Categories: Injury

My cat has a limp and a droopy tail. Please help.

by Tonya
(Little Rock, AR USA)

I have a question to post in regards to my 15 year old male neutered domestic shorthair cat, Larry. Approximately two months ago, my cat started behaving differently….still very sweet and purring but his tail dropped and has never lifted again at the same time he began to limp on his right back foot.

He always twitched his tail when I was near his food bowl….he is quite a squeaker too. Anyway, we took him straight to the vet, described the behavior and the vet gave him a shot saying oh, his tail has been injured….well, he is an inside cat and I can’t recall any instance that his tail would have been injured.

Still hoping that he would get better eventually. We’ve stopped his jumping (as best we could), and after several weeks, we returned to the vet (with the same complaint) and the vet did a blood workup only to find out he has a fatty liver….yes, he is a large cat and has been on Hills W/D prescription diet for the last four years without much success.

My vet likes to refer me to another vet ($$$) that will charge a referral fee around $80 just to see the pet and then proceeds to run a battery of tests (CT Scans; Ultra-sound; MRI, etc) that cost a small fortune only to tell us what the original vet has already told us…..i.e., he has a fatty liver and he is old.

My question is what would cause my cat to suddenly start limping and why won’t any of the vets listen to me and look at his spine,? It appears that he has lost all feeling in the back right foot and his muscles are beginning to atrophy. I am at a loss here. Has anyone experienced similar health issues in their cat?


Hi Tonya.. I hope some of the regular visitors can help. In the meantime I’ll do some research…Here goes. Being an indoor cat perhaps the only way Larry could have caused damage to his spine if his tail was trapped in a door as he darted through it. Apparently this is fairly common. You would know about this though or anyone living with you would be able to help if it happened when they closed the door. It is possible he could have fallen after climbing and damaged his spine. But you know Larry’s habits so can discard these things if they sound unlikely.

On the basis that Larry’s tail was not trapped in a door or that he suffered an accident causing injury, and on the basis that you know best (and I believe you do) in that he has a spinal cord problem, I will list the possibilities as set out in the Cat Owner’s Home Veterinarian Handbook. This is a very good book.

Rarely spinal arthritis can cause weakness in the limbs (and it causes pain). It is seen in older cats. It is called spondylitis.

I do not think it is a spinal cord infection.

Tumors of the spinal cord are not uncommon. Pressure from the growth damages the nerves leading to weakness and paralysis. An X-ray (myelogram) will assist in diagnosis as will MRI and CT scans. Treatment is chemotherapy.

An incorrectly placed injection can cause temporary nerve paralysis.

Protruding discs are common in older cats but rarely cause paralysis and weakness. Ruptured discs are “primarily seen in cats over 15 years of age.”

Arterial thromboembolism can cause limb weakness or paralysis.

His age may give us a clue. In other words if he has not injured himself the cause may be age related. This puts us in the bracket of disc damage and perhaps a tumor.

I will put the question out to 600 Facebook followers and cat lovers and see what they say. But these conditions are not that common I think so we may not get a good response.

Good Luck to you and Larry.


Comments for
My cat has a limp and a droopy tail. Please help.

Click here to add your own comments

Oct 05, 2011Larry is at peace
by: Ruth Tonya, try not to punish yourself with guilt.
I do know how you feel as we lost a much loved cat a few years back even though we had seen 4 different vets who couldn’t diagnose her trouble.
The last vet we saw referred us to a specialist but she died on the way.
We blamed ourselves for not asking to see a specialist sooner, but we trusted our vets practice and thought that the treatments they tried would work.
Only time can help ease the pain, you will never forget Larry but you will get used to him not being around and then remember the good times too.
Larry is at peace, it’s you suffering now and my heart goes out to you.
Take care


Oct 05, 2011Larry
by: Jane Tonya, I am so sorry that Larry did not make it. My thoughts are with you. It is so painful to lose a beloved friend, and even worse when professionals have let you and your dear one down.Fly free Larry Sweetheart


Oct 05, 2011Larry
by: Jane Tonya, I am so sorry that Larry did not make it. My thoughts are with you. It is so painful to lose a beloved friend, and even worse when professionals have let you and your dear one down.Fly free Larry Sweetheart


Oct 01, 2011Gratitude to your loyal readers
by: Tonya Thank you Michael. My heart is broken and i feel like i let him down by not questioning the vet… Making him listen to me, and getting a second opinion sooner. You and your readers were very helpful and i really appreciate it.

