Most cats will injure themselves at some point because they are curious and active creatures. There are numerous reasons why your cat may be limping, whether your cat is a homebody or an outdoor adventurer. Our Pico Rivera veterinarians discuss why cats limp and what to do if your cat is limping today.

Why is my cat limping but not in pain?

Our feline friends aren't able to tell us how they are feeling, or what hurts, which can make figuring out why your cat is limping challenging. Cats can limp for many reasons whether they are limping from their back leg, or limping from their front legs such as getting something stuck in their paw, a sprain, a break, or even an ingrown claw.

Although it may not seem like it, your cat may be experiencing significant pain but not look like it. In many cases, cats will hide when experiencing pain which is a natural instinct to protect themselves against predators. So it's important to remember that if your cat is limping it's a sign that they are experiencing pain, even if they don't look like it.

It's always best to take your cat to the vet if they have a limp in order to avoid the possibility of infection and to help keep their condition from worsening. The cause of your cat's limp might not be easy to spot but the treatment could be as simple as trimming their claws or removing a tiny splinter from their paw.

However, it's critical to regularly monitor your animal's health, and one way to do so is to observe how they walk normally. Look for lumps, bumps, swelling, redness, and open wounds at all times. If you notice any of these, please contact your veterinarian. When it comes to your cat's health, we believe it's always best to err on the side of caution.

Why is my cat limping all of a sudden?

Limping in cats typically comes on suddenly. Below are just a few of the most common reasons why your cat might be limping:

  • Something stuck in their paw
  • Sprained or broken leg caused by trauma (being hit, falling, or landing wrong)
  • Walking across a hot surface (stove, hot gravel, or pavement)
  • Ingrown nail/ claw
  • Being bitten by a bug or other animal
  • Infected or torn nail
  • Arthritis

What should I do if my cat is limping?

If your cat is limping try running your fingers down the affected leg watching your cat's reactions and feeling for any sensitive areas. Keep an eye out for open wounds, swelling, redness, and in extreme cases dangling limbs. Start at your cat's paw and gently work your way up.

If you discover something such as a thorn or splinter gently pull it out with tweezers and clean the area with soap and water. Be sure to keep an eye on the area to ensure that an infection doesn't take hold as the puncture wound heals. If overgrown nails are the issue simply trim your cat's nails as usual (or have it done by your vet). 

If you are unable to figure out the cause of your cat's limp and it continues beyond a day or two, it's time to make an appointment with your vet. 

It may sound strange but it can be challenging to tell if your cat's leg is broken. This is because the symptoms of a fracture can mirror those of other injuries such as a sprain (swelling, a limp, leg being held in an odd position, lack of appetite).

While you wait for your vet appointment, do everything you can to keep your cat from injuring themselves or making the situation worse. Keep them in a room with low surfaces or in their carrier to accomplish this. Make sure they're comfortable by providing a comfortable sleeping area/kitty bed and keeping them warm with their favorite blankets. Continue to keep an eye on them.

Should I take my cat to the vet for limping?

It is always a good idea to take your cat to the vet for limping to help prevent infection and to get a proper diagnosis. If any of the following situations apply to your cat make an appointment with your vet:

  • You can't identify the cause
  • They have been limping for more than 24 hours
  • There is swelling
  • An open wound
  • The limb is clearly broken
  • Your cat is hiding
  • Your cat is howling or showing other clear indications of pain

If there is a visible cause, such as bleeding, swelling, or the limb is hanging in an unusual way, contact your veterinarian right away to avoid infection or a worsening condition. If you are unsure how to handle the situation, you should contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the next steps to take.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you are concerned about your cat's limping contact your Pico Rivera vet today to book an examination for your feline friend.