Why Is My Cat Limping? Causes, Prevention, & Treatment

Why Is My Cat Limping? Causes, Prevention, & Treatment
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The last thing we want to see is our cat in any pain. Especially when we can physically see our furry friend suffering from a limp or a sprained leg, it hurts us a little inside when they are hopping around. But you might be asking, why is my cat limping?


There are a few possible reasons for limping in cats. Your cat may have hurt themselves while doing some physical activity, or maybe something got stuck in their paw. Sometimes it could be a sign of a more serious health condition or infection.


We will explore the potential reasons why your cat is limping and how to notice early signs they might be hurting. Find out how you provide first aid at home if your cat is limping and when it is appropriate to see the vet!



What is a Limp?

Before figuring out how to assess if your cat is limping, we should define a limp. A limp is when someone or an animal has difficulty walking on a particular leg due to an injury or underlying condition. Usually, a limp is a result of damage to the soft tissue in your cat's leg, such as a pulled muscle or ligament.


The movement created by a limp is usually imbalanced and unsteady, favoring or avoiding putting pressure or weight on a certain leg. Having a limp may make it challenging to do everyday tasks such as walking, going up and down the stairs, and exercising.



orange tabby with green bandage



Why is My Cat Limping?

Now that we know what it means to have a limp, let's take a look at some of the most common causes for why cats may be limping.



The most common reason why your cat might be limping could be due to a recent injury of sorts. Cats are active, physical animals and can find themselves in rather peculiar situations. Since cats are constantly exercising, jumping up and down from high places and running around the house, your cat is always at risk of getting injured.


An injury from a limp can occur from your cat:


  • Running too quickly
  • Jumping down from a high surface
  • Twisting their leg
  • Hitting corners of walls


Injuries can also be something as simple as getting a cut, insect bites, or something stuck in their paw. More serious injuries such as spinal cord issues, bone fractures, broken bones, torn muscles, or a sprain may need immediate medical attention. If it is obvious your cat is in severe pain, take them to the vet immediately.



One of the more serious causes of limping can be an infection. Certain infections such as Lyme disease, bacterial infections around a cut, or abscesses can result in limping or lameness in one leg. Depending on the severity of the situation and how much pain your cat is in, you may be able to treat these infections with several home remedies. However, if the limping persists, it is best to bring your cat to the vet.


Health Condition

With age, your cat may develop certain health conditions that can come with limping. Some of these health conditions include joint and mobility issues, muscle soreness, or hip dysplasia that can make it hard to walk.


More serious health conditions like lung, muscle, or neurological diseases can also affect how your cat walks. Although these conditions are rare, they may cause your cat to limp. If you see a persisting limp that doesn't go away after a few days, take your cat to the vet to get checked out.


These conditions can develop at any age but are most likely to advance later in a cat's life. Understanding the signs and potential health conditions your cat may develop are crucial to figuring out how to assess a limp.



Signs of a Limping Cat

So what exactly does it look like if your cat is limping? Here are several signs and symptoms that can help you determine if your feline friend is suffering from a limp.


  • Abnormal walking - One of the clearest signs that your cat has a limp is if they are walking irregularly. The cat may be avoiding putting pressure or weight on a particular leg.
  • Walking slowly - If your cat has been slowing down the pace, it could be a sign they are hurt or limping. You might notice them having trouble climbing the stairs or and taking a longer time than usual getting around the house.
  • Reluctant to jump - If your cat is a natural gymnast but has become hesitant about jumping up or down from certain areas, you may want to check if your feline friend is suffering from any injury.
  • Swollen legs - Swollen legs can be a visible sign that your cat is suffering from a limp. You should ice down their leg to reduce swelling, which can affect their running and jumping ability. In some cases, you might need to give your cat medication or ointment.
  • Constant meowing - Your cat may be trying to communicate their pain or discomfort by constantly meowing. Like how humans grunt or make noises when in any physical discomfort, your cat might be vocally expressing their pain through their meows.
  • Over-grooming - Because of the discomfort a limp can cause, your cat may over-groom a specific leg to tend to the pain. Signs of over-grooming may be raw or irritated skin or patchy fur.



How Serious is a Cat Limp?

The range of severity for a cat limp can vary depending on how bad the injury is, the extent of the infection, or the type of health condition affecting your cat. Before treating your cat's limp at home, the first step is to determine how serious the issue is. Any limp caused by tissue damage, serious injury, or infection should be treated by a vet.



grey cat with blue leg wrap



What Should I Do If My Cat is Limping?

If you sense that your cat's limping is only a mild case and can be treated at home, here are a few measures you want to consider taking.


Sharp Objects or Cuts

If your cat has pieces of sharp objects like a piece of glass or a splinter stuck in its paw, wait before attempting to remove the object. Ensure that removing the object does not worsen the cat's limp and that you can apply a proper bandage after removal. Try to clean the wound with antibacterial soap and soak the wounded foot with Epsom salt to avoid swelling.


Sprained Foot/Ankle

With a sprain foot or ankle, applying an ice pack to the injured area or affected limb can help reduce any swelling and ease physical discomfort. Attempt to ice the problem leg twice a day to ensure your cat's healing promptly.


Swelling & Abscesses

As for any abscesses, or swelling, applying a warm compress to your cat's leg can significantly lessen any irritation caused by the abscess. Always use antibacterial soap and Epsom salt when dealing with any open wounds or cuts to avoid further infections. Sometimes swelling can be painful, so be gentle with your cat when you're treating them.


CBD for Cats

After assessing any injured areas, your cat may need to calm down a bit. Providing your cat with CBD products can be beneficial to alleviate any joint discomfort or overall irritation. CBD can help bring your cat a sense of peace after suffering an injury or a limp and drastically improve their mood as well.


Check out HolistaPet's line of tasty CBD cat products available to help your furry friend get back on its feet in no time! Give your cat the amazing gift of CBD cat treats to manage their ailments and discomfort.


Related: 8 Ways to Give Your Cat CBD Oil [Tips & Tricks]


Can a Limping Cat Heal Itself?

Depending on the cause of the injury and how severe the limp, cats should recover well, given proper and swift treatment. Some pet owners may make the mistake of letting the limp proceed, thinking that it will heal itself. However, this may hurt the cat in the long run if the condition continues to get worse.


With daily treatment and proper rest, your cat's limping should resolve fully within a few days to a week. If your cat's limp continues to persist, then they might require emergency surgery to repair the damage.



When Should I Go to the Vet?

Although performing home remedies and assessing the situation yourself can be more cost-efficient, you should bring your cat to the vet for more persisting or serious issues. As soon as you sense something is wrong, you can get your cat treated early. Early treatment can potentially save you plenty of money and time.


By bringing your cat to the vet, they can adequately assess the situation, how serious the injury is, perform an X-ray to see if there are any broken bones, and can provide medication if needed. The limp may be in the early stages of an infection, a more serious health condition, or broken bones.


A limp or a sprain is not always a serious issue, but it can lead to more severe problems if ignored and not treated immediately. Vets can also prescribe medications that can help manage the pain or injury!



Final Thoughts - Why is My Cat Limping?

Keeping our cats happy and healthy is our number one goal as a pet owner. When we see that our cat is in pain, we would do anything to make sure that they are okay. The most crucial thing in regards to healing a limping cat is early detection. Noticing any early signs of discomfort or irritation with your cat's legs is key to avoiding more serious problems down the line!

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