In loving memory of my dear sweet boo bear. His sudden departure has left an emptiness in my heart.


Oct 01, 2011To Tonya
by: Ruth I’m so sorry
R.I.P Larry X


Sep 30, 2011Thanks
by: Michael Thanks Tonya for telling us the outcome. It is appreciated. May he rest in peace.

Sep 30, 2011RE: Larry
by: Tonya Hass Good afternoon,
I thought it would be a good idea to update you all on Larry. We did take him to the vet for a second opinion. They diagnosed him with a hematoma/bloodclot at the base of the tail on or near his tailbone. Since I last posted about him losing control/feeling of his right leg he began to lose control/feeling in his left leg. It broke my heart to watch my “boo bear”….he was literally pulling himself with his front paws.
Yes, had they done the x-ray as I had requested the first time I took him in to the vet, he would most likely still be here with us. Unfortunately, they advised us that the nerve damage on the right leg was to far gone to repair and since it moved to his left leg, they were kind and very honest….he would never walk again.

Again, I am heartbroken…as are my two dogs and my husband. We all loved that big guy. Both my husband and I could swear that Larry is still in the house….I keep hearing him and I have had a couple of occasions where I could swear that I’ve seen him. His ashes are beside my chair in the living room….where he would sit with me while I knitted. It will be two weeks Saturday and I still find myself tearing up every time I mention him. I miss him soooo much.

Thanks to all of you who shared thoughts and advice with me. I really appreciate everyone.



Sep 12, 2011Suggestions for Your Kitty
by: Jo Singer When a kitty reaches 15 years of age, so many things can be going on at the same time, which does muddy up the waters. I have to agree with Jane that seeking a second opinion would be very wise. If I fully understood your post, that your vet didn’t suggest simple x-rays to aid in diagnosis, that is really quite hard to understand.

I would also persue seeking a holistic veterinarian, one who can do acupunture as well. My holistic vet is a practitioner. I don’t know where you live, so here is a link to find one near where you live.

Hope this helps some and good luck with your kitty.


Sep 12, 2011Larry
by: Ruth My thoughts are with you Tonya, I hope Larry picks up again. It must be dreadful for you seeing him like that.It’s very difficult for us to help without actually seeing Larry, you need a really good trustworthy caring vet to listen to you and take it seriously and diagnose the trouble.

I feel for you very much,I’d rather be ill myself than one of our cats.

X for Larry’s furry head

Sep 12, 2011Larry & Tonya
by: Jane Do keep us updated about Larry. He may have just had to have a bit of a rest after a pee, if he got used to using towels. I hope you can find a good vet and some x rays and what is causing his problem shows up.

Holistic vets are rare as hen’s teeth in the UK, I hope there are some where you are!


Sep 12, 2011Monday morning
by: Anonymous Michael, Ruth and Jane,I am so appreciative of all of you for listening and providing your feedback on Larry’s situation. He seems to have had a bit of a set back this morning….I found him lying on his bed with pee on the blanket. I can’t figure that one out. Last night, I watched him deliberately walk down the hall to his litter box and then proceeded to the bedroom to lie down on a towel I placed near the bed. I guess he is like everyone else…some good days and some bad days?

I am on a voracious search to find a holistic vet in town….wish me luck. Thanks again for everyone’s concern and advice.


Sep 11, 2011Thank you
by: Ruth Thank you Michael for posting Jane’s comment and thank you Jane for your quick response.Tonya I do hope Jane’s advice helps Larry, she is one very wise and compassionate lady regarding cats.

Sep 11, 2011Continuation of previous comment
by: Jane (UK) …continuation of comment below…I think a set of x rays to include the tail and the affected leg ought to be done, just to see if there is any visible damage. I’m surprised your hard of hearing vet didn’t suggest this.

