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Cat Limping - When It's Time To Head To The Vet

Cats are curious and active creatures, and most cats will hurt themselves at some point. So whether your cat is a homebody or an outdoor adventurer, there are countless reasons why your cat may be limping. Today, our Exeter vets look at why cats limp and what you should do if your cat is limping.

Why is my cat limping but not in pain?

Our feline friends cannot communicate their feelings or pinpoint the source of their discomfort, which can complicate the task of identifying why your cat is limping. Cats may limp for various reasons, whether due to a back leg issue or a front leg problem, such as a foreign object lodged in their paw, a sprain, a fracture, or an ingrown claw.

Even though your cat may not show obvious signs of pain, they could be experiencing significant discomfort. Cats often conceal their pain as a natural instinct to protect themselves from potential threats. Therefore, it's crucial to understand that limping in your cat clearly indicates pain, even if they don't outwardly exhibit it.

It is advisable to promptly seek veterinary assistance if your cat is limping to prevent infection risk and their condition from deteriorating. While identifying the cause of your cat's limp may not be straightforward, the treatment could be as simple as trimming their claws or removing a small splinter from their paw.

In addition, it is essential to regularly monitor your pet's health and observe their normal gait. Always be vigilant for signs such as lumps, bumps, swelling, redness, or open wounds. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. We firmly believe that prioritizing your cat's health is always the wisest course of action.

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 like 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, trim your cat's nails as usual (or have them 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 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 waiting for your vet appointment, do what you can to limit your cat's movements to keep them from causing further injury or making it worse. Do this by keeping them in a room with low surfaces or putting them in their carrier. Make sure they are comfortable by providing them with a comfy place to sleep/kitty bed and keep them warm with their favorite blankets. Please continue to monitor their situation.

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 you notice any visible causes like bleeding swelling, or if the limb appears to be in an abnormal position, do not wait 24 hours. Call your vet immediately to prevent infection or the condition from worsening. Additionally, if you are uncertain how to address the situation, contact your vet for guidance on the necessary steps.

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 Exeter vet today to book an examination for your feline friend.

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