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Cat Limping: When to See Your Vet

Cats are typically graceful, agile creatures, many of whom enjoy a good romp while playing or jumping. However, injuries or illnesses can lead to discomfort and limping. Our Mamaroneck vets list a few reasons your cat may be limping and when to see your vet.

My cat is limping. Why would this happen? 

If you've spotted your cat limping, this may be occurring for many potential reasons. Whether your cat is limping from a front leg or a back leg, your best bet is always to book an appointment with your vet for an exam and diagnosis. 

Signs & Symptoms of Limping

Here are some common signs and symptoms of limping in cats:

  • Difficulty walking up or down stairs, or jumping to and from heights
  • Refusing to place any weight on leg
  • Walking at a slower pace
  • Swelling or abnormalities around joints 
  • Unable to walk or run normally
  • Loss of muscle mass in affected leg 
  • Not placing paw on the floor correctly (known as 'knuckling')
  • Pain and general signs of discomfort

Causes of Limping in Cats

Many pet parents bring their kitties in to ask, "Why is my cat limping all of a sudden?" Here are a few common causes of limping in cats:

  • Foreign object stuck in their paw
  • Torn or infected nail
  • Walking across a hot surface (pavement, stove, hot gravel)
  • Arthritis
  • Sprained or fractured leg caused by trauma (being hit, falling or landing awkwardly) 
  • Ingrown claw or nail  
  • Being bitten by a bug or other animal 

The symptoms of sprains or breaks are very similar and can include limping along with bruising, swelling or a noticeable lump, avoiding putting weight on the leg and biting or aggression when you attempt to examine the leg.

Why is my cat limping but not in pain?

Sometimes a cat may be limping but not appear to be in pain. Typically, limping is a response to abnormal anatomy or injury your kitty may have sustained. They may or may not be in pain. One or multiple legs can be affected by the limp, which can also be chronic or come and go. 

Like humans, it may be worse at some times of the day compared to others, such as first thing in the morning, late at night, or following exercise or rest. 

Signs of pain may not be restricted to crying out. Regardless of whether your cat is feeling uncomfortable, the root cause of the limping will need to be addressed.

What should I do if my cat is limping? 

If your cat is limping, wait for them to calm down and relax before you assess their leg. When they are calm carefully assess their leg and paw by running your fingers down the site for any sensitive areas and look for an open wound, swelling, redness, and dangling limbs. Start at their paw and work your way up.

If it is something such as a thorn or nails that are too long just gently pull the thorn out with tweezers or cut their nails as usual (or have it done by your vet). If you are unable to figure out the cause of the limp and your beloved kitty is still limping after 24 hours make an appointment with your vet for an exam.

It may seem strange but it can be challenging 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.

In order to prevent the condition from becoming worse, limit your cat's movements as you wait for your vet appointment. 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 keep them warm with their favorite blankets. Continue to monitor their situation.

When should I take my cat to the vet for limping?

If your cat is limping, it is always a good idea to schedule a visit with your vet take your cat to the vet to prevent infection or get a proper diagnosis. If any of the following situations apply to your cat, make an appointment with your vet:

  • The limb is dangling in an odd position
  • They have been limping for more than 24 hours
  • There is swelling
  • An open wound
  • You're unable to identify the cause

Do not wait to see your vet if there is a visible cause of your cat's limping such as bleeding, swelling or the limb is hanging in a strange way, 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.

Have you noticed your cat is walking with a sudden limp, or are they displaying symptoms you're concerned about? Contact our Mamaroneck vets to schedule an appointment. At Miller Clark Animal Hospital we can diagnose the condition and help your cat play pain-free again.

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