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What are Sprains?

A vet explains a sprain in a cat as a “soft tissue trauma” that happens in the ligaments of one of the cat’s limbs. The affected limb may be swollen and hot to the touch.

A sprain is usually a minor injury to the ligaments in the limbs of a cat. Sprains are also the most common cause for a cat to begin limping after receiving an injury. When cat owners see their pets refusing to put weight on the injured limb, crying out, or favoring that limb, they should make an appointment with the vet. After doing some diagnostic work, the vet may find that the injury is truly a sprain, or they could find another, more serious cause for the cat’s symptoms.

Sprains Average Cost

From 540 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$300

Symptoms of Sprains in Cats

The cat who has injured one of its limbs will let its owner know that it’s in pain, especially if the pain is significant:

  • Meowing or crying after getting hurt
  • Lack of appetite
  • Favoring the injured limb
  • Inability to use the injured limb
  • Panting
  • Swelling of the injured limb
  • Personality changes (a normally calm cat may hiss or growl when touched, for instance)

Veterinarians grade sprain injuries according to how much joint and ligament damage is present:

  • Grade 1: Parts of the ligament are torn. The cat experiences some swelling and pain.
  • Grade 2: Ligament is partially torn or greatly stretched. The cat experiences swelling and inability to comfortably use the limb.
  • Grade 3: Ligament is completely torn. The affected bones are no longer joined by the ligament. Surgery is required.
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Causes of Sprains in Cats

Cats can suffer sprains for several reasons:

  • Overweight cats are at higher risk of spraining a limb
  • Rambunctious animals can be injured after hard play or even mild activity
  • Sprain may develop after a traumatic accident
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Diagnosis of Sprains in Cats

A vet may suspect a sprain if they see the cat limping or avoiding use of the limb. To confirm or rule out their tentative diagnosis, the vet will give the cat a full physical exam, focusing the most on the injured limb. If they feel extra warmth around the limb, along with excessive swelling, they will have the cat X-rayed to confirm their diagnosis. The last diagnostic procedure is a joint tap, where joint fluid is aspirated from the joint for evaluation by a pathologist. The joint tap may be completed on the cat so the vet can rule out other suspected causes of its lameness and pain.

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Treatment of Sprains in Cats

Once the vet has diagnosed a sprain in the cat, they will prescribe rest as the first course of treatment. If the limb continues to be used, the sprain, swelling and pain will not resolve. As long as the cat is restricted to a cage, where it can rest, its injured limb will begin to heal. Recovery can take a minimum of two weeks as long as the rest regimen is strictly enforced at home. Outdoor cats should not be allowed to go outside and roam, because the injury could be worsened, especially if the cat gets into a fight or has to run across the street to avoid a vehicle.

The vet may also prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. These medications help to reduce the inflammation in the cat’s injured limb, which helps to speed healing and recovery. These medications also help to reduce the pain the cat experiences.

Depending on the grade of the sprain, additional treatments may be prescribed, such as splinting the injured limb to protect the joint for a grade one sprain. After several weeks, the cat’s limb regains normal function.

A grade two sprain requires the anti-inflammatory medications, splinting and possibly surgery to help stabilize the joint. The cat may regain most of its normal function after surgery.

In a grade three sprain, surgery will be required. The cat’s recovery will take several months. Function in the limb may be limited.

After seeing the vet for treatment, the cat owner should restrict the cat’s movement. A splint, if used, should be kept dry and clean and the owner should make sure the edges of the splint don’t rub the cat’s sensitive skin. Prescribed medications should be given as ordered.

Additional treatments such as natural remedies may be given. These may strengthen joints and muscles in the cat’s body. While the cat is on restricted movement, the vet may recommend supplements, remedies, or medications to promote rest help the cat to stay comfortable and calm during physical therapy.

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Recovery of Sprains in Cats

Cats who suffer sprained limbs will recover well from their injuries as long as they were diagnosed correctly and given prompt treatment. The limp will resolve within a few weeks and it usually isn’t necessary for the cat to be seen for a follow-up appointment, except in surgical cases. 

Once the cat has fully recovered, the owner should try to keep the cat indoors if it has been allowed to roam before being injured.

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Sprains Average Cost

From 540 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$300

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Sprains Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Domestic shorthair

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

We took our cat to the emergency vet after we woke up the other day and she was hiding under a table and struggling to walk. All tests came back fine, she just had a slightly elevated fever. But it could be from stress - vet took it twice while she was there 103.2 and 102.6. She hasn’t had an appetite, will eat only things she wants at certain times, hasn’t gotten up much, and we were told to keep her quarantined to a small room to help her heal. We are worried because she is not eating/moving and she just seems very lethargic.

