My Cat Growls Before He Jumps Up. Why?

charlie three legged cat

Charlie about 3 years ago

This is Michael. My Charlie has developed a new habit. It has concerned me somewhat. For people who don’t know Charlie, he has three legs – he is missing his right front leg – and is quite large. He weighs about 15 pounds.

It doesn’t happen all the time but before he jumps up to his two main places where he sleeps, he growls. He growls as he prepares to jump. In other words he makes this vocalisation when his hind legs are tensed and slightly contracted and he is leaning back looking up at the target above.

It has just dawned on me this morning what might be happening. I would like some input, if possible. I think he may have a bit of arthritis and when he puts pressure on the joints of his hind legs in preparation to jump he feels a twinge of pain which is vocalised in a growl just as a human would make a similar sound if she were to suffer a short-sharp pain.

I don’t know his age but is not young (he is a rescue cat). He’s probably about 13 years of age at a guess. On occasions, he has been overweight but not by much. It’s been a bit of a struggle to keep his weight off. This is because he is more static because of his age and because moving is harder for him. The extra weight on occasions would have added to the difficulty of moving particularly when you combine that with only having 3 legs.

It may be the case that in compensating for only having three legs, he has put extra pressure on his rear legs. He has certainly modified the way he jumps down. When he jumps down he twists in the air landing on three legs simultaneously. The stump of his right leg also contacts the ground when he jumps down. Because it is difficult for him to jump down, even from a relatively small height, I sometimes carry him to the kitchen to feed him. Anyway, it gives me a chance to cuddle and kiss him, which he enjoys.

Anyway, back to the growling. I think in this instance growling is vocalising the sensation of pain. I have not done any research before writing this short post but it makes sense to me. When he growls, it is exactly the same as if he was growling at another cat which made me initially think he was involved in some sort of territorial problem but none existed.

I then noticed that he only did it when about to jump up; hence my assessment. What do you think?

P.S. I have a pain in my left shoulder. Any ideas? 😉

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My Cat Growls Before He Jumps Up. Why? — 62 Comments

  1. My daughter Cheryl’s cat Mama Skinner sprained a front paw while jumping off the bed. The solution was to make the house more Mama Skinner friendly. Cheryl bought a small rack of stairs (usually sold to owners of small dogs)for access to the bed. She also incorporated short ottomans and thick books to make access to living room furniture easier for a 17-year-old cat. Attached is a picture of Cheryl & Mama Skinner taken July 2013.

    • Thank you. I have been thinking about buying some stairs for him. I was just interested in whether this growling was connected to arthritis and if it is it would seem that sometimes (rarely) the domestic cat vocalises pain and we generally believe that the domestic cat hides pain.

  2. Sounds like hes in some sort of pain, or hes trying to tell you something. As i remember a few weeks ago my Ozzie did this, he would growl anytime i went to pat him, or touched his behind. I since found out he had a problem with his tail. He’s obviously trying to communicate with you that he needs some help. I like what Riverside Robyn said. Hope you, find out what’s going on with your charlie. 🙂

  3. I think you are right Michael, Charlie has a twinge of pain when he jumps up so now he anticipates it and has a grumble about it, just like we do really. I know walking a long way will set off pain in my poor old feet as I have Achilles tendonitis, so if I know I have to walk a fair way, I set off grumbling.
    I’d make him some sort of ramps to the places he likes to be, for when you aren’t around to lift him up, we did that for Ebony when she was getting older.
    If you don’t feel up to the trauma of going to the vets, you could phone and have a chat about it with her.
    Now your shoulder, it may be just strained but if it continues, get to the doctors! Not trying to frighten you but our late dad’s shoulder was bad, although he did have twinges down his arm too, diagnosed too late as heart trouble.

    • Thanks Ruth. I think we are right about Charlie. I think at certain angles and in certain positions he gets a twinge and growls. If this is the case it is quite interesting because the general view of all the experts on cat behaviour is that cats hide pain. And I agree that it can be difficult to spot whether a cat is in pain or not.

      However, it would seem that on occasions cats do vocalise pain and discomfort. This is interesting. I have plans to buy some stairs for him. I have had these plans for a while so this has speeded it up.

      My shoulder probably needs checking out. I have this fear of serious illness.

  4. Well the only thing i can put to that comment Michael & Ruth, is none of us likes getting ill . I guess especially as you are both older, just like cats we need to see the doctor, don’t want you both passing away on us.

