While cats may have nine lives, they have four legs that still experience pain and injury. Their superior survival instinct doesn't exempt them from the occasional accident or strain. When your cat is limping or experiencing lameness, there can be several things that have caused it, and knowing what to look for can help you to decipher the cause of your kitty's hobble.

Take your pet to the veterinarian to get them to check out any ongoing issues. Some causes of limping in your feline friend can be an indication of a more sinister problem. To be one step ahead of the issue and put a stop to escalating injury, get your pet assessed. 

Signs of Limping in Cats

Your forever-contented cat isn't one to complain when they're experiencing discomfort. Regal felines are above that. Pet parents can have a hard time even noticing their kitty is having trouble walking. Here are the main signs to look out for if you manage to catch that moment that they let their guise down. 

  • Strained or slowed mobility. A cat who is reluctant to jump or even stops jumping all together may have issues with its legs. They may find it difficult to climb stairs or avoid sleeping in their favorite elevated spot due to their difficulty accessing it.

  • Overgrooming can often be an indication of pain in a specific area as they try to soothe themselves. 

  • Inflamed legs and joints.

  • Ongoing lethargy is not a symptom to be ignored.

  • Toilet accidents in the home may indicate that your kitty struggles to go to their usual spot for their business. Keep an eye on their mobility to see if house soiling is a result of limping or general slowness.

  • Restless sleep. Since cats are master nappers, it will be apparent if your pet is struggling to settle.

  • Crying, howling, moaning, or growling. Desperate times call for desperate measures. If your pet is in visible pain, then you need to investigate the cause. 

Sudden Onset Versus Gradual Limping

Cats are a lot less active than their rival, the dog. So it's hard to tell whether a limp is gradual or sudden. But if you've been paying attention, then knowing the one from the other can help you and your vet diagnose the problem. 

A sudden limp is often brought on by an injury or trauma to the limb. A break in the skin, signs of blood, sudden swelling, evident pain, or a visible fracture in the bone is a sign of trauma. A superficial injury can be treated at home with your pet first aid kit. Anything warranting emergency treatment should be treated as such. 

A gradual limp is one that slowly becomes evident and worsens over time. From a hesitance to jumping, to avoiding it altogether, the slow decline of their movement and an escalation of accompanying symptoms can sign an underlying degenerative issue. Chronic conditions may be the worst-case scenario, as a sprain or ligament tear can also cause a gradual limp. If limping doesn't improve, it may be time to get a veterinarian to check it out.

Why is My Cat Limping? Common Causes

Limping in cats can be caused by many different things, from thorns to chronic conditions. Here are some of the common causes that may be affecting the kitty's gracious glide:

Superficial Injury:

  • Random accidents and trauma. Road accidents and injuries are unfortunate incidences. Any open wounds, broken bones, and lacerations can be painful and cause kitty to falter in their step. If your cat objects to touch or howls in pain, a broken or fractured leg may be the cause. Your cat will avoid standing on the broken leg.

  • Spinal cord injury. 

  • Joint dislocationpatella luxation, or subluxation of a joint: Cats mostly experience hip subluxation, caused by the separation between the bones that generally form a joint. It is usually brought on by a fall or other traumatic injury.

  • Allergic reaction on their paw pad. If your cat is limping after a frolic in the garden, insect stings are a likely cause. Locate the stinger and when the kitty is calm, attempt to remove it. Apply some antihistamine or some natural solution like diluted apple cider vinegar to help with the inflammation and reduce infection. 

  • Thorns or burrs stuck in the foot. Examine the paw pad for any foreign objects. A topical antibiotic balm is an excellent addition to your first aid kit if you live in an area with many thorns.

  • Sprains, tears, or dislocations after activity. With correct treatment and by restricting movement, a sprain can take up to two weeks to heal. Your cat may continue limping for this time. As long as the condition improves rather than worsens, you can wait it out until they're able to walk normally.  

  • Claw or nail injury. An ingrown claw or a torn nail can cause pain. 

  • Abscesses on the paw pad or a cat bite abscess on the leg. 

Chronic Conditions or Diseases:

  • Arthritis may be the reason for your cat's limp. Arthritis is also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease and can ail older cats. It causes pain and inflammation in joints. Lifelong management of osteoarthritis symptoms is needed to make your cat with arthritis comfortable.

  • Feline Aortic Thromboembolism is common in felines with heart disease. It is a condition where a cat will have a large blood clot. The clot often lodges itself in an area that will affect one or both back legs due to lowering blood supply to those areas. It's painful and requires emergency care. 

  • Feline CaliciVirus (FCV) Infection is a contagious virus that can lead to upper respiratory tract infection. Symptoms include limping syndrome and joint inflammation. 

  • Cancer - Lymphoma, lung-digit syndrome, and injection site sarcoma are among the cancers that can cause cats to limp.

  • Coccidioidomycosis, also known as Valley Fever, can cause limping and lameness in cats. It is a fungal infection that often causes lesions in the lungs, leading to respiratory problems. 

