Feline lameness can happen to all cat breeds in any stage of their lives. Often it caused by foreign debris trapped in between your the cat’s toes, or due to broken nails or a footpad injury.
Not all cases of cat limping are serious. So when is lameness in cats a genuine cause for concern? We will take a look at the various causes of cat limping and what you need to do in each case mentioned.
If the cat is overweight, she may have some difficulty walking. The extra weight will add pressure on the pet’s joints and in the long term, can lead to joint pain.
- Ingrown or torn toenails
It is difficult to recognise ingrown toenails in longhaired felines. As such, checking for this condition should be part of the grooming process. You should trim your cat’s nails every 2–3 months if she does not spend a lot of time outdoors. Ingrown is a common problem with senior indoor cats.
- Plant-triggered injuries
Cactus thorns, grass awns, tiny twigs, and other outdoor components may have gotten stuck in between or in your cat’s toes. These can cause much discomfort if not dislodged immediately.
- Fight-induced injuries
This is expected amongst cats that have not been neutered or spayed yet, as well as cats that can access outdoor areas.
- Minor paw pad irritation or abrasions
These may happen if your pet stepped on a very rough or hot surface, or roads covered in grit.
- Health disorders associated with ageing
Senior cats are prone to various joint disorders, such as arthritis and other conditions that tend to develop with age. Hip dysplasia and patellar luxation usually develop in the late stages of a cat’s life. Both can also trigger arthritis.
Infected wounds, calicivirus, abscesses, and Lyme disease can bring about cat lameness.
- Serious injuries
Torn muscles or cartilages, ruptured ligaments, broken leg, nerve injury, and spinal cord injury can lead to limping. Nasty insect bites on the legs can also bring about the hobbling.
Tumours, lymphoma, and injection-site sarcoma are some of the cancers that can cause cats to have a wobbly walk.
- Neurological diseases
Degenerative diseases like lumbosacral disease and spinal diseases can make a cat move stiffly. This can result in a faltering walk.
To Check or Not to Check the Limp
If you notice your pet limping, you should observe her further. This helps you identify a probable cause and determine whether you should do a physical examination. These are the questions you should ask yourself when evaluating your cat’s walk:
- Which is the lame leg? Is it the front, right, left, or back leg?
- Does she take great care to keep the affected foot off the ground?
- Does your pet ‘carry’ the impaired leg whilst walking? Does she stand on it when she stops moving?
- Does she walk on the limping leg but stumbles as she does so?
- What is your cat’s stride? Is it shorter than usual?
- When did you first observe her walking oddly?
- Was the lameness gradual or sudden?
- Is the limping consistent throughout the day or tends to be worse only at specific times? Does the impairment manifest after exercising, in the evening, or only in the morning?
After taking note of your cat’s behaviour, the next thing to do is to decide whether to examine the affected part. If your pet is obviously in pain, you must not handle her. If she does not stand or walk on the affected leg, she is more likely to be seriously injured. As such, you should not touch it even though there is no clear sign of injury. However, you can check the footpad with a torch for foreign bodies or minor injuries.
In checking your cat, it is recommended that you ask someone to assist you. Begin with the footpad and toes. Check for splinters, thorns, awns, punctures, cuts, and toenail injuries. If you must touch, do so with gentle pressure. Your cat will pull her limb back when you touch a painful area.
From her foot, move up her leg and gently feel whether there are swollen spots. If something seems unusual, check the normal leg for comparison. Note your observations.
What You Should Do
In some cases, the cause of the lameness is obvious. When you have ascertained the cause of your cat’s lameness, what do you do next?
For non-emergency causes:
These are the causes that may not require a visit to the veterinarian. You may follow these steps:
- Keep your cat confined and inactive.
- If the cause is foreign debris that can be easily extracted, take it out with sanitised tweezers. Clean the wound with water and soap, and apply an antibiotic.
- If the footpads are injured or the toenails are broken, clean the affected area first. If there are foreign objects, remove them before cleaning. Dipping the affected paw in water can soften it and make the extraction easier. Clean it with mild soap and water or a disinfectant. If there is bleeding, cover the area with a gauze pad or cloth and put some pressure on it. The bleeding should cease in 10–15 minutes. Otherwise, you should take her to the vet.
- If there is an abscess, administer warm compresses to the spot. If it ruptures, bring your cat to the veterinarian. Your pet will need antibiotic treatment in this case.
- If there is swelling due to a bruise or sprain, ice the affected area twice a day for fifteen minutes.
In minor cases, the limping should subside in 1–2 days. However, if there is no improvement after forty-eight hours, you will need to contact your vet.
For serious cases:
Get in touch with your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Do these tips help you be more confident in dealing with cat limping? Share it with your fellow pet-lover friends!