  5. I immediately thought of pain as the issue the moment I read the title. Ask your vet if there are some supplements Charlie could be given that support joint health. Sounds like age and overuse caused by the missing front leg, which has caused changes to how he moves. This would lead to premature wear and tear on other joints, in the same way declawed cats become predisposed to arthritis. Having a missing or even weakened body part leads to extra wear and tear in the parts that must compensate.

    You are probably going to have a lot of trouble with your shoulder because it is the most mobile joint in the body and therefore highly unstable. After about the age of 40 it’s tough to heal shoulder injuries. But here’s what you can do to make it less of a problem: Focus on pulling your shoulder blades down and in (depress and retract) especially before any overhead motions. If you must reach up try to have your arm positioned a bit in front of your body. This is called the scapular plane. Doing exercise directly overhead puts you more at risk of impingement. That means delicate structures in your shoulder get pinched between this large bump on your upper arm bone and the top of your scapula. If you reach overhead externally rotate your arm– make sure your thumb is pointed up. Then nothing gets pinched. Make sure all your muscles that control your scapula are equally strong. I’ve been doing lat pull downs because those really target the lower trapezius. My upper trapezius was stronger than my lower trapezius and that was causing me shoulder pain. A good fitness trainer could help . Have them watch while you do the lat pull downs that your shoulder blades are always down and in, not elevated. This goes for all shoulder exercise he might recommend. I have a book called “Fortify Your Frame” which is great for old people who want to exercise, written by a physical therapist assistant. She recommends lying on your back, arms slightly out to your side with palms up and then simply press your shoulder blades down into the floor (or bed– you can do it in bed) holding each for a count of ten. Keep breathing while you do this isometric exercise. That one has been working wonders for me. If you can’t find that book online I have her name and address and can help you get a copy.

    • This would lead to premature wear and tear on other joints, in the same way declawed cats become predisposed to arthritis

      I think you are spot on there. It is about abnormal wear a tear due to his missing leg. It may even be a spur of bone on a joint – something like that. He does not growl all the time so it might be certain positioning that gives a sharp pain.

      Thanks for the fantastic advice on my shoulder. I’ll try it. I think it is a legacy of playing high standard golf and lots of it when I was younger. It is a sport injury that has come back to haunt me in my senior years. I exercise to keep myself in reasonable shape and I think this has inflammed the joint. I am always fearful of things like cancer at my age. I don’t mind dying but I don’t want a lingering death 😉

      • If exercise is inflaming the joint it may very well be due to the position you are holding your shoulder in during exercise. Watch that you are not elevating your scapula during exercise, but rather focus always on pulling shoulder blades down and in. Sometimes we are doing things to ourselves that we don’t even realize, just in our posture and the way we perform certain movements. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have a prior sports injury at that site too, which predisposes you to problems. To me that just makes it all the more important that you are careful not to be doing things now that could make it worse.

      • Michael, Ruth(Monty’s Mom), one of the most significant actions that you can take for inflammation in your joints, is to lay off of the highly-processed foods we tend to eat. Stick to whole grains and absolutely NO aspartame nor any other artificial sweeteners. Stevia is safe, but the best solution is to cut yourself off of sweetening what you eat and avoiding those products that contain anything but sugar that is intrinsic to that food, such as real juice, real vegetables, fresh. This is not meant to be a lecture, and I certainly would never establish a blog.
        Inflammation at our age is most often due to diet. If you can tolerate an organic greek yogurt, or even a non-organic geek yogurt, then please, please do so. Your gut, your GI tract will thank you within a few days. 🙂

          • Absolutely good. Our GI tracts, our guts, contain good and bad bacteria. Our guts want to maintain the good, beneficial flora, yet most of what we eat, if not made at home with tender, loving care, contains many contaminants. Mostly the bacteria that is so pervasive in environments where proper TLC is not administered. [hand-washing, etc.] So what we CAN do is lay off the highly-processed foods and for those fresh vegetables, fruits that we love so much (even meats), is to leave “a deposit” so to speak, with the good bacterial flora. A good Greek yogurt can instill five, maybe six strains and species of beneficial bacteria in your gut. <3 Well worth it. Shrimp licks my spoon every day!

            • Thanks Cal for sharing your knowledge. Did you see the Australian doctor who injects vast quantities of someone else’s poo – fecal matter – (sh*t to you and me) into a person’s gut to solve chronic bowl problems caused by bad bacteria. 90% success rate! Novel solution. People donate their poo and get paid. The poo is mashed up with kitchen equipment and a saline solution added!

