When Your Cat Is Limping, Worry or Wait?

Cat outside.

Let’s face it, you probably don’t know exactly what kind of trouble your indoor-outdoor cat gets into when they hop fences, climb trees, or go on a midnight hunt. They could be at risk of various injuries. While indoor-only cats are considered safer and possibly healthier than those allowed to roam, they can still develop conditions that affect their mobility and gait. 

A limp can occur either gradually or suddenly, depending on the cause. If you’ve noticed that your cat is limping (whether a little or a lot), the key thing to remember is that it never pays to wait it out.

Illness or Injury

No cat owner ever wants to jump to conclusions regarding a potential emergency. However, when a cat is found limping, they benefit from immediate veterinary help. You can observe your cat’s behavior and monitor pain levels. If they cannot get up and walk normally after a 15-minute period of rest, it’s time to get the ball rolling.

The Fine Print

Sure, your cat’s symptoms could resolve in a day or two. But the worst case scenario could be that they are suffering from unknown, underlying health conditions that require prompt treatment. 

Without quick action, a limping cat may suffer for the long term, and treatments can become more costly and possibly less effective the longer you wait. If your cat receives appropriate first-aid and/or veterinary care as needed, they will have a better chance for a full recovery. 

The Ouch Factor

A cat’s leg is composed of bones, muscles, tendons, joints, nerves, ligaments, and skin. Sometimes the cause of a limp is immediately obvious following an inspection of the hurt leg. You might see or feel a broken bone or dislocated joint. Other common explanations include lacerations, puncture wounds, burns to the paw pads, or signs of infection. 

Watch for changes to your cat’s behavior. Are they eating and drinking as usual? What about their grooming and bathroom habits?

If you notice that their limb is hot to the touch or they wince when you come near, please arrange for transport. Withdrawal, fever, or lethargy signal the need for urgent care. 

At Home First-Aid

When a cat is limping but they are otherwise at 100%, you can try to administer first-aid to a cut, puncture wound, or infection. 

A non-emergency limp can be treated by cleaning the wound, reducing swelling with compresses, controlling bleeding, and confining your cat to a small area where they cannot cause further harm to themselves.

Covering All Bases

A limp that seems to come and go, or appears worse and then improves on its own, can be connected to various health conditions, including:

  • Arthritis 
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation (dislocated kneecap)
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Cancer

Since the above conditions cause a range of symptoms with varying degrees of severity, we urge cat owners to pursue diagnostics and treatment options. 

Your Cat Is Limping

Advanced diagnostics, including digital radiographs, ultrasounds, bloodwork and more can help us determine a course of action. Surgery may be an option. Otherwise, bone stabilization through a splint or cast, antibiotics, and pain medication can be a part of a typical approach.
If you’ve noticed your cat is limping and you’re not sure why, give us a call at (248) 646–5655. Our staff members at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates are always here for your cat.