Pets have a special place in our lives, which is why it can be so frightening when one of them gets hurt. Worse yet, they can’t tell us what’s wrong. If you see your cat limping, a thousand questions might race through your brain. The most burning question of all, though, is why.
Your cat can limp due to a variety of reasons. Some are harmless and easy to solve, while others require serious medical attention. When in doubt, it is always worth taking your cat to the vet. If your cat will let you do a thorough inspection, however, it may reveal important clues as to what happened and how serious the injury is.
One thing to keep in mind is whether your cat is an indoor-only cat or an outdoor cat. Indoor cats can be injured by jumping or playing too hard or stepping on something sharp, but outdoor cats face an entirely new element: other cats and wildlife. If your cat goes outside, it’s possible that they were injured in a fight.
When inspecting your cat for injuries, proceed gently and patiently. If they are in severe pain, don’t attempt to examine them and instead go straight to the vet. If they will let you inspect the leg, pet and reassure them during the process.
Once you’ve narrowed down which leg your cat is favoring, check the paw and claws. Even a small injury to the paws or claws can cause your cat to limp. Look for broken claws, cuts in the pad, or embedded objects such as thorns, broken glass, or other sharp objects.
If there is a small foreign body (such as a thorn or small piece of glass) in the pad or between the toes, carefully remove it. Afterward, clean the wound with anti-bacterial soap, soak the paw in warm water with Epsom salt, and then apply an antibiotic ointment. The treatment is similar for a cut or torn paw pad or broken claw. First, control the bleeding. Then clean the wound with the same method as above.
If your cat’s foot looks normal, there may be something else at play. Does your cat have a swollen area of the leg or visible cuts? Does the leg look disfigured, or are they unable to hold any weight with it? Your cat may have sprained or broken their leg, or there could be another chronic condition such as arthritis causing them pain. All of these merit a visit to the vet for evaluation.
There are a lot of reasons why your cat might limp, but here are some of the most common causes of limping in cats, according to PetMD.
- A broken claw
- Thorns, cactus needles, broken glass, or other foreign objects in the paw
- Fighting with another cat or wildlife
- An injured or cut paw pad
- A foreign object stuck between the toes or in the paw pad
- A sprained leg
- A dislocated joint
- A broken leg
- Hip dysplasia
- Patellar luxation
- Lumbosacral disease
- Intervertebral disk disease
- Tumors, either benign or cancerous
- Cancers such as lung-digit syndrome, injection site sarcoma, or lymphoma
Once you’ve identified the source of your cat’s limping, you may be left with other questions. How long will it take them to recover? What can I do to prevent them from being injured in the future? Rest assured–we’ve got you covered.
Why is my cat suddenly limping?
There are many reasons that your cat might suddenly start limping. A paw injury–such as a torn pad, embedded object, or broken claw could cause limping. A major injury such as tendonitis, a sprain, a dislocated joint, or a broken leg can cause limping. Limping can also be caused by certain chronic conditions, such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, lumbosacral disease, intervertebral disk disease, or cancer.
What should I do if my cat is limping?
If your cat is limping and in extreme pain, take them to the vet straight away. If your cat is limping but will allow you to touch and inspect the leg, check for any signs of injury starting with the paw and moving up. If there is a small foreign object lodged in the pad or between the toes, such as a thorn or piece of broken glass, pull it out and clean the wound. If the pad is torn or cut, stop the bleeding and clean the wound. If the cause of your cat’s limping is unclear or if you suspect a serious injury, the best course of action is to take your cat to the vet for an examination.
How can you tell if your cat has a broken leg?
The only sure-fire way to tell if your cat has a broken leg is to take them to the vet for an x-ray. A hairline fracture may exhibit many of the same symptoms as a sprained leg, but it calls for different treatment.
A broken leg is a serious injury, but with the right medical attention, your cat will be able to get back to their regular activities within roughly three to four months.
How can you prevent your cat from injuring their leg?
There are a few steps that you can take to prevent your cat from injuring their leg in the future. First, always clean any broken glass or sharp objects from the floor of your home right away. Whenever closing a door, cupboard, recliner, or other open areas, check to make sure your cat isn’t traveling through.
Is your cat spayed or neutered? Hormonal cats are more likely to get into a fight–with another cat or with wildlife. Neutering or spaying your cat reducing this risk.
Lastly, consider that outdoor cats are at a higher risk of injury than indoor-only cats. Outside, cats face a variety of dangers, including cars, wildlife, other cats, infectious disease, and falls from high places such as trees. Keeping your cat inside is one of the most effective ways to keep them safe. If you can’t do that, the next best thing is to have your cat microchipped, in case they become lost or hurt, and keep them up-to-date on their vaccinations.
How long will a cat limp with a sprain?
Sprains are, generally, much less serious than a broken bone, but they are still major injuries and take time to heal. It can take as long as several weeks to recover from a sprain. A cat with a sprained leg should always see a vet. Serious sprains require splinting or, in rare cases, surgery. To help with your cat’s recovery, keep them quiet and confined to a small area to avoid aggravating the injury.
Whether your cat simply has something sharp embedded in their paw or a serious broken bone, hopefully this information helps with their recovery! When in doubt, always take your cat to the vet. And, if you have even more burning questions, check out the articles below for even more information.