My elderly cat tolerated the very fine needles very well, there was an instant improvement in the twitching she had suffered for months and over a period of six months the acupuncture gave her enough relief to get proper rest and exercise, whereas anti-inflamatories didn’t. Her damaged nerves appeared to be healing.

The vet came to our home, each session took place Angel’s favourite bed and lasted about 30 minutes. The vet took a thorough history too and really listened at each session to reported progress or developments. The needles in theory provoke an anti-inflamatory response and also the production of encephalins which are the body’s own painkillers. Treatments happened twice weekly initially, then weekly, then monthly going on to ^as required^(top up) for a year. Her facial trigeminal nerve was very badly damaged. Simpler injuries may need fewer treatments.

It sounds like you are doing all the right things for Larry. Rest is good as is good food. If you can switch him to a grain free food (I believe Hills MD has about 46% carbs, cats only need about 3% carbs to metabolise protein)) then that might help his weight loss .

Some gentle surface massage of his affected leg could also be useful and soothing for him. Such injuries can affect a feline emotionally too. If he’s been resting a lot, then stiffness and pain might be behind the trouble he had getting in and out of the litter tray or he may find the litter a bit sore for his paw, nerves can give very odd sensations if they are bruised or damaged. Nerves can hurt too as they heal.

I would hunt for another vet, once who listens and definitely try to find an acupuncture vet, at least for an assessment session. An holistic veterinary practice would be ideal.
Best of luck for Larry and to you too!

Jane UK

Sep 11, 2011Acupuncture
by: Jane (UK) Hi Tonya, Ruth Ockendon-Laycock saw your post and asked me to come over and offer some help because I’ve used acupuncture in the past when an elderly cat of mine acquired neurological damage (from a clumsy vet carrying out dental work).Although Larry’s circumstances are different, I do believe that acupuncture might be a really good treatment to try for an unspecified injury like this. Everything Michael & Ruth above have said is great – I’d add that with an elderly cat, I do think that intrusive diagnostic tests might be too much for him. I cannot see that fatty liver would cause any of the symptoms you describe. A vet who doesn’t listen is not only arrogant but a menace to animals!

It does sound as if a nerve has been bruised badly, the one sided nature of his limp hints at that – whether that’s a big nerve around the pelvic region (where it divides to serve the legs) or further up the spine – could Larry have fallen and hurt himself? Older cats can fall and land badly causing bruised nerves, sprains etc. Nerves take a while to heal, they are one of the slowest healing tissues in the body. Nerve inflamation can take a while to develop too.

Your update is encouraging that he is using his paw again. A dislocation in the tail high up might make the paralysis persist too. But it doesn’t account for the leg involvement. You mentioned stepping on his tail? If he pulled away with a lot of force that could have caused a dislocation and might also have caused something to happen further up the spine.

If you can, try and find a vet (or qualified veterinary physiotherapist) who is fully trained in acupuncture. In the UK, only vets are allowed to practice this treatment and I think I would only trust someone who has studied feline anatomy thoroughly.

…continued in another comment above…

Sep 11, 2011Advice on its way via Michael
by: Ruth Hi again Tonya, doubtful the anal gland emptying caused Larry’s injuries but I do know rough vets CAN cause damage !!!
My friend Jane has a long very helpful message for you which I’ve sent on to Michael to forward to you or post here.
Let us know how he is please.
x for his furry head

Sep 10, 2011Thank you
by: Tonya I did massage him and he tolerated it very well. 3-4 months Larry had an impacted anal gland. I wonder if his current condition is connected to the vet expressing that gland? I believe it was on his right side as well? ?

Sep 10, 2011Jane
by: Everycat Hi Tonya, Ruth Ockendon-Laycock asked me via Facebook to come and read your post and offer some advice re’ Larry and also about acupuncture as I’ve used acupuncture on one of my eldely cats in the past who had severe damage to her trigeminal facial nerve.The post I wrote was far too long for the character limit here and I don’t have time to edit it, so I’ve sent it via message to Ruth OC on Facebook and asked her to send it to Michael

Hope it gets through!


