The saying goes that curiosity killed the cat. But before that dark end to the tale, curiosity led that cat into a variety of hair-raising situations, near-misses, scrapes, and tumbles. So much so that popular culture believes that cats must have more than one life to somehow emerge unscathed from a range of nail-biting scenarios.
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But cheesy cat sayings aside, cats really do have a remarkable ability to find trouble. And usually, their agile and nimble movement and hair-trigger reflexes will have them walking away with the cool arrogance for which cats are known. Usually, but not always.
Every cat has their day. And every so often, they will find themselves out of favor with Lady Luck, leading to some or other injury and sometimes even a broken limb. It happens.
- How can you tell if a cat's leg is broken?
- Common causes of bone or limb fractures in cats
- How broken bones in cats are diagnosed
- Treatment for broken bones in cats
- Petcube Emergency Fund
- Helping your cat recover from a broken bone
How can you tell if a cat's leg is broken?
Cats are hardwired to hide when they are injured, ill, or weak. It's a throwback to their wild origins, where appearing even slightly weaker for any reason can make them a target for predators. As a result, it's not always easy to spot cat broken leg symptoms.
Typically, a cat with a broken leg or in pain will hide. They take themselves somewhere safe and hunker down while their injured limb heals. Attempting to approach them will result in aggressive displays like hissing and growling.
If your cat is not hiding, it can be easier to notice an issue with their limb – it may dangle at an odd angle, and your cat will avoid putting any weight on it. If you can get closer to your cat to investigate, you may notice swelling and possibly some discoloration or bruising on the skin, or even what's known as an open fracture – which involves a wound with some bones protruding through the skin as well.
If your cat hides whenever you are around, a pet camera could come in super handy. You can leave the room, so your cat feels safe enough to leave their hiding spot. When they do, you can then see their movement using the camera and assess how bad the situation is.
Common causes of bone/limb fractures in cats
According to research, most cases of broken bones in cats are caused by trauma of some kind. The following are the most common types of trauma resulting in broken limbs in cats:
- Being hit by a car;
- Bite wounds – usually from dogs;
- Household injuries caused by appliances and furniture, like cupboard doors or reclining chairs;
- Projectile injuries – bullets, arrows, slingshots, and pellet guns;
- High-rise syndrome – when cats fall from rooftops or balconies.
While trauma is the most common cause of broken bones in cats, other potential causes include things like weakened bones from malnutrition, infections that can increase the chances of fractures, and conditions like cancer and parathyroid disorders, which can make breakages more likely.
How broken bones in cats are diagnosed
An injured cat is not easy to deal with. Not only are they in pain, but their weakened condition leaves them feeling vulnerable and afraid. Getting your cat to the vet is just the first hurdle. Your vet will need to perform an exam and can usually detect a fracture by simply feeling the limb.
But an x-ray (and sedation) will ultimately be needed to know the true extent of the break. It's very common that the fracture has already started healing by the time you realize the problem and get your cat to the vet.
Treatment for broken bones in cats
Depending on the kind of break in question, your vet may decide that a simple splint is enough to allow the break to heal. Surgery is sometimes required to stabilize the bones further using plates or pins.
The vet will prescribe medication to manage your cat's pain and inflammation. Where an open fracture is present, your vet will treat the wound and prescribe antibiotics to keep any infection at bay.
Severe cases may require that the limb be amputated. While this sounds devastating and heartbreaking, cats are very adaptive and resilient, and they can go on to live very happy lives after losing a limb, despite a few new limitations.
Petcube Emergency Fund
Petcube's Emergency Fund is a powerful ally for any pet parent. Not only do you get access to a team of online veterinarians who can answer your questions 24/7, but you get up to $3000 in emergency cover each year. All for just $29 a month.
While the Emergency Fund is an affordable alternative to traditional pet insurance, it doesn't work in quite the same way.
Let's assume your cat sustains an injury. You look at your cat, and they appear ok, but they're limping and seem to be in a bit of pain. Do you rush to the vet? Or is this something you can deal with at home? You hop onto a chat with one of the many trained vets available through the Online Vet service.
You explain to the online vet what happened. The vet requests a video of your cat to assess the severity of the injuries. The online vet will determine if your cat's injuries are severe enough to be classified as an emergency. If so, they will activate the fund.
You immediately rush your cat over to the vet, where your cat is treated. Once the bill is finalized and sent to Petcube, the fund will pay the clinic directly up to a maximum of $3000 (less any unpaid months of the annual subscription).
Helping your cat recover from a broken bone
Once you've been to the vet and had your cat's broken bone treated, you can head home to begin the healing process. The excellent news for you is that cats are champion healers and usually bounce back pretty quickly.
Here's how to care for a cat with a broken leg:
- Restrict your cat's mobility – usually, a crate or confining them to one room can help.
- Keep wounds clean and well cared for.
- Administer any medication according to the vet's instructions.
- Ensure you stick to any follow-up appointments with the vet to confirm that your cat is healing well.
- Plenty of treats and chin scritches for your feline friend to make them feel super loved.
What happens to a cat broken leg left untreated?
A cat with a very simple fracture and no wounds on the skin could heal quite well even if not treated. However, this will depend on various factors like the nutritional well-being of the cat and its environment.
Where the fracture is misaligned or complicated, this healing may be more complex, leading to deformed limbs and possibly even restricted movement. In some cases, a broken bone can cause internal bleeding when shards of bone move around and cut blood vessels. In such cases, the outlook isn't good and can cause infection and possibly even anemia.
It depends on many factors, but you must seek treatment if your cat is injured as soon as possible. Never try to treat your animal yourself.
If you have a cat with a broken leg and can't afford a vet, there are organizations that you can contact that provides financial assistance in situations like this. Also, try contacting your local vet or animal hospital and see what they can recommend.
How to treat a cat broken leg at home?
Treating your cat's broken leg at home is never a good idea. We suggest getting to a vet for a full veterinary assessment of the injury to ensure your cat receives the necessary treatment.
Once your vet has treated your cat, you can go home with your furry friend and adhere to your vet's instructions. Always administer medications as directed and keep open wounds clean and dry.
What is the average healing time for a cat with a broken leg?
Recovering from a bone fracture can take six to 12 weeks to heal completely. That said, this will rely entirely on the location and type of break, as well as the cat's general health.
How to tell if a cat has a broken leg?
Until you see the affected limb, your clue that something is off is that your cat may be hiding somewhere safe – a cupboard perhaps, or under the bed. If you can coach them out, you may see that the broken limb is set at a strange angle, is dangling limply, or looks swollen and bruised. An open fracture will leave little doubt as to the status of the limb; a piece of bone may be visible protruding from the skin.
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