Cat Limping - When to See the Vet

While cats are typically thought of as nimble, agile creatures, illness or misadventures can cause limping and discomfort. Today, our Flat Rock vets list a few reasons why your cat might be limping, and when to go to the vet.


Why Cats Limp

Cats may limp for many reasons. Whether your cat's limping is occurring in a front leg or back leg, it's always best to get your feline friend in to see the vet since many conditions that cause limping can become more serious overtime, or lead to infection. 

The underlying cause of your cat's limping may not be obvious, but first aid might be as simple as pulling out an object from between their toes (such as a thorn) or having their claws trimmed. 

Some cat owners wonder, "Why is my cat limping but not in pain?" Remember that cats are stoic creatures and most will conceal pain, so if your kitty is limping it means they are definitely in pain, whether you see other symptoms or not. If your cat starts to limp, check for signs of redness, swelling, as any of these are veterinary emergencies and should be tended to immediately by a veterinarian. 

Causes of Limping in Cats

Here are some common causes of limping in cats:

  • Torn or infected nail
  • Object stuck in paw
  • Ingrown claw or nail
  • Arthritis 
  • Sprained or broken leg as a result of trauma (falling, landing awkwardly or being hit)
  • Walking across a hot surface (pavement, stove, hot gravel)
  • Being bitten by a bug or other animal

How to Help a Limping Cat

If your cat is limping, wait until they are more relaxed and calm before trying to examine their leg. While they are calm, check their leg and paw carefully by running your fingers over the site to search for any sensitive areas and look for swelling, redness, dangling limb or an open wound. Start at the paw and make your away 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. 

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.

Should I take my cat to the vet for limping?

Many worried pet parents ask us, "What should I do if my cat is limping?" It is always a good idea to take your cat to the vet for limping 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
  • An open wound
  • They have been limping for more than 24 hours
  • There is swelling
  • You can't 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. If you're asking yourself, "Why is my cat limping all of a sudden?" and you are unsure of 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 that your cat is suddenly limping? Contact Western Carolina Animal Hospital. If your cat has been limping or displaying other symptoms you're concerned about, our experienced vets can help your cat playing pain-free again. Book an appointment today.

Cat walking through grass in sunlight

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