Sep 10, 2011Trapped nerve ?
by: Ruth Sorry I didn’t see this before but it does sound to me as if Larry has a trapped nerve to one side of his spine, he may have caused it by jumping and landing awkwardly as older cats are not as agile.
It’s quite rare so in my vet nursing days I didn’t actually see a case.
Will he let you gently massage his back end ?
We didn’t have acupuncture those days either for cats but I do have a friend who has had it on one of her cats, I’ll try to get in touch with her so she can come here and tell you her thoughts.
It’s always worth getting another vets opinion. It’s your right to demand they examine Larry’s spine very thoroughly but the tests they all want to do are very costly and upsetting for an older cat.
It sounds as if he is gradually improving anyway so maybe time and grounding him is helping.


Sep 09, 2011Update on Larry the cat
by: Tonya Thanks to all of you for your comments. To answer the question posed by Monty’s mom….the vet really didn’t want to “HEAR” what I was telling him. Yes, Larry is a fairly large cat but Larry wouldn’t walk for the vet so he couldn’t see the limp the first time we took him in. The second time, again he didn’t “hear” me and that is when they did all the blood tests….which did rule out diabetes, cancer, etc. but did show the fatty liver. That is when the referred us to the most expensive Vet Clinic in town that has an MRI, CT, an internist….and a hefty price tag for services. After researching the Fatty Liver…I found that there is no treatment for that other than cutting his caloric intake way back and ultimately for him to lose weight. Well, good news today….he was up and I saw him “walk” on that paw….he is still slow but it was great seeing him walk. When I came home for lunch, he had been working on his leg….it was stretched out and looked as if he had really been grooming it. Also, we have grounded him….not allowing (as best we can) him to jump. He has taken up residence on the dog bed…..and door mat by the window.

Now, to respond to the tail injury….no, I don’t recall him getting it caught in a door…now, I do recall accidentally stepping on it a while back but again, I don’t think that is what created the limp and the droopy tail….I guess it could be though. He will let me rub it and touch him with no cries. I stood him up last night and placed my hands under his belly supporting his hips and he took several steps that way….and didn’t appear to drag that right rear paw. If I touch his upper leg, he moves it but if I touch his paw, he doesn’t even flinch.

As for the fatty liver….I’m giving him fish oil on his food. He loves it. Now he has shown some signs of incontinence in that he won’t use the litter box but that could be that it is to far away? I’ve made a new litter box that isn’t as deep by using a storage box lid with a liner placed under the litter….he has used it but not consistently. For now, I am placing a towel down so he can go to it for his potty needs….yes, it isn’t as sanitary as I would like but I would rather he went on the towel then on the bed. He still purrs like crazy, has a great appetite and definitely will move from one spot to the next. I’m inclined to believe he has a pinched nerve or ruptured/herniated disc in the base of his spine but I’m not a vet. I am considering taking him in for accupuncture? Thoughts from fellow cat lovers? Has anyone tried this?



Sep 08, 2011Sounds like a spinal cord injury
by: Ruth (Monty’s Mom) I work as a physical therapist assistant. I had to study the human spinal cord a lot, but I’ll bet some of it applies to cats. It sounds like the injury is incomplete, because one side is affected and he still has bowel and bladder control. It has to be low in the spinal cord– probably lumbar area because the back leg is affected. The injury would not be in tail because the leg is also involved. Michael is right in all his suggestions. As for which one is right, you wouldn’t know without expensive tests. At this point, even if you were able to relieve the compression on the nerves (say by removing a tumor) the damage might be permanent. My guess is his paralysis has nothing to do with his fatty liver. Did the vet really suggest that? Did he give a rationale for how a fatty liver can paralyze an animal?

Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • I forgot to add; When my cats are looking punkish, I "snap" their neck to look for dehydration. Pull the loose skin up about and inch and let go. If it goes down immediately, it is a good sign. If it is slow to return to normal, not so good. He most likely has some dehydration. Two things you can do; get him to a vet and have the vet run a few tests and administer some subcutaneous fluids into him. Or, you can add Pedialyte to his water and see how he does.