Aug. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry your cat is not feeling well. That is not a high fever, and I agree that I would be concerned. Since your veterinarian was able to see your cat and run tests, I think it would be best to give them a call and let them know that she is not better, if she is not better. They will be able to direct you as to what treatment might be able to be given to her, since they are able to see what might be going on with her. I hope that everything goes well for her.

Aug. 24, 2020

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Unknown

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Four Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

She has been limping 3 days. She plays like normal sleeps and eats just limps. No signs of anything in foot.

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. It sounds like she likely has a soft tissue injury, but I would recommend having her seen by your vet since she is still limping after three days. I would also recommend keeping her nice and quiet as puppies tend to forget their pain and play hard which makes it difficult to heal. Your vet can also provide appropriate pain medication to help with inflammation and get her more comfortable. I hope she heals quickly.

Aug. 4, 2020

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bengal

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My cat fell from the window of the second floor. He ate soon after and has been eating, drinking and sleeping normally. he is limping in one leg. He can walk with it so he puts it down but limps. He seems to have a small bump but no pain as when i touch it he doesnt react bad. Should i just wait it out?

July 17, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. He may have been in the range of distance where he was able to right himself, and he may be okay. If he continues to eat and drink normally and the limp slowly gets better, you may be able to watch him and make sure that he is improving. If the limp is not getting better over a few days, or the bump is getting larger that you noticed, then it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. Also, if he stops eating or seems lethargic that would be a good idea. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 17, 2020

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bengal

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My cat fell from the window of the second floor. He ate soon after and has been eating, drinking and sleeping normally. he is limping in one leg. He can walk with it so he puts it down but limps. He seems to have a small bump but no pain as when i touch it he doesnt react bad. Should i just wait it out?

July 17, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. He may have been in the range of distance where he was able to right himself, and he may be okay. If he continues to eat and drink normally and the limp slowly gets better, you may be able to watch him and make sure that he is improving. If the limp is not getting better over a few days, or the bump is getting larger that you noticed, then it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. Also, if he stops eating or seems lethargic that would be a good idea. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 17, 2020

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bengal

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My cat fell from the window of the second floor. He ate soon after and has been eating, drinking and sleeping normally. he is limping in one leg. He can walk with it so he puts it down but limps. He seems to have a small bump but no pain as when i touch it he doesnt react bad. Should i just wait it out?

July 17, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. He may have been in the range of distance where he was able to right himself, and he may be okay. If he continues to eat and drink normally and the limp slowly gets better, you may be able to watch him and make sure that he is improving. If the limp is not getting better over a few days, or the bump is getting larger that you noticed, then it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. Also, if he stops eating or seems lethargic that would be a good idea. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 17, 2020

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Micino

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Persian

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15 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain
Trouble Walking

Our 15 year old Persian Micino was jumping off the bed earlier got got his front paw claw stuck and literally collapsed onto the floor and his front paw looks bent now. He has trouble standing up all the way and has been laying in one spot ever since. We will take him to the vet in the morning but I'm just concerned with him being so old that it may cause him to have a heart attack or something else. When you call his name he opens his eyes and looks right at you. He's eaten a little and has drank a little water but really hasn't moved.

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Huckleberry Finn

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Russian Blue

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Pain When Lifted

I recently noticed my cat licking his left leg a lot then usual and the two times I touched it he has hissed at me and made this weird noise not a normal meow. I can tell it’s bothering him and most likely he’s in pain but I don’t know what to make of it.

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Meowzers

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tabby

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

My cat is around 14-16 pounds & 3 years old..he plays on the daily with my other cat.. around 2 weeks ago I came home & he was limping.. he still walks on his paw occasionally & still plays & claws at his scratchers but he still goes back to hopping on 3 legs.. I made a vet appt but canceled bc ik they will want to do xrays but I don’t have that much money rn. & like I said he still walks on it occasionally & plays & acts like it doesn’t hurt so Idk what to do.. but it’s also been 2 weeks now & he’s still doing it & I don’t want long term damage to his arm/paw if there is something wrong

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Shnikclefritz

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Black Bombay

dog-age-icon

9 Years

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

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Took my cat to the vet because he held foot out. The vet said he had a pulled ligament. The vet massaged his leg and i was relieved. Today he is limping more than yesterday (when he saw the vet) he's on some pain medicine. I'm concerned about weather is normal or if i should question the vet.

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Ziggy

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Tabby Cat

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16 Weeks

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Meowing

My kitten jumped from the top of a bunk bed onto the floor, it started meowing very loud. It still has the same personality naughty and playful but it isn’t putting pressure onto the leg it hurt, but it is laying down on it and climbing up onto my bed and back down again? Please could you tell me the possible things what has happened to it?

Sprains Average Cost

From 540 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$300

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