Soft Tissue Injuries in Cats

Do you have a limping cat? Is your cat swollen? Injuries and inflammation in cats are a more common concern than you probably imagine. If you’ve ever wondered ‘can cats get bruises?’ the answer is yes, and they’re every bit as irritating and painful for them as they are for us. Seeing cat skin turning black understandably worries owners, but chances are they’ve just had a fall or a fight and developed a nasty bruise.

A limping cat, or a cat displaying any other symptom of a physical injury, is a cat who’s suffering from soft tissue injuries – also known as soft tissue trauma. In some events you can treat this at home with a little love and attention. In other cases, you may have to see a vet. Here’s all the information you need in order to keep informed, and to help your cat as it recovers.

What Is Soft Tissue Trauma In Cats?

limping cat

The worst thing about treating a limping cat is that they hate you for it. Image from Flickr

Soft Tissue Trauma (STT) refers to bruises and bleeding of the soft tissue. This is usually the result of blunt force trauma, however, strains and sprains can also be the cause.

Strains are also referred to as torn or pulled muscles. Strains occur when your cat’s muscle fibers are strained beyond their capacity. Sprains, by contrast, affect your cat’s ligaments after moderate to severe injury. Tendons are also prone to trauma through the repetitive strain of tendinitis. It should be noted that tendon injuries are not particularly common in cats.

How Do I Know If My Cat Has A Soft Tissue Injury?

All of the symptoms of STT are visible, and will be marked by a behavioral change in your cat. Having a limping cat is an obvious sign, but some of them are more subtle. Symptoms of STT include:

  • Bruising
  • Limping or lameness
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Inability or refusal to bear weight on affected limbs.
  • Inability to move joint
  • Stiffness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Refusal to eat
  • Excessive grooming of affected area
  • Change in personality

Are Some Cats More Likely To Develop Soft Tissue Injuries Than Others?

limping cat

Oh dear. Someone’s been in the wars! Image from Wikimedia

Cases of STT are more likely to be seen with younger cats than older cats. This is due to them not being 100% aware of their limits. Sadly, some kittens can push their luck a little too far and attempt jumps, which result in falls.

Even adult cats are prone to injury through accidents or fighting with other pets, though Having a cat always being underfoot in a household can easily lead to crushing or bruising. Obesity in cats is another way for cats to experience stress on the muscles, and ligaments. Whatever the cause, if your cat has been involved with any form of trauma, you’ll need to make your vet aware.

Your vet will carry out a complete physical examination to determine the severity of the STT. After he necessary tests, your vet will try to make your cat as comfortable as possible. This may include anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling along side pain relief medication. In some circumstances, sedation may be required to help relax a distressed cat.

Severe sprains and strains may require surgery to repair the damage. Moderate sprains may only need basic splinting. Your cat will hate having their mobility restricted in the short term, but it’s in their own interests.

Treating A Limping Cat

A limping cat is displaying an obvious condition, and one that’s normally the result of a soft tissue injury. Causes of limping in cats include:

  • A fall or slip from height
  • Being hit, i.e. by another cat, or in an accident
  • A broken bone in the paw
  • An ingrown nail
  • A neurological condition (although this is more rare)

The typical treatment for limping is simply to allow the condition to get better over time, and you don’t need to consult a vet if your cat otherwise seems fine. However, neurological conditions and ingrown claws require specialist care. If you don’t notice an improvement after a week, or you notice your cat displaying any of the other symptoms described above, you should see a vet. You can find more information on the causes of cat limping here.

Helping A Cat With A Soft Tissue Injury To Heal

Whether it’s a limping cat or a cat with another form of soft tissue injury, they’re going to need some recovery time. The problem with that is your cat may not necessarily agree. An injured cat has to be prevented from re-injuring or causing further injury to the affected body part. Unfortunately for you, that means you might have to consider restricting your cat’s movements for a while.

Cats don’t generally volunteer for bed rest, so they’ll need conditions imposing upon them. You’ll just have to put up with the meowing and the angry glares for a while.

Places To Keep An Injured Cat Away From

This probably reads like a list of your pet’s favorite places. It’s probably through visiting one of these places that they got their STT in the first place, so it’s best to keep them away for a while! Don’t let your injured or limping cat visit any of the following:-

  • The outdoors. Don’t let your cat outside at all while it’s healing. You have no control over their environment out there. On top of that, a limping cat or a cat with restricted mobility won’t be as quick or agile as it normally would be. That means it’s at increased risk of danger from traffic, other cats and other potential dangers.
  • Cat trees and cat furniture. No matter how much your pet loves to climb up its cat tree and sit at the top of it, climbing strains the joints and stretches the body and is likely to aggravate injuries.
  • Stairs. See above. Stairs count as climbing, and carry the same potential for fresh injuries to occur. This may mean that your cat can’t follow you up to bed, unless you’re willing to carry them. If you do, make sure you shut the door when you’re in there and include a cat feeder and a litter tray in your bedroom. You can’t risk your cat running around the house and getting hurt again while you’re sleeping.
  • Other animals. Unless you can say for certain that you know how your injured or limping cat came about its injury, you must consider the possibility it was caused by another animal. That includes any other animals you keep a pets. The best place for your cat to recover is in seclusion.

