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My Cat is Limping - What Should I Do?

If a cat begins limping, there can be many possible causes. This means that some investigating may be required to get to the root of the issue. Here, our Memphis vets share some of the reasons why your cat may be limping from their front or back legs and what you should do if this happens.

Why is my cat limping all of a sudden but not in pain?

The truth is that they may actually be in pain and just not showing it. Cats can limp for many reasons whether they are limping from their back leg, or limping from their front leg such as getting something stuck in their paw, a sprain, a break, or even an ingrown claw.

It's always best to take your cat to the vet if they have a limp to avoid the possibility of infection and to help keep their condition from worsening. The cause of your cat's limp might not be easy to spot but the treatment could be as simple as trimming their claws or pulling out a thorn.

That said, if you're a pet parent it's a good idea to monitor your animal's health regularly, and watching how they walk is a part of that. Always keep an eye out for swelling, redness, and open wounds. If you see any of these call a vet immediately.

Possible Causes of Cats Limping

Here are some of the most common causes of limping in cats:

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

What should I do if my cat is limping?

The first thing you should do is try to help your cat relax then physically and visually examine their limb and paw. Run your fingers down the site watching and feeling for any sensitive areas and keeping an eye out for open wounds, swelling, redness, and in extreme cases dangling limbs. You should begin at your cat's paw, working your way up their leg.

If it is something such as a thorn gently pull the thorn 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 it has been 24 hours or more and your cat is still limping with no obvious signs of the cause then you should bring them to your primary vet for an examination.

It could be hard 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.

While waiting for your veterinary appointment you have 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 keeping them warm with their favorite blankets. Continue to monitor their situation.

When 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 prevent infection or get a proper diagnosis. If any of the following situations apply to your cat and it is outside of your primary vet's office hours, please reach out to our emergency vets:

  • You can't identify the cause
  • They have been limping for more than 24 hours
  • There is swelling
  • An open wound
  • The limb is dangling in an odd position

If there is excessive bleeding or obvious serious trauma to the limb then your cat should receive urgent or emergency veterinary care right away. If the situation may not be as urgent but you still aren't sure how to proceed then you should still contact your vet for advice and next steps.

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.

Has your cat sustained serious trauma to their limb that requires immediate care? Contact our team at Animal Emergency Center.

Animal Emergency Center in Memphis

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