        • In order to recover from being floxed I have done exactly as Caroline recommends– cut out artificial sweeteners and highly processed foods. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and Greek yogurt. In some ways I’m feeling better than before Cipro damaged me, probably from the change in diet.

          I still am willing to bet, Michael, that if I was able to observe you on your rowing machine I would see that you are doing the exercise with your shoulder blades elevated instead of depressed and retracted. It’s a very common mistake. Doing an exercise like that fast and hard makes it even more likely you will cause injuries with it. If I’m doing anything involving the shoulder I am slow and careful about it, focusing on the position of the joint as I do it. You’d be better off doing brisk walking, biking or some other type of exercise equipment focusing on lower body. Those are larger muscles and burn more calories. Although hips and knees can be problematic, they are more stable joints than the shoulder.

  6. I agree that arthritis is the likely culprit.
    With humans, the pain is at its worst when we begin to become active after a lengthy period of inactivity, like getting out of bed in the morning.
    Ruth is right about the many supplements available for joint support. Prescription Rimadyl would be a last resort for me.
    One of the best buys I’ve ever made for my elderly dog and cats were plastic car ramps that are available at most any auto store for around $10. They aren’t quite high enough to be at bed and furniture height, but they have the incline and are high enough that it’s just a short step up to anywhere.
    Your shoulder. Are you left handed?

  7. Charlie, you little dear! (You’re an angel, by the way.)
    Yes, Michael, Charlie, you know it well. Any growl from a cat that has trusted you implictly after losing his first caretaker, in this case, your Mother, will respond in growls when subjected to the pain of arthritis and the fact that he is a mite obese, when taking on the pressure of three legs. He is still compensating for the strong shoulders developed from that loss, as you know. He is arthritic. He is in pain. Glucosamine chondroitin w/vit C should help immensely. Just make sure that you get the dose right by his weight. and I am certain that you have already done this for his pain. You can use human dosages by weight to measure what he needs. The Vitamin C is important. He’s not on steroids, is he?

  8. The health specialists say exercise mitigates arthritis. These are the same fiends who tell you not to eat sugar. Like Ruth, I keep a safe distance from M.D.s. But if this is arthritis in my knees, it came on quickly and is a constant burning pain worsened by prolonged activity.

    Charlie likely has arthritis. While they must be for sale in pet stores for a nominal fee, a cleated ramp would work for him. It’s mystifying how he can walk at all without toppling over. Poor old chap, must have gotten struck by a car at one time or another.

    In any event, my mother shared her bed with four Chihuahuas the size of squirrels, and my father built them a wooden ramp with horizontal half-inch-wide slats to provide traction. This should work for C., though it’s easier and likely less costly just to buy one.

    • Thanks Sylvia, I will go in search of a ramp or stairs next week. We have a big pet store not far from me. I’ll start there. In the UK these are specialist items. I could make one but am too busy running this website 😉

      Hope you can find some respite from your arthritis.

      • A ramp is not going to alleviate his pain, although it is certainly a good solution to the problem of getting to those high places where he wants to be. Something else is going on with him, which you already know. If you can alleviate his pain without steroids, assuming that it is pain, which it is, then try the Glucosamine, the Chondroitin w/the vitamin C, correct dosage, give him some books (I use cookbooks for the bottom, progressively making them smaller, maybe some hardbound chemistry in the middle, with the Philosophy and non-stoic, compassionate hardbound fiction writers on top. These make good steps for my Lucky, who passed away at twenty years of age, in pain.

      • Bigfoot was visibly grateful for his stairs. He gave up jumping at all as a result of getting them, which I think speaks volumes about how he is feeling in his hind legs. Don’t be discouraged if you cannot find anything you can “name” that is going on with him (unless you can). The fact that you can see the change in him, and that he needs something, will go a long way in making his geriatric years as comfy as is possible. It is never easy, but I do hope it goes easy for both of you. I mean, his geriatrics, not yours! Lol

        • Thanks DW for this advice. I wondered how old he was but knew was around 12+ and now that there are signs of old age he is at least 13 I think. He could well be 15+. He has a changed appearance. He looks older to when I first adopted him which is now 5 years ago and I can hardly believe it is 5 years since my mother died.

  9. I thought of pain Michael tbh especially as he has to compensate for his missing leg. I hope you get him sorted and happy again whatever is wrong

  10. I’m not sure Charlie would need the vitamin C unless something is very, very seriously wrong. Animals make their own vitamin C. They aren’t deficient in it the way we often are, since we can’t make our own.

    I hope Charlie will be ok, Michael. He’s such a special boy, and he looks just like Monty!

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