Consider A Cat Cage

limping cat

A cat in a cage, totally failing to appreciate what you’re doing for it. Image from Wikimedia

We realise that with all the places you now have to keep your cat away from, you’re not leaving them with much freedom. We also recognize that it may not be practical or possible to keep them away from every place we mentioned. For that reason it might be best to consider a cat cage, even if just for the short term. It may feel like a drastic measure, but it’s better than them hurting themselves by trying to run and jump again too early.

Many cat cage carriers have space for a litter tray and food bowls to be incorporated, so they won’t go without while they’re in there. Let them out once a day, and see if the limping has improved. If it has, you can start to introduce them to the wider world again. If it hasn’t, put them back in. Remember, if your cat limping persists for more than a week, it’s best to see a vet and ensure there’s nothing more sinister at work.

Other Potential Causes Of Inflammation In Cats

We’ve talked a lot about how to treat a cat limping, but there are other reasons you may find a cat swollen. Inflammation in cats is most likely down to a soft tissue injury, but it’s important that you’re aware of the other possibilities so you can quickly identify if there’s something beyond a basic injury affecting your cat’s health.

Viral and Bacterial Infection

The auto-immune response of a cat is a curious one. They puff up and inflate in response to a number of different conditions, with soft tissue trauma being just one of them. It’s like their special way of signaling to us that something is wrong. Inflammation in cats can be a sign that your cat’s immune system is in overdrive, fending off bacteria or viral infections. That’s all down to the white blood cells, which target the infected area with chemicals in the blood stream. That, in turn, causes a build up of fluid in the area surrounding the infection. Cat swollen? That could be why.

Just as we don’t need to go to the doctor because we’re suffering from a common cold, your cat doesn’t need to go to the vet because of a minor infection. That’s what its immune system is for, and if you’ve noticed your cat is swollen, that might be because it’s doing its job already. Be aware of signs that the issue is getting worse, though. If the swollen area is hot to the touch or turning red, the battle with the infection may be an unsuccessful one. It’s also not healthy for a cat to remain inflamed for a long time – persistent inflammation has been known to cause cancer. Head to the vet if there’s no improvement after a week.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which isn’t to be confused with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBS), is a specific inflammation of your cat’s digestive system. Often, it’s the digestive tract itself which is inflamed, and possibly even the intestine. If the only area if your cat’s body that’s inflamed is around its stomach and gut, then you could be looking at IBD.

Unfortunately, IBD can only be confirmed via biopsy. That means a trip to the vet is necessary if your cat’s swollen gut hasn’t returned to its normal size within a week. Depending on the severity of the condition, you may be advised on a number of treatments which range from medication or a change in diet.

Poor Diet

limping cat

Something it ate? A poor diet can contribute to inflammation in cats. Image from Flickr.

None of us would ever dream of doing this on purpose, but a poor diet can actually result in a swollen cat. By ‘poor diet’, we mean one which contains too many calories. The net effect of too many calories entering the system is that stress gets placed on cells, and the stressed cells then cause inflammation.

We’ve covered the connection between poor diet and health issues in cats in great detail elsewhere on our site. If you have concerns that your cat is becming too large, too small or swollen because of poor diet, we suggest you visit that page and read our advice on the topic.

Ultimately, high level of fat tissue cause inflammation, and that’s a scientific fact. The best way to combat the issue is to get your cat onto a healthy, nutritious diet and make sure they’re getting plenty of exercise. In many ways, it’s easier to treat than a cat limping, but the potential consequences of not correcting a poor diet are far worse. Obese cats live an average of 30% fewer years than their healthy peers.

In Summary…

If your cat has a soft tissue injury there isn’t much to worry about. It probably looks worse than it is. Your cat may make a lot of noise about it, but with proper care and attention it will heal without the need for medical intervention, and your limping cat will be right as rain in a week or so. The key is to be firm about limiting their activities. Don’t let them re-injure themselves. Don’t let them back outside until they’re fully healed. Guard them against harm even if they hate you for it, and the problem will go away.

In the case of inflammation, there may be a more serious underlying cause. We know nobody likes to pay for needless vet visits. That’s why we feel that if it’s a limping cat or a swollen cat, a week is the right amount of time to wait before seeking advice. A basic flesh wound or infection should have cleared up by then. If it hasn’t, then your vet will be able to advise on a more robust treatment program.

Thanks for stopping by and reading our advice today. Please consider sharing it among your cat loving friends!