While cats are known for their agility, grace, and ability to land on their feet, they aren't immune to injury. A cat with a sprained leg after a jump or fall will have symptoms including limping, swelling, and heat in the affected leg. These symptoms are similar to more serious injuries, like a broken bone, so be sure to consult your veterinarian to confirm the sprain and ensure your cat gets the proper treatment.
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Cat sprained leg symptoms
If your cat is limping on her back leg after a fall, it could be a symptom of a sprained leg. A sprain is an injury to the ligaments in a joint when it is either stretched too far or even torn, and it can occur in any of your cat's legs. Sprains may be minor with just a bit of swelling or pain, or they may be much more serious.
Besides limping, you may see other symptoms, including swelling and bruising. A cat with a back leg injury may have difficulty jumping and climbing. She may also show behavioral changes that indicate she is in pain. Some examples include meowing, panting, and a lack of appetite.
If your cat is in pain, she may hiss and bite if you try to examine her. Ask for help holding your cat so that you can safely examine her leg.
Treating a cat sprain
Make sure to seek veterinary treatment for your cat if he is injured. Immediate attention is necessary if your cat won't put weight on the leg, is holding the leg at an awkward angle, or has been limping for more than 24 hours. Make sure to transport your cat in a carrier so that he is secure and doesn't further injure himself on the car ride.
If the sprain is mild, it should heal in just a couple of weeks with some rest. You can apply ice to the swollen area for 15 minutes twice per day if your cat will allow it. Keep your cat calm and restrict his movement as much as you can so that he rests the limb. Your vet may also prescribe pain and anti-inflammatory medications. More serious sprains, such as if the ligament has been completely torn, may require surgery.
Other cat leg injuries
Symptoms of a cat sprain are similar to those you may see for other types of injuries. This is why a veterinary exam is so important. If your cat has a broken leg, for example, you will also see swelling and limping, but your cat will need additional treatment, such as a splint or even surgery, to repair the break. Another injury with similar symptoms is a dislocated joint.
A cat limping may also be caused by an ingrown nail or a foreign body in the paw. You can usually identify these by examining the leg. If you can get to the splinter or other object easily, you can remove it with tweezers and then clean the wound. Your cat may need antibiotics if the wound is infected.
Preventing future injuries
Accidents happen, and your cat may slip or fall while playing or jumping, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of injury. Keep your cat at a healthy weight, as obese cats are more prone to injury in a fall and to other conditions that cause lameness, such as arthritis.
Keeping your cat indoors reduces the risk of injury. Make sure windows are secure and that your cat cannot jump off the balcony. Regular playtime can help keep your cat healthy. If she isn't used to exercising, start slowly, as she may get sore if you start with too much activity at once.