It is hard to watch your cat struggling to jump up on things when it was once so active. Perhaps it can’t jump up on a chair or over the fence. Maybe it can’t jump as high, or has suddenly become more deliberate in its movements. Finding out the reason why is a priority for you.
Arthritis, joint pain, ingrown toenails, cracked paw pads, pododermatitis, and nerve damage are among the many reasons that cats have difficulty jumping. Also, health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes can dramatically decrease a cat’s mobility.
Although rare, infectious diseases and cancer can inhibit your cat’s mobility. These issues can impact the spinal cord and potentially lead to paralysis. Never ignore your cat’s inability to jump. While your cat’s immobility could be due to old age, it could be the result of a more serious problem.
Why Is My Cat Suddenly Unable to Jump?
Although age and pre-existing health conditions can play a significant part in a cat’s lack of mobility, some cats fall victim to conditions that strike them down immediately. Various types of cancers and spinal conditions can be a cause of concern in addition to nerve disorders.
While receiving an expert diagnosis is paramount, monitoring your cat’s behavior for further symptoms is recommended. If a significant issue is behind the problem, your cat’s lack of jumping will be only one of many signs. Make notes on your cat’s behavior and share them with your vet.
1) Arthritis and Joint Problems
Also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, feline arthritis is a painful condition that can prevent your cat’s joints from working properly due to inflammation.
Decreased activity and hesitation to move and jump are the core symptoms. If your cat has to think long and hard before jumping on your sofa. For example, the issue could be related to joint pain.
Often caused by the natural aging process, arthritis occurs when the cartilage that acts as a cushion between two joint bones slowly deteriorates. The bone-on-bone contact causes stiffness, inflammation, and excruciating pain for your cat.
Although senior cats are more likely to be afflicted than younger cats, arthritis can be a byproduct of injury or other ailments. If this occurs, cats of all ages can be affected. Dislocation of a joint or obesity can put increased pressure on cartilage and negatively impact joint health.
If your cat has been diagnosed with arthritis, there are a variety of things you can do around the house to help your cat feel better and reduce the physical strain.
- Prepare a soft bed for your cat, and establish a comfortable area where your cat can relax.
- Transform petting sessions into massage sessions. Giving your cat a daily massage can keep your pet in a relaxed state. With pain comes anxiety, so do what you can to calm your pet.
- Cats can quickly begin to look unkempt because they find it more difficult to reach certain parts of their bodies. Take control of some of your cat’s grooming needs to reduce the strain.
- Accessing food and water should never be a task that involves climbing or jumping. Make sure your cat can easily reach its food, water, and litter box with minimal effort. If you don’t, you may find that your cat stops covering its poop or doesn’t drink water and stops eating food.
2) Ligament and Tendon Issues
Ligaments are elastic bands of tissue that allow cats to move about freely without suffering bone fractures or dislocations. Tendons are the vital tissues that connect the muscles to the bones.
Both ligaments and tendons work in harmony to make sure your cat’s movements are fluid. However, when conditions arise that impact the ligaments and tendons, your cat’s ability to walk and jump will diminish significantly. Symptoms include the following:
- Limping that progressively worsens
- Unwillingness to move, walk, jump, etc.
- Refusal to bend the troubled leg
- Pain in general or response to touch
- Visible swelling and redness
Most ligament and tendon damage is the result of physical trauma. This could involve jumping from a location that is too high, falling out of a tree, being hit by a vehicle, etc.
If your cat is elderly, the issue could be the result of a lifetime of wear and tear. Years of jumping and playful activity has a way of catching up with cats as they progress through life.
Surgery, casting, physical therapy, weight loss, and medical aids are all treatment options.
- Muscle conditions and disorders make it harder for your cat to walk correctly or jump. These ailments can be the result of muscle pulls, strains, tears or weakness brought on by age or disease. The side effects of the medication can also contribute to muscle fatigue and weakness. Inflammatory muscle disease may cause muscle weakness, stiffness, pain, and swelling.
3) Ingrown Toenails
One of the most common foot ailments that cats experience is ingrown toenails. If a cat’s nails go unattended for too long, they can grow deep within the pad of the paw.
Ingrown toenails can morph into infection and cause extreme inflammation of the entire foot. This ailment can lead to limping and the refusal to place excessive pressure on the foot itself.
- If you have a long-haired cat, it can be difficult to see your cat’s nails due to fur growth that goes beyond the foot. We advise you to have your cat’s nails trimmed on a regular basis by a trained professional. While home trimming is possible, there are many risks involved.
4) Cracked Paw Pads
Cats that reside outdoors or travel across rough surfaces can develop cracked paws. Environmental allergens, as well as harsh textured litter, can also lead to cracking and discoloration.
Bacterial or viral infections can also lead to cracked paws and the peeling of the skin.
- Cut paws lead to cracking. If your cat has stepped on broken glass, rocks, a nail, etc., paw cracking could be the result of cuts. If foreign matter is lodged within the paw, clean it with soap and water and allow it to dry. Put your cat in a comfortable place to rest.
- Meals that do not include the proper amounts of zinc can lead to skin concerns. Because zinc naturally bolsters skin strength and healing, a lack of this mineral can cause the paws to crack.
- Food allergies can lead to redness, swelling, peeling, and cracking of the skin on the paws. This is most likely to happen when new food is introduced to your cat’s diet.
Defined as skin inflammation of the paws and feet, pododermatitis can hinder both dogs and cats.
While most cases can be diagnosed based on look and feel, a biopsy of the skin is taken in some cases to check for alternative medical explanations. Symptoms may include:
- Red and swollen paws
- Itchy paws
- Fluid buildup under the skin
- Thick or raised areas of the paws
- Defined skin peeling
- Bloody discharge from the paws
- Inflamed nail bed
Treatment for this paw condition typically consists of foot soaking, bandaging, and transitioning to a hypoallergenic diet.
Every 2-3 weeks, check your cat’s paws for signs of irritation and swelling. There is a good chance that you will be able to spot changes long before behavioral symptoms arise. Trouble jumping often occurs once the ailment has become more painful.
6) Neuromuscular Disorders
Triggered by interference between nerves and muscles, these disorders can cause your cat’s muscles to twitch, contract violently, and prevent them from performing basic acts, such as jumping.
Whether inherited from birth or acquired after physical trauma or infection, neuromuscular disorders can range from moderate to severe.
7) Diabetic Neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy is defined by pain and numbness in the legs. This condition is usually a byproduct of advanced diabetes or diabetes that has not been appropriately treated. Lethargy is also