What Does It Mean if My Cat Is Hobbling?

A physical exam can help you identify your cat's problem.
A physical exam can help you identify your cat's problem. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

If your cat is hobbling or limping, it's imperative you take him to a vet for an examination right away. While your cat may have suffered a minor injury like a pulled muscle, it could also be something more serious, like an infection or a broken bone, which, left untreated, could become a serious medical concern.


In young cats and kittens, an injury is the most likely cause of a hobble or limp. Your cat may have injured himself by running into furniture or jumping or falling from a great height, or he may have been stepped on by a distracted human. If your cat is an outside feline, there’s a strong likelihood he may have had a run-in with a vehicle, gotten into a fight with another animal or stepped on something sharp, like broken glass, a thorn or a sharp rock.


Cat hobbling can be associated with an infection, often from a previously undiagnosed injury, like a cut or a scrape on a paw pad that initially went unnoticed. Infection can also present with a visible injury, such as a portion of a leg or hip that is swollen or warm to the touch. Infection needs immediate treatment before it gets into the bloodstream.


Senior cats may hobble due to development of osteoarthritis. Older bones, hips and joints can become painful as a cat ages, particularly if your kitty is overweight. In this instance you're likely to see a gradual development of limping or hobbling, particularly when your cat wakes up from a nap or rises from a down position.


When your vet examines your cat, he’ll likely do a visual examination in addition to palpating the cat’s body, testing the range of motion in limbs and feeling for lumps, abrasions or broken bones. Expect him to ask questions about when you first noticed the hobbling, and whether the condition has progressively gotten worse or stayed the same. Based on his findings, your vet may recommend blood tests, an ultrasound or X-rays.


Based on his exam and test results, your vet may recommend treatment such as immobilization or limited activity, anti-inflammatory pain medications or antibiotics. Other treatment options may include surgical intervention, particularly if there’s an injury like a serious fracture, or physical therapy. If you have an outdoor cat, you’ll likely be advised to keep him indoors until his injury fully heals.

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