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What are Paralysis?

Paralysis in your cat, even if temporary or partial, is always an indication of an underlying condition or injury. You should seek immediate veterinary care if your cat displays signs of paralysis as this condition may lead to death or serious, permanent injury if not treated promptly by a professional.

Paralysis in cats occurs when your pet is unable to control or move its legs or some other portion of the body. Complete paralysis involves the complete lack of ability to move legs, neck, tail or other bodily parts. Partial paralysis, also called paresis, is the lack of full control over the body which may occur as weakness, lethargy, twitching, or extreme slow motion.

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Paralysis Average Cost

From 547 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,400

Symptoms of Paralysis in Cats

Signs of paralysis in your cat may range from subtle to obvious depending on the underlying cause of the condition. Signs may occur suddenly (acute paralysis) or escalate over a long period of time. Signs to watch for include:

  • Inability to use or move portions of the body including neck, head, tongue, legs, tail or back
  • Improper or stumbling gait
  • Cat stepping on its own toes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Uncontrolled twitching
  • Extreme slowness of moving distinguishable from lethargy
  • Lack of or delayed reaction to pain or other stimulus to legs, body, or affected area
  • Difficulty eating or drinking
  • Inappropriate urination
  • Dribbling of urine
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Causes of Paralysis in Cats

Paralysis in cats occurs when some portion of the structures that support the central nervous system have become damaged. A complicated pathway of nerves are encased within the spinal column of your cat. These nerves then connect the nerves in the brain to the nerves in the other portions of the body, allowing communication from the brain to the limbs, organs and other structures. When this communication is damaged, paralysis can occur. The location of paralysis can indicate which area of nerves has become damaged. Causes of damage can include:

  • Traumatic injury
  • Infection in bones or tissue near spine
  • Slipped discs in back that pinch or damage the nearby nerves (can occur when cat jumps from heights)
  • Inflammation in muscles surrounding the spine which places pressure on nearby nerves
  • Tick paralysis caused by tick bites
  • Tumors in the spine or brain which place pressure on the nerves
  • Malformation of spine or vertebrae
  • Certain chemicals or toxins that can permanently or temporarily cause nerves to cease to communicate (botulism is a common toxin)
  • Embolism which inhibits proper blood flow to affected limb
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Diagnosis of Paralysis in Cats

To diagnose paralysis in your cat, your veterinarian will need a thorough physical history of your cat. Of especial importance will be any recent injuries, trauma, falls or other high impact events that could have caused damage to your cat’s spinal cord. It will be important to document the approximate onset of signs, whether paralysis occurred gradually or all at once, and whether there is any fluctuation in the severity of the signs over time. 

During the exam, your veterinarian will pay careful attention and document thoroughly the severity of the paralysis and in which areas it is occurring. Your veterinarian may attempt to manipulate each individual limb and may also encourage movement by positioning limbs in awkward positions in order to determine if your cat will move them back. Your veterinarian may also use gentle probing, or potentially a fine needle, to determine whether your cat has any pain response. Attempting to elicit a pain response is a sensitive procedure and should only ever be conducted by a professional veterinarian.

Basic diagnostic tests such as blood and urine panels will help your veterinarian determine whether there is an underlying infection that may be causing inflammation. Your veterinarian may also take a sample of spinal fluid, if an infection is suspected.

The most definitive test for paralysis will be an MRI, CT scan or X-ray, which will allow your veterinarian to see any damage to the structures around the spinal nerves. This may be done with or without contrast. Contrast refers to a type of dye that can be injected into your cat’s spinal area. This dye will respond differently to X-ray waves, allowing for additional detail in images.

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Treatment of Paralysis in Cats

Treatment of paralysis in your cat will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. Suspected infection will be treated with antibiotics. In some cases, nerves can regrow or repair with time and proper care. If your veterinarian diagnoses an injury which your cat will heal from over time, they may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pressure in the spinal area. They will also advise you on the proper home treatment. 

Cats should never be left in the same position for more than two hours and my need assistance in manually emptying their bladder and bowels. Nutrients may need to be administered intravenously or through a feeding tube. In some cases, heating pads and light massage may encourage blood flow to the affected area which can encourage healing and growth. Gentle manipulation of muscles will also help minimize any atrophy, which will get your cat back on their feet more quickly once they have healed.

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Recovery of Paralysis in Cats

Prognosis for recovery in your cat will depend on the severity and cause of the condition. In some situations of severe damage or paralysis, it may be unlikely or impossible for your cat to heal. In cases of permanent paralysis, you and your veterinarian will discuss the appropriate measures given your pet’s quality of life.

In instances that healing and recovery is possible, it will be vitally important to follow all schedules for medications and physical therapy. Due to the complexity of supportive care for cats suffering from paralysis, an extended hospital stay may be advised if you are not able to keep up with the necessary timing of care required at home.