    The other thing I also do is, give my cats a B-12 shot. Most people don't have access to injectable B-12. In this case, I crush a B-12 tablet and dissolve it with warm water. Try to syringe it down his throat. Use a syringe after the needle has been removed. B-12 promotes appetite and energy.

    Also watch for changes in fur. When fur starts to lose it's shine, normal texture (smoothness), generally a sign something isn't right within their system.

  • Mar: Sadly, like humans, our babies get old and infirmity sets in. I think it is often harder for us to accept our cat's health is failing than humans.

    Some of the symptoms sound like he either is suffering from arthritis or has some degenerative nerve issues. You might try palpating the area around the hip joints, lower legs and just above the tail along the spine to see if he reacts to pain. VERY GENTLY try to extend his hind legs. Cats have a remarkable ability to not show pain, so you have to be very observant of any reactions. If he shows ANY discomfort, stop immediately. Most likely if he responds to the stress, he has some old age issues setting in.

    The behavior issue may be a response to pain. As Michael suggested, possibly kidney issues. You really need to have a vet look at him to rule out any kidney problems. Cats can go down in a VERY short time from kidney disease.

    I am NOT a vet, nor am I dispensing medical advice. I am suggesting things I have learned to do and have done on my own cats. I did however, study 2 yrs at a vet med school when I was working on my Masters in Psychology. Basically the CNS in cats compared to humans. And brain size/intelligence compared to humans. Trust me, if cats had a brain the size of humans....we'd be in soooooo much trouble. :)

    Good luck with your baby Mar. I will say a prayer for him and you.

  • My cat is having the same problem. He is a rescue cat which I adopted when he was approximately 1 1/2-2 years of age. I figure he is about 14-15 years old. He has been an indoor cat since I adopted him. Two months ago he had a cleaning & then a week later his distemper shots. He had been throwing up some so the My Vet told me to get him started on lysine chewable a because he has the feline virus.
    About a month ago his behavior started to change. Now I see he is not picking his tail up anymore. It just sort of hangs downward. He is a very kind obedient cat & used to be a good jumper and would like to look outside the window. We would run around almost every evening before bed. Know his desire to look outside has decreased, he no longer plays but maybe for 1 minute & our before bed running is no longer. His hind legs seem limp & thinner around the tail where it meets the back spine. I've been crying in & off for about a week. I really don't want to lose my boy. He's been a wonderful family member, friend & companion for me. He was always quite a talker & greeting me when I her home. He doesn't talk so much & rarely meets me at the food when I get home.
    All the stuff I've read so far makes sense. This has been helpful. I am so very sad & disheartened.
    Any input is welcome.
    Thank you from me Mare & HArley my boy.

    • Hi Mare, I am sorry to hear your story. I know how you feel. We get very connected to our cats after a long time together and it is painful to see them ill. To me (as a layperson) Harley symptoms maybe age related as he is elderly. He may have some underlying health issues such as poor kidney function combined with viral infection. Some cats react badly to the distemper vaccine but these symptoms appear to be too late to be linked to the vaccination about 7 weeks ago. There are many reasons for vomiting (see page).

      The virus may make him feel lethargic etc.. It seems he is ill and old together causing these symptoms. I can't shed more light on this. I sense it is a combination event and complex therefore. My best to you both.

Recent Posts

Two steps in detecting and removing cat urine

Background Sometimes you suspect that either your cat or an intruding cat has sprayed urine…

12 hours ago

How do I stop my cat scratching the carpet and furniture?

There are three points to make in response to the question in the title. The…

13 hours ago

4 books you might buy a cat lover this Christmas

Of course, there are more than four books that you might buy a cat lover…

21 hours ago

4 reasons our cats love us

1. Mutuality Mutuality is the sharing of feelings and action in a relationship between two…

22 hours ago

Dog strokes cat who reciprocates the affection (video)

Did my dog just pet my cat?? And did my cat just hug my dog??—…

1 day ago

Are American Curl cats healthy?

Yes, American Curl cats are healthy because cats of this breed don't inherit genetic illnesses…

2 days ago