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Is your cat limping and you don't know why? It could be her paw, a muscle, or a joint that's bothering her — but she won't be able to meow the exact location of what's ailing her. Cats may limp for a variety of reasons. So, it's important to understand what to look for and learn how to help alleviate her distress.
Common Causes of Limping
Sometimes, your cat may be limping from a simple accident. She may have gotten something stuck in her paw pad, or she may even have a slight muscle strain. Wait until your cat is calm and lying down. Then, try to inspect her leg and paw. Look for noticeable swelling, redness or signs of pain like meowing or flinching when you lightly touch the area. Wag! points out that a cat with a paw pad injury, such as an ingrown claw, may also lick one paw excessively or avoid walking on that foot. Even if you don't see any swollen paws, and she seems to be doing most of her usual activities, a little limp may warrant calling your veterinarian to prevent an infection setting in.
One danger for cats that can sometimes cause leg injuries is "high rise syndrome," says the Animal Medical Center of New York. A curious cat can easily jump out of an open window and fall. Make sure your windows have strong screens and never leave them open when you're not at home. Even a jump from a high bookshelf can injure an elderly (or a very small) cat, so be aware of how much access she has to high perches.
Arthritis is another issue that can cause cat limping. An older cat who walks stiffly, no longer jumps onto or off of the couch, or suddenly becomes reclusive may be suffering from joint pain. Your vet may recommend changing her food to one that supports joint health or fixing her a new napping corner in a warm, low-to-the-ground spot.
If things do not improve within twenty-four hours, it is best to have the limp looked at by a vet to avoid any long-term damage. Cats are great at hiding their pain, so if she is showing signs, it is likely severe enough that your vet should take a look. Your vet may also take an X-ray to determine the cause of your cat's leg injury.
Getting to the Vet
If your cat is in pain, the process of coaxing her into her cat carrier for a trip to the vet may be more difficult than usual. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make the trip less stressful for you and your fur baby:
- Try putting a blanket or shirt that your cat likes to snuggle up to on inside the carrier — one that smells like you may calm her down. Line it with a sprinkle of catnip or a treat and one of her favorite soft toys.
- If your cat will not go into the carrier on her own, handle her gently and be cautious about forcing her into the carrier. You don't want her to injure herself more. You can put her on a blanket and wrap her up to help her feel secure before placing her in the carrier to risk injury to her or yourself.
When to Be Concerned
Unfortunately, some cat leg injuries will take time to heal. You may have heard of athletes suffering from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, but did you know cats can also have ACL injuries? The Atlantic Veterinary Hospital writes that kitty ACL tears usually result from jumping or falling from high places, and are more common in overweight cats. A visit to the vet will confirm if the injury requires surgery, pain medication, or another treatment.
When cat limping is more severe due to an injury or serious illness, it is very important to limit your cat's movement and not allow her to jump or run. Consider borrowing a large dog crate to keep your cat contained while she heals. Make sure you get one large enough for her to have space to walk around between a small litter pan, water bowl and bed or blanket. You can also give her a room in your house, away from other pets and children.
Even if you don't give your kitty a private room, you'll need to make sure her litter box is one that does not require much effort to get into and out of. A shallow baking tray or a small pan for kittens will keep her from injuring herself further or eliminating outside the box from pain.
It is also important that you never give your cat medication for her pain that your vet did not prescribe. Over the counter medication that is made for humans can be toxic to cats and can make the situation exponentially worse.
Whether your cat is limping due to something minor or major, it is still important to spend quality time with her and try to keep your kitty calm and relaxed. Giving her extra cuddles and some special treats (but not too many) will make the recovery time more bearable as well. It is also important to note that because your cat can't be as active during her recovery time as normal, she won't be able to get her adequate exercise. It is important to follow your vet's recommendations for properly feeding her so that she does not put on unnecessary weight and exacerbate her leg injury. As a pet parent, it's never fun to see your pet in pain, but if you follow your vet's recommendations, your companion will be back to her frisky self before you know it!
Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.