Recovery from any paralysis will be slow and lengthy, but generally, you should begin to see improvement over the course of 1-2 months. Frequent follow-up with your veterinarian will also be important to your cat’s long term health.

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Paralysis Average Cost

From 547 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,400

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Written by hannah hollinger

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Published: 10/19/2016, edited: 04/28/2021

More articles by hannah hollinger

Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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cat

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Four Months

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Unknown severity

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9 found helpful

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Has Symptoms

Trouble Walking

My kitten was playing and running with siblings yesterday. They are strictly inside. She climbed onto foot of bed early this morning and now she's having issues walking. She has no sense of balance, she can fully move all her legs, her tail, her head but cannot walk at all. She wiggles or drags herself. I've studied some vet tech, but this is way outta my realm. She's not exhibiting any signs of pain. More meows of frustration or for her momma! The mother had a kitten from the last litter that had a genetic defect that caused her legs to bow & have issue pottying. But not this one.Any advice,thoughts

Nov. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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9 Recommendations

Hi there, you are through to Dr Linda. I'm sorry this has happened and it is very concerning indeed. As this kitten was normal from birth and the issue presented suddenly after an injury, it is unlikely to be a congenital or inherited issue. It sounds more like spinal cord / neurological trauma. She does need to be checked over and may need some xrays so we know what we are dealing with.

Nov. 6, 2020

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Bombay

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Two human years

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Unknown severity

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10 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Cant Move,Refuse To Eat,Crying

What's wrog with my cat

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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10 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that your cat is not feeling well. There are many things possibly wrong, including parasites, an intestinal foreign body or blockage, or infectious disease. Without being able to see him unfortunately, I cannot say what might be going on for sure. From your description, he sounds very sick, and needs to see a veterinarian right away. It will be able to examine him and let you know more what. I hope that he is okay.

Oct. 6, 2020

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American shorthair Feline

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Tongue Pressing To Rt Side, Rt Eye Droopy, Extremely Unbalanced Gait, Easily Dehydrated, Hides All Day But Wants To Be Social Again, But Is Afraid.

Our 9 yr old feline just had 6 teeth removed. Just prior to surgery her voice started changing and she started hidding. Post surgery she hides all day/night, lost 5 ounces weight (already only 5lbs cat), and her tongue is pressed against her right side of her mouth and she constantly swallows (every 10 seconds). Her right eye is droopy. We took her in last week for another round of antibiotics and eye drops. Doc recommended Claritin. We see no changes. She is eating wet and dry food and we give her low fat milk, water and electrolytes. It seems like a stoke or seizure during surgery.

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I'm sorry that that is happening to her. With out being able to see her, it is difficult to say what might be happening, but it is concerning that she is continuing to lose weight. It may be time for a referral appointment, or a recheck to see what else might be done for her.

Oct. 14, 2020

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Mutt

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Teen

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Having Trouble Walking Straight

My cat has been having trouble walking straight for the past few days, she keeps falling over, she is unable to move her tail but she still tries to show affection. They don’t look paralyzed like they’re dragging she can still move she just wobbles sometimes. She’s fallen in her water bowl a few times and has trouble using the bathroom. I don’t know what’s wrong with her and I can’t afford a vet bill I don’t know what to do if you could just help me diagnose her and find a medicine for her please that’s be great.

Sept. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 25, 2020

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Domestic cat

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Sixteen Years

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Unknown severity

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Suddenly Lost The Ability To Stand, Back Legs Gave Out And Cannot Put Any Weight On Them. Legs Are Dragging And Positioned All Lopsided And Limp.

Rushed cat to emergency vet but very worried about what could be the cause.

Aug. 6, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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6 Recommendations

Hello- I'm sorry you are going through that. In my experience there are a few different potential causes. Cats can get an embolus in their veins which can cause acute paralysis. It could also potentially be due to a growth or a disk along the spinal cord placing pressure on the spine. I'm glad you brought her to the vet immediately as they will be able to assess her and figure out what the cause is. Take care!

Aug. 6, 2020

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Uranious

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stray

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8 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Depressed
Loss Of Hind Legs Control
Peeing On Himself

