Why Is My Cat Limping? Cat Limping Causes & Solutions

If you notice your cat limping all of a sudden, it can be a real cause for concern. If only kitty could talk: they could tell you what’s wrong, and all about the fight they were in or the fall they had! But since your cat can’t talk (aside from yowling for more food every five minutes), you’ll have to stick with our cat health guide instead. Below, we’ve outlined everything that might be wrong with your cat that’s making them limp. But don’t worry, because whatever the problem is, we’ve got the solution too. If you find yourself thinking “my cat is limping and I don’t know how to help,” read on to find out everything you need to know!

Cat limping
This little guy doesn’t look too happy! Image courtesy of PxHere.

Why Is My Cat Limping? Top Five Causes

  1. They were in a fight. The number one cause of cat leg injury is simple fighting. Cats are notoriously territorial, and unlike big cats, don’t like to live in prides or packs. As much as we love them, our cats are genetically prone to aggression, so if you find your cat limping it may be because it lost a battle.You can normally hear a cat fight- hence the phrase ‘cat fight’!- but it might have been far enough away that you didn’t hear your cat get into trouble. The problem could be a soft tissue injury, or it could be something more serious like a fracture. Common soft tissue injuries include sprains and impact damage as a result of falling awkwardly. How you can help: there’s not much you can do, apart from take your cat to the vet. If it’s a mild limp, they might be fine on their own. But if your cat is unwilling to jump, unsteady on her feet or wobbling when she walks, call your vet. For everything apart from that, use a cat first aid kit! Over the counter pain meds for cats will take care of most mild post-fight injuries. Hopefully they learned their lesson!
  2. They have arthritis. As your cat gets older, they may start to develop arthritis. This condition is characterized by difficulty moving, because the joints have worn down and become painful. It’s the same as human arthritis! Your cat may have arthritis in one paw in particular, which can lead to them developing a limp. If your cat’s limp didn’t have a sudden onset, but developed gradually, it may be arthritis. How you can help: cat joint pain can be alleviated with supplements, including pain medication for cats. Since cats are so fussy, supplements like these taste like chicken- your cat will actually like them!
  3. They have an infection. Another reason your cat might be limping is because of an infection. A paw infection is going to be the result of an open wound; it could be because of a fight, or because they stepped on something they shouldn’t have. But whatever the reason, the symptoms are normally the same. You’ll notice that your cat’s paw is red and infected, and smells like an infected wound too. Your cat won’t want to put pressure on it, which is why they start limping. Unfortunately, if you don’t do anything about it, it’s unlikely that your cat’s infection will get any better. It’s in their nature to groom the wound by licking it, which can actually make it worse. How you can help: You have three main options. First, you can use a basic antibiotic ointment. They work the exact same way that regular antibiotics do, and they kill 99.9% of germs infecting a wound (or infecting anything else). If your cat doesn’t like the idea of you touching her paws, you can use an antibiotic spray instead. These sprays make application nice and easy. Or if you prefer a more natural method, you could always pick a more natural alternative to antibiotics like this one.
  4. They have an ingrown toenail. Cats can get ingrown nails if you don’t declaw or clip them. In nature, cats don’t need their claws clipped, because their nails wear down as they walk. This keeps them nice and short. But if their nails aren’t trimmed, and they aren’t worn down, they can keep growing… And growing! Eventually, they curve back into the paw. As you can imagine, putting weight on a nail that curves back into the sole of your foot is very painful. This might be what’s causing your cat limping. How you can help: Don’t try and clip your cat’s claws yourself if they’re ingrown. Cats don’t like having their nails clipped at the best of times; trying to help them with an ingrown claw is a recipe for disaster. Take them to a vet instead.
  5. They have a neurological condition. It’s much less common, but your cat might be limping because of a serious neurological condition. Neurological conditions affect the brain and nervous system rather than the muscles or skeletal system. The problem could be something as serious as a tumor, so again, it’s best to talk to a vet. If you find your cat limping but not in pain, a neurological condition might be the explanation.

Cat limping could also be the result of something as simple as a scratch, or a slight twinge. There’s no reason to think that it’s a serious problem unless you notice other symptoms: weeping or oozing sores, redness and inflammation for example. If your cat is yowling or yelping in pain, this is another obvious sign that the problem is a serious one. So keep an eye out for other problems, aside from your cat limping.

Cat limping
Image courtesy of PxHere.

Post-Surgery Care & Recovery

If your cat has recently been through surgery, it’s only natural for them to be limping a little. Pain from healing wounds and the aftermath of anesthetic can both mean that your cat struggles to walk, at least for a little while. But there are a few things you can do to help.

  • The most important thing to do is check that their surgical scars aren’t becoming infected. If the area is red, swollen or weeping, then they might need a follow-up appointment.
  • Keep your cat indoors. If your cat gets outside, outdoor hazards could jeopardize their recovery. They could step on something that becomes lodged in their wound, for example, or open closed wounds by jumping or falling. So, if your cat is an outdoor cat, keep them inside until they’ve recovered.
  • If all else fails, give your cat some ‘cage rest’. This is a top tip recommended by vets. If your cat wants to run around and play, but they haven’t recovered, it’s not like you can ask them nicely- they won’t listen, and they won’t behave! Even though it can be difficult both for you and for your pet, cage rest will completely prevent any complications.