  • Lumbosacral stenosis is a spinal condition, less common in cats than dogs. It is much like a slipped disk and can nausea pain in your pet. The nerve pressure on the spine can cause lameness and will affect your kitty's ability to walk. The condition will be diagnosed with the help of an x-ray or MRI. 

  • Intervertebral disc disease.

  • Hip Dysplasia - In domestic shorthaired cats, hip dysplasia is low at 5 percent, but for purebred cats, it can be as high as 20 percent. Hip dysplasia is an orthopedic (often genetic) disease that affects the cat's hip joint due to the joint ball and socket malformation.

Treatment and Cures: What to Do When Your Cat is Limping

Begin with a simple exam. Handle your cat when they're calm and relaxed. Start by examining their paws and working your way up. Be gentle and avoid putting too much pressure on the leg. If your cat pulls its leg away or moans, then you know you've found the affected limb. Once your cat has relaxed again, have a look for foreign objects or inflammation in the location. Move their joints and limbs carefully to make sure their range of motion is normal compared to other limbs. If you identify any problems, you can then proceed to treatment or emergency care. 

Superficial injuries can often be dealt with at home, provided there are no broken limbs or deep wounds. Practicing basic first aid on cuts can be done by removing foreign bodies, cleaning the injury, and treating swelling with antibiotic ointment or cold compress. If you are unable to restrain and wrap wounds at home, take them to the vet. Abscess ruptures or infected wounds may require the need for antibiotics. 

To avoid unnecessary pressure on the injury, confine your cat to a room in your home for a few days. Provide a kitty litter tray so that they don't have to go far for ablutions. Get your furry friend settled and calm with some natural remedies like CBD and a comfy spot where they can sleep all day. To promote healing, try your best to stop your cat from jumping or running for a few days. Cage rest may be advised for severe injury. 

CBD for Cat Limping

If you're looking for a holistic option to help your cat with discomfort, you may want to consider CBD.

CBD is more popular than ever in the holistic wellness space, and more and more pet parents are turning to CBD every day to help support their cat's health and happiness.

CBD works by interacting with a cat’s internal endocannabinoid system, helping to support normal cardiovascular, immune, and neurological function. But CBD can also help with promoting relaxation in cats, helping with occasional discomfort, and even supporting mobility – just take a look at all the success stories of pet parents who've used CBD for these reasons and more.

The best part is that CBD for cats comes in an easy-to-use form: CBD oil! This makes it incredibly easy to administer CBD to your kitty – in fact, most cats look forward to their daily dose of CBD thanks to the delicious flavors CBD comes in.

When to See the Vet

If limping and lameness persists, or if other symptoms accompany the injury, then it's time to see the vet. Other worrisome symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing, exaggerated reactions to pain, reluctance to eat, and immobility. When your kitty isn't acting themselves, then it's a sign that there is a deeper issue. 

A visit to the vet may include x-rays to confirm fractures or breaks in bones. They can come up with a treatment plan. With accidental trauma like being hit by a car, there is always a possibility of internal injury, and you want you to give your cat the best chance for healing and survival. A prescription of pain medication may be all your cat needs, but traumatic fractures or breaks often require splints, casts or surgical pins. Heed your veterinarian's advice to follow through on post-operative care. 

If a gradual limp is what you are dealing with, the reason may be harder to figure out. Contact your veterinarian for a non-urgent examination. If your cat is old and slowing down or stiffness in their joints seems to be the norm, they may be dealing with one of the more common chronic conditions that arise with old age. Chronic pain medication may provide daily relief for adult pets with arthritis. 

How to Transport a Limping Cat

If your cat's wound requires emergency care, carefully transport them to the vet. Careless movement of your kitty can result in worsened injury, so handle them with care. Create a comfortable space for them in the cat carrier, and lay them in with the affected limb facing upward. Once you've arrived at the vet, leave them in the carrier until they're ready to be seen. If your cat is in pain, be careful when handling them, as they can unintentionally bite or scratch their beloved pet parent.

Cat Limping: A Final Thought

Your cat may have two legs more than you, but they need them all. Give your cat some extra attention. Luckily cats are happy to sleep the day away, so recovery and managing any discomfort will be far easier than with active dogs. With adequate care, correct medications, your royal companion animal can be back on its feet in no time and once again swatting moths around the home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I take my cat to the vet for limping?

If limping and lameness persists, or if other symptoms accompany the injury, then it's time to see the vet. Other worrisome symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing, exaggerated reactions to pain, reluctance to eat, and immobility.

What should I do if my cat is limping?

Begin with a simple exam to identify the cause. Do this when your cat is calm enough to be handled. Start by examining their paws and working your way up. 

How long will a cat limp with a sprain?

With correct treatment and by restricting movement, a sprain can take up to two weeks to heal.

How do you know if your cat has a broken leg?  

If your cat objects to touch or howls in pain, a broken or fractured leg may be the cause. Your cat will avoid standing on the broken leg.