While cats are graceful for the most part, accidents can happen that may leave your cat injured. Many conditions can have similar symptoms as an injury. Here, our Doraville vets discuss the causes of limping in cats, what you should do, and how your vet can help diagnose and treat their condition.

Why is my cat limping all of a sudden?

Unfortunately, our pets aren't able to tell us how they are feeling, 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 leg, or limping from their front leg such as getting something stuck in their paw, a sprain, a break, or even an ingrown claw.

Cats are great at hiding pain so it can be difficult to even spot the signs of limping. This means that you should always check your cat out anytime you think that there may be an issue.

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.

That said, if you're a pet parent it's a good idea to monitor your animal's health regularly, and watching how they walk is a part of that. Always keep an eye out for swelling, redness, and open wounds. If you see any of these call a vet immediately.

Possible Causes of Cats Limping

Some of the issues that commonly cause limping in the front or back legs include:

  • 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
  • Arthritis

What should I do if my cat is limping?

If your cat begins to limp you should pick it up, and give him or her some good cuddles and pets to help them relax, then once they are calm you can take a good look at their leg. Run your fingers down the site, 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 it's been 24 hours and your cat is still limping you should bring them to the vet for an examination.

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/kitty bed and keeping them warm with their favorite blankets. Continue to monitor their situation.

When You Should Take Your Cat to The Vet 

If your pet is limping you should bring them to your vet as soon as possible to be examined and diagnosed. This will allow for swift and accurate treatment to begin and prevent complications. If any of the following situations apply to your cat make an appointment with your vet for a wellness exam:

  • 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 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.

Is your cat limping or showing other signs of pain or discomfort? Please contact our Doraville veterinarians today to schedule a complete exam.