Cat Limp

"Cat limp is another way of referring to an abnormal gait. The condition is the result of an underlying cause which needs to be identified in order to treat the condition. The most common causes of feline limp include minor to major injuries, localized infections and abscesses, sprains, arthritis and back bone problems. Cat limping is a symptom itself for any of aforementioned conditions, which is accompanied by other symptoms such as swollen limbs, pain, lameness and sometimes joint dysfunction. Diagnosis is made through detailed clinical examinations and if needed x-rays. Treatment is based upon having a veterinarian confirm a diagnosis and involves management of any related pain, a reduction in inflammation and the use of supportive therapies to enhance recovery."


Feline limp is most commonly caused by any kind of injury, including trauma during jumping, playing and automobile accidents. Injuries may be minor or major, cause mild to severe pain, swelling and limping in cats. 

Simple causes of cat limping or kitten limping  include a splinter, stepping on a bee such as an insect bite, or a broken nail.   If a cat nail is torn it could bleed.

Other causes of a limping cat include localized infections in the limbs and cat paws, abscesses and musculoskeletal diseases such as arthritis and spinal degeneration in the back bone.

Localized infections cause the development of lesions, which leaves a cat limping. These infections may be caused by bacteria, a fungus or sometimes are of parasitic importance. On the other hand, arthritis and back bone problems may cause an abnormal gait in cats, which are non infectious, but have a pathological (underlying disease) cause. Both of these are mostly chronic in nature and with some clues as to the cause in a cat's clinical history.

If you are not sure what to do, call your veterinarian, who is in a position to help.

This is a helpful video that reviews that different causes of a limping cat.


A feline limp is an indication of some type of underlying cause. It is not a health condition itself. Conditions, in which the musculoskeletal system is involved, such as an abnormal gait or cat limping is considered to be one of the most prominent symptoms. Other symptoms accompanied by feline limp in musculoskeletal system conditions are swelling, pain, neuromuscular in coordination and sometimes severe generalized symptoms such as fever and anemia.

On the basis of clinical importance, feline limps are usually categorized into different categories, which also help in assessing the accompanying symptoms and the approach towards treatment.

Diagnosis of Feline Limp:

Clinical history and conducting a detailed examination is the initial step toward completing a diagnosis. Conditions are assessed according to the history of limping, clinical examination, identification of the exact location of the problem and finally an assessment of the feline limp.

In order to confirm the anatomical status of the affected location, such as confirming the presence of any torn ligament, fracture, ruptured muscles, joint dislocation, tumors or any unusual development, x-rays and detailed laboratory tests including blood work, bone mass density tests etc. might be needed. Laboratory procedures are usually preferred in cases where infection, arthritis, and spinal degeneration are suspected.

Treatment of a Feline Limp:

In order to treat symptoms of cat limping and accompanied symptoms completely, the underlying cause should be carefully identified and then treated according to clinical learnings.

Minor cases of a feline limping are usually not preferably treated with specific therapeutics, they usually resolve on their own in few days. If the condition persists or if the severity of symptoms are increasing over time, proper handling is required.

The use of a specific treatment should be done based on the advice of a veterinarian. The most important part of treatment is pain management. It is done through the use of short and long term pain killers. Additionally, anti inflammatory drugs are usually administered to reduce inflammation, i.e. to reduce swelling, pain and limping.

Cases in which any infections are confirmed, antibiotics might be needed to be used, most commonly applied locally. Feline arthritis and spinal problems are also treated through a specific approach, which involves using anti inflammatory drugs and the addition of some nutritional components to the cat's diet such as glucosamine. In some serious cases, involving fractures, severe sprains and muscular ruptures, surgery might be needed for treatment.

Additionally, critical care such as confinement and restriction of excessive jumping, running etc is needed. Complete rest is recommended, but it is better to continue minor indoor exercise which does not cause any stress and excessive movement.

Natural remedies such as Muscle and Joint Support and supportive supplements such as glucosamine can enhance recovery by strengthening muscular and joint health. Similarly, other remedies such as Pet Calm, if used, can help to keep patients calm and comfortable in the case of any restricted movement and therapies. References: Merck Veterinary Manual (Merck & Co.)

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Merck Veterinary Manual (Merck & Co. 2008)

University of Washington School of Veterinary Medicine