I found my cat at the end of October in 2019 in my village. Me and my father live in a nearby city, but we visit the village daily so I decided to keep him there because we already have a dog staying with us and wasn't sure how to make this work. He was a perfectly fine cat, very playful and as the months gone by other cats came and I was glad because he would have some company. In late March-early April he disappeared for two days but he showed up and looked fine. After a few days I and my father noticed that when he came to greet us he walked a bit like he was dizzy, but after a few minutes playing with him he seemed fine so we didn't pay much attention. This dizzy walk became more severe in the coming days and he started falling and not being able to use his hind legs properly. We hurried to the vet and she told us that he might have eaten a poison like a pesticide or might have slipped discs in back from a jump or a hit. It was April 20th. She recommended him cortisone injections for a week to see how his situation would evolve and Neurobion pills (about a sixth of the pill every day), which is a vitamin B supplement, because otherwise he looked fine. (Don't know if it is important but we also castrated him.) In the meantime we took him to our house so we could take better care of him, so he had to go through an adjustment of his living environment and also living with a dog. Fortunately they started getting used to each other rather quickly, but all these changes I believe were a lot of stress for him. Anyway, the first week passed by and the doctor recommended that he continues taking cortisone, but in pills (Prezolon 5mg: half a pill). To be honest I think there was some improvement but nothing major. In the meantime when he was in the house we would play, he would eat and drink normally and also learned how to use the litter box, at least for peeing. After the second week passed, he was in the same situation, not worse but not better either. The vet suggested that he takes the cortisone pill every other day to see how he would react. After a few days though his condition worsened. He lossed even more mobility in his hind legs and couldn't go to his litter box or climb on the bed where I had placed his pillow and he used to sleep on. He started peeing on himself too a lot. So I decided to visit another vet for a second opinion. He agreed with everything the other vet told me from the beginning. He checked his limbs and couldn't find a problem with his joints so he took a full body X-ray. He told me that everything looked normal and couldn't see a problem with his spinal cord. Since he was of the same opinion as the first vet I visited, I decided to visit her again and explain Uranious' condition and also inform her of what the other vet told me and the X-ray he took and that everything looked normal. She advised me to start giving my cat, cortisone pills every day again and not every other day and she took blood sample for blood analysis and biochemical analysis. I did as she advised and started giving him the cortisone pill everyday again. In about 3 days the results came in. Everything looked great. My cat was negative to all illnesses they run tests for and his blood analysis showed that everything is normal. His condition wasn't getting any better though and the vet advised to start giving him aspirin because there might be a blood clot that prevents blood from going to his hind legs and this would dissolve it (Salospir 100mg: about an eighth of the pill every other day). This happened this week. I started giving him the aspirin too but the thing is that I feel like I am just stuffing him pills and I don't see any improvement. The exact opposite to be honest and he seems to feel more and more depressed. I try to comfort him as much as I can, but I don't know what else to do. Do you have any suggestions as to what he might have? Should I keep giving him the pills though there is no improvement? Should I seek medical advice from someone else? Thank you in advance and sorry for the long message but I wanted to give you as many details as possible.

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Dazy

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Persian

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2 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis

A cat bite my kitten a week ago in backbone from then she is unable to move her hind limb. I immediately got her to consult vet, according to him she can start moving her legs in about 1-2 months

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Marceline

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Cat

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Incontinence
Paralysis

She started acting funny 2 months ago. Seemed like she couldn't get comfortable. She kicked her legs a lot when I held her. I took her to vet trip #1 and they said they didn't know, so I took her home. 2 weeks later she started limping while she walked, so I took her back. They did an x-ray, said it looked normal, and sent me home with her again. A week later she's falling over every couple steps. I take her back to the vet. They say they don't know and try to send me home with antibiotics. I have to ask for blood work. The blood work returned high calcium levels and antibodies so they recommend a CT scan. The CT scan finds something blocking her spinal cord and some enlarged lymph nodes. A biopsy of the lymph nodes return negative for lymphoma and for FIP. The vet says he doesn't know where to send me. At this point, 2 months since the initial symptoms, she's completely paralyzed from the waist down. I have her in diapers to prevent her from dragging poop all over the house. I don't know what I can do from here.

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Oreo

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American Shorthair

dog-age-icon

15 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis
Loss Of Balance

My baby, Oreo, had symptoms like this. He was totally fine until one night, he went to eat, and appeared to slip. I laughed at first, thinking he was clumsy, but then I realized he was just completely still for a moment. After eating, he couldn't walk right. The front part of his body worked fine, but the back was wobbly, like he couldn't use it as well as he had. I assumed he had a stroke, and called the vet. I couldn't afford an emergency appointment, so I scheduled him for Monday. This happened on a Thursday night. I called on Friday. He passed on Sunday, one day before the appointment. I later found out his symptoms were consistent with Renal (Kidney) Failure. I was absolutely broken that I couldn't help him the way he needed. I still feel guilt over it, and this was in 2015. I mean, he lived a good life. He was 15 when he passed, but it still hurts. Now, seeing a lot of these posts, I wanted to share my story. Oreo's story. Please, if your cat starts showing these signs, do whatever you can to get them into a vet. Some other notable symptoms: He would lie on his side on the floor, let out this horrible howl and then urinate. He stopped eating, and wasn't as attached to me as he had been. He loved it when I gave him attention, but he didn't want to be held or to be on my lap (but wasn't mean or growling). It was like he knew his time had come, and he didn't want me to see it. Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/paralysis

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Chitra

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Tortoishell

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6 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

My cat was bitten by a dog.. she is eating but is lethargic..and she has a wound on her back ..no vet is available around me...please tell how to clean the wound at home with simple ingredients.....and one more thing I want to know that does she will die ,? ...please help me

Paralysis Average Cost

From 547 quotes ranging from $500 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,400

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