Symptoms of a Broken Rib in Cats

By Jae Allen

Cats most often suffer broken ribs as a result of sudden injury. If a cat is hit by a car, broken ribs, along with other broken bones, are some of the more common injuries sustained. A cat also can suffer broken ribs as a result of a blow, fall or fight with another pet in your home. If you think your cat has broken a rib, do not delay in getting appropriate veterinary attention. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.


Broken ribs are painful, and pain-related behaviors can provide clues that your cat has had a rib-breaking injury. Crying or mewling are common ways for a cat to express physical pain. Additionally, a cat may become resistant to petting, particularly in the torso area. A normally social cat may become withdrawn and irritable. Appetite may decrease, and your cat may have trouble walking or standing normally. His breathing patterns may change, with breathing becoming shallow, noisy or labored due to one or more rib fractures.


Your cat's veterinarian typically will diagnose broken ribs by means of a physical examination. A complete medical history, and your description of the accident or trauma causing rib injury, also will help your vet's diagnosis. Lab tests are not usually helpful in diagnosing broken ribs. An X-ray of your cat's chest will show your veterinarian the location of any broken ribs, and also can show whether injury to the lungs has occurred.

Surgical Treatment

Usually, rib fractures will heal by themselves and no intervention or specific treatment is warranted. Because a cat's ribs need to move in and out during breathing, it is not possible to immobilize broken ribs by means of a cast. If multiple ribs are broken, an external splint may be attached to part of the chest wall. A veterinarian essentially will sew the ribs to this external splint using surgical sutures. This technique is used when rib fractures are impairing your cat's ability to breathe, in a condition known as "flail chest" (abnormal chest wall movement during breathing in cases of multiple broken ribs). In certain cases, your veterinarian may perform surgery to repair individual broken ribs with surgical wires or pins.

Drugs and Home Remedies

Your veterinarian may give injected pain medications to your pet while she is being treated as an inpatient. Once your cat comes home to continue recovery, you can give her oral pain medications under your vet's supervision. Keep your cat indoors and give her a private space to rest, away from other cats and pets. Strenuous exercise will lead to heavier breathing, which can hurt a cat recovering from rib fractures. Limit your cat's physical activity, perhaps keeping her on one level of the home and away from stairs, to aid and expedite her recovery.