Tips for a Cat that is Limping
11 December, 2012

My friend, Susie, has a cat named Jacob who suddenly started to limp.   He is an older cat but she wasn’t sure why he suddenly started limping.  I wanted to do some research to find out the causes and possible treatment.

The below are some reasons why a cat might start limping.

Trauma or Leg Bites

This can happen in cats of any age (even kittens) and is the first and (most obvious) cause of limping in outdoor cats. If left untreated, felines with leg bites often develop festering wounds, which can lead to limping.

If you cat is attacked by another dog or cat, this can cause limping and trauma.  You will know right away if this is the cause.


In older and larger cats, arthritis is more common than many cat owners realize. Osteoarthritis in cats can affect any of the kitty’s joints, including the spine, hips, knees and elbows.  This is the perfect example of why cats should be put on diets if they are overweight.

If your cat’s limp does not go away after a day or so, you should take your cat to the veterinarian.  Below describes what you can expect your vet to do if your feline favorite is limping.

Take a history

Most veterinarians will begin by asking a few basic questions to help them understand the history of the problem: When did you first notice the limp?  How has your cat been acting otherwise? What medications or dietary supplements have you used? (If your cat has taken any kind of medicine or supplement, take it with you when you visit the vet.)

Take X-rays and other lab tests

X-rays are a basic first line of testing for your kitties. When searching for a source of leg pain or weakness, a veterinarian will feel the bones, flex and extend each suspect joint, and assess your pet’s musculature for symmetry and change in muscle mass.

Blood and urine testing may be useful if your veterinarian suspects certain underlying causes. Aside from a basic urinalysis, your vet may choose to order other tests to help identify specific diseases.

Perform a physical and dermatological exam

Your vet will examine your cat’s entire body, not just the problem leg,  as it is a crucial part of the process.  Most vets will also perform a dermatologic evaluation. A veterinarian should look for the presence of lesions on the skin, such as pad burns, which often go undiagnosed if an exam isn’t thorough.

What you can do at home while you wait to see your vet

If your cat appears to have a leg problem that includes limping, hobbling, dragging, holding up a limb or merely favoring one leg over another, try to confine your cat in a small or enclosed area.  However, if your cat exhibits other unusual symptoms, such as fever, poor appetite and lethargy, head to your local animal hospital. These are typically signs that your kitty needs emergency care.

I hope that you never find your cat or dog limping, but if this does happen, it can usually be cured with medication and treatment.

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