Common Causes of Cat Limping

Cat limping can have a variety of causes. Injuries and even illnesses can cause your cat to limp. Injuries that can cause limping in cats might vary widely in severity. Here are some common causes of cat limping.

Damage to Your Cat's Soft Tissues

Strained or sprained muscles or ligaments are responsible for most cat limps. A limp associated with a pulled muscle may last intermittently for a day or two. Such an injury might cause a little swelling, which you can treat yourself with a heating pad or heat pack.

Torn ligaments are a more serious source of cat limping. A partial tear to a ligament may result in intermittent limping, leading the owner to believe that the injury is less than serious. A partial tear may become a complete tear, making it impossible for your cat to put any weight at all on the affected leg. Torn ligaments are difficult to heal and often require surgery.

Foot and Nail Injuries

Foot and nail injuries are another common cause of cat limping. Glass, splinters, and other sharp objects can cut your cat's paw, or become lodged in the pads of your cat's feet, causing limping. Nail injuries can also be quite painful for cats.

If your cat is limping, examine his feet carefully, and don't forget to look between the toes. Check his nails for cracks, tearing, and dried blood.

Infections, Abscesses and Bites

Infections and abscesses can also cause cat limping. An infection below the surface of the skin, or abscess, can cause redness, swelling, and tenderness. Any wound in your cat's skin can become infected, be it the bite of a flea, a puncture wound, an animal bite or an ordinary scratch. Check your cat's skin daily for such infections.

Tick, spider, and snake bites can also cause limping. Redness and swelling will occur at the site of the bite. Extreme pain and severe swelling could occur.

Broken Bones and Dislocations

Broken bones and dislocations are among the most serious causes of cat limping. Depending on the severity of the break, the limping may be intermittent and your pet may continue to put some weight on his injured. In more severe cases, your cat will refrain from putting any weight on the injured limp and may experience extreme pain and severe swelling.

In the case of a fracture or dislocation, your cat's leg may display improper alignment and may dangle abnormally. Splint the injured limb until your veterinarian can treat the injury.

Back Injuries

Animals of all ages are susceptible to back injuries, which can cause limping and an abnormal gait. Elderly animals are particularly prone to back injuries due to spinal degeneration. Such limps may seem to come and go.


Arthritis is a common cause of limping, pain and join stiffness in older cats. Arthritic cat limping may seem worse in the morning and on colder days; a cat with arthritis may have difficulty sitting, standing, lying down and squatting. Cat limping cause by arthritis usually involves both rear legs and can result in a stiff, irregular gait. Limping due to arthritis usually gets worse with time.