat’s leg and paw pads are also common causes for limping. A cat’s paw pads are sensitive and can get injured in fights or by walking on sharp surfaces. If you can, inspect your cat’s paw pad on the leg it is not putting weight on to see if there is something going on there. Depending on your cat’s fur, you may or may not be able to see a wound. If you see a wound on its paw or under its fur, you need to take it to the vet so that the wound can be cleaned and covered so that the chances of infection are minimized.

Illnesses That Lead to Limping

Last, but not least, there are times when certain conditions, disorders, and illnesses lead to limping. These are less common than joint pains or injuries, but it is still something to think about. These can include hip dysplasia (a bad hip socket), inflammatory illnesses, cancer, nerve damage, and infections.

There is always a chance of these illnesses being the cause for your cat’s limp, so you should take the cat to the vet so that its health can be evaluated. All of these conditions can drastically affect your cat’s overall health and happiness if they are left untreated, making it all the more important for you to address these issues with your cat’s vet.