Why is your cat limping? What can you do about it?

There are many reasons a cat may be limping. It can be a minor ailment like an ingrown claw, or a stone stuck in a cat’s paw to a more severe leg injury. Also, your cat’s limping can vary. For example, a cat may struggle to walk normally only in the morning or limp when it’s cold. Other cats will experience a constant limp. When cats cannot walk on all four legs, they need to be seen by a veterinarian for treatment. 

Signs your cat is in pain with a leg injury

limping cat uses Walkin' Front Splint

There are many indicators to look for when your cat is in pain, some of the most common signs your cat has injured their leg include:

  • Compulsive licking of the paw or leg
  • Cat holding foot up off the ground
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Visibly swollen leg, joint, or foot
  • A scrape, abrasion, or open wound
  • Unwilling or unable to bear weight on their front or back leg

A cat limping or dragging its leg is uncomfortable and needs medical care. However, only a veterinarian can diagnose your cat’s injury and care for the underlying medical condition. 

Causes of Cat limping

  • Pulled muscle
  • An issue with their claw: broken claw, ingrown nail, or in need of a nail trim
  • Something stuck in the paw or between the paw pads
  • Arthritis or hip dysplasia
  • A sprain or break caused by a fall or trauma
  • Ligament tear

A cat may limp due to a more serious medical problem that requires more advanced treatment options. For example, cancer, heart disease, and kidney disease can all impact a cat’s mobility and leg strength. During your cat’s examination, your vet will check the leg for injury and may take X-rays and run blood tests to rule out more serious medical conditions. 

cat wheelchair for paralyzed cat with hind stirrups
Walkin’ Wheels Cat Wheelchair
Walkin’ Lift Rear Harness
Walkin’ Lift Rear Harness
cat splint for cat with front leg injury
Walkin’ Cat Splint

How to Treat Your Limping Cat at Home 

For cats with an occasional limp or minor injury, it may be possible for them to recover at home. However, after the initial examination, you will need to follow your veterinarian’s guidance for at-home recovery. 

1. Check your cat’s paw and leg regularly.

Check your cat’s bandages or splints regularly. An overly tight bandage may cut off circulation and cause the cat’s leg to swell. Too loose, and the dressing may not protect the wounded leg the way it needs to be. 

2. Allow your cat to rest.

Give your cat the time they need to rest and recover. Most cats will require a few days of restricted exercise as they heal. For an active cat, this can be especially difficult. Some cats may need to stay in a small room or playpen away from any furniture to limit their jumping. 

3. Rely on mobility aids to help your cat walk

Sometimes your cat needs a little extra support to get back on their feet. Luckily, there are many feline mobility aids that will make it easier for your cat to walk naturally. A lifting harness will help to support your cat’s back legs to lessen the pressure on the injured joint. The harness provides stability and lift so your cat can exercise and go the bathroom without injuring their leg further. A cat splint or brace can be worn to keep the leg positioned properly while staying supported. This can be especially helpful to relieve pain and allow the leg to heal.

4. Regularly give your cat prescribed medication

Many feline leg injuries may require medication as they heal. Anti-inflammatory medication and pain medicine may be prescribed in some cases. It’s vital that your cat receives their medication on a regular schedule and takes the medication as prescribed by their veterinarian.

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