Updated Jan 30, 2024
Have you noticed cats are very resilient pets with incredibly high pain tolerances? While other animals (ie: dogs) will absolutely let you know when they get hurt by barking or whining loudly, a cat’s high pain tolerance makes it somewhat easier for them to live with an injury without making it known to you they’re in pain. Since it’s easy for them to hide their pain from you, as cat parents, we need to be in tune with our cats’ behavior and know what signs to look out for when there’s something amiss. One of our worst fears is not knowing how to spot or, worse, how to respond when our precious furball befalls an accident, such as breaking a leg. Don’t fret, our experts here at PrettyLitter are going to help you spot the signs and give you the next steps in order to get your cat the proper care for a broken leg.
Signs of a broken leg
Is your cat unable to curl up and groom itself? Perhaps they’re not jumping up for a treat like they usually do? Limited mobility is a tell-tale sign that there could have a broken limb or something else wrong with your cat, and it’s time to seek medical advice, or go to an emergency vet clinic.
A shift in stride
Have you noticed your cat starting to walk around the house differently? If your cat is avoiding putting all their weight on a certain leg, limping, or just touching their toes to the floor ever-so-slightly as they walk, there’s a good chance that they have a sprained leg or bone in or around that leg may be broken.
Is your usually friendly indoor cat treating you differently? Every cat has a unique and distinct personality, and yours will have personality traits familiar to you. If your indoor cat seems to be acting differently than they usually do (ie: not letting you touch or pick them up if that’s something they typically don’t usually mind), it is a clear sign that something’s not right. The investigation continues.
Is your cat’s leg looking a little thicker than it usually does? Broken bones can cause swelling and inflammation, whether it’s their legs, tail, or other body parts. Be on the lookout for any swollen areas near your cuddly kitten’s fractured bone, and take them to emergency care or an experienced vet if you notice something worrisome and swollen.
While most of the time, cats aren’t vocal when they’re in pain, some cats are the exception. Since each cat has a unique personality, sometimes you’ll come across an injured cat that will meow, cry, or moan if they are in pain. When in pain, cats often hide away and retreat into dark, hard-to-access places like the depths of your closet or underneath your bed. In these cases, a trip to the vet or emergency care is well-advised.
How to handle broken legs in cats
It’s important to be gentle as you examine your cat for potential broken bones and swelling. The less movement for your cat, the better. Try to limit distractions like other cats, people, or children by keeping them away from your injured cat. The stress from these distractions can negatively impact how they cope with their injury. Roughly handling them or moving them too much will worsen their injury and increase the pain. If your cat’s broken bone has also broken through their skin, do not, under any circumstances, attempt to push the bone back in. Instead, keep them as still as physically possible while you wrap their injury with clean and sterile gauze. Take them to their veterinarian as soon as possible when dealing with these more serious injuries.
If your cat will not stop moving or is squirming too much in your arms, wrap them in a blanket to restrict their movement as comfortably as possible.
Treatment and care
Your veterinarian will assess the problem and take the appropriate steps to mitigate the injury and stabilize the bone. Sometimes, with simple fractures or breaks, they’ll use a splint to stabilize the bone and prevent unwanted movement during the healing period. However, many times, cats with broken bones have to undergo surgery in order to heal properly. Surgical pins, plates, and screws may be used to keep the pieces of bones in place while they heal. If your cat’s broken bone is somewhere like their pelvis or spine, your veterinarian will prescribe a more intense treatment plan by seriously restricting their full body movement until the injury has fully healed. Sometimes, with more serious breaks, pins, plates, or screws won’t be useful, and your veterinarian may suggest amputation as the most humane option for your cat’s recovery. Cats are able to adapt and function normally with the loss of a leg by changing their movement to accommodate their new reality.
Make sure to follow your vet’s instructions by giving them the medication they prescribe for your cat’s recovery. Pain medications will keep them at ease and comfortable, and anti-inflammatory medication or antibiotics will prevent infections or swelling, especially post-surgery.
Keeping them still
Just like when assessing their injury, keeping your cat still and limiting distractions that may entice them to move is an important step in post-treatment healing. Temporarily remove any cat trees or other toys that may encourage lots of movement and hinder their healing process.
It is crucial to keep bandages and wraps as dry and clean as possible so their wounds can heal as quickly as possible. You shouldn’t allow your cat to chew, bite, or scratch their bandages or wraps.
Following up with your vet
Take them back to the veterinarian for follow-up post-treatment care. Your vet may administer X-rays to examine if their bones are healing properly and may remove wraps and bandages if the wounds have fully healed by then.
Remember that even though broken legs can be a scary situation, keeping a calm and level head when handling your cat’s broken bones will, in turn, help them be more at ease during their treatment and hopefully heal quicker.