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Cat Limping: When to Head to Your Vet

Cats are known for being active and curious, and many will hurt themselves at some point. Whether your cat is content inside or ventures outdoors, there are several reasons why your cat may be limping. Here, our Voorhees vets explain why cats limp and what you should do if your cat is limping. 


Why is my cat limping but not in pain?

Our kitty companions can't tell us how they are feeling, what hurts, or where, which can make it challenging to find out why your cat is limping. Cats can limp for many raesons, whether they are limping from their back leg, or limping from their front leg, such as having an object stuck in their paw, or suffering from a sprain, break, or even an ingrown claw. 

While it may not seem like it, your cat may be enduring significant pain without having symptoms of pain become apparent. In many cases, cats will hide when experiencing pain. This is a natural instinct to protect themselves against predators. 

So, it's important to keep in mind that if your cat is limping, it's a sign of pain, even if you don't notice other obvious signs of pain. 

If your cat has a limp, it's always best to bring them to your veterinarian to avoid the possibility of infection and to help prevent their condition from worsening. The cause of your cat's limp may not be easy to identify, but the treatment may be as simple as removing a tiny splinter from a paw or trimming their claws. 

That said, it's important to closely and regularly monitor your cat's health, and watching how they walk normally is part of that assessment. Always keep an eye out for bumps, lumps, redness, open wounds, and swelling. Contact your vet if you see any of these. We believe it's always prudent to err on the side of caution where your cat's health is concerned. 

Why is my cat limping all of a sudden? 

Limping in cats usually comes on suddenly. Here are just a handful of common reasons why your cat may be limping: 

  • Arthritis
  • Being bitten by a bug or other animal 
  • Infected or torn nail 
  • Ingrown claw or nail 
  • Something stuck in their paw 
  • Sprained or broken leg caused by trauma or injury (falling, landing wrong, being hit)
  • Walking across a hot surface (hot gravel, pavement, or stove)

What should I do if my cat is limping? 

If your cat is limping, try stroking your fingers down the affected leg while watching for your cat's reactions and feeling for any sensitive spots. Keep an eye out for redness, swelling, and open wounds. In extreme cases, you might see dangling limbs. Start at your cat's paw and work your way yp their leg. 

If you discover something such as a thorn or splinter gently pull it 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 you are unable to figure out the cause of your cat's limp and it continues beyond a day or two, it's time to make an appointment with your vet. 

It may sound strange but it can be challenging to tell if your cat's leg is broken. This is because the symptoms of a fracture can mirror those of other injuries such as a sprain (swelling, a limp, leg being held in an odd position, lack of appetite).

While waiting for your vet appointment do what you can 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 keep them warm with their favourite blankets. Continue to monitor their situation.

Should I take my cat to the vet for limping?

It is always a good idea to take your cat to the vet for limping to help prevent infection and to get a proper diagnosis. If any of the following situations apply to your cat make an appointment with your vet:

  • You can't identify the cause
  • They have been limping for more than 24 hours
  • There is swelling
  • An open wound
  • The limb is clearly broken
  • Your cat is hiding
  • Your cat is howling or showing other clear indications of pain

Don't wait 24 hours if there is a visible cause such as bleeding, swelling or the limb is hanging in a strange way, as this qualifies as a veterinary emergency. 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.

Are you concerned about your cat's limping? Contact our Voorhees vets today to schedule an examination for your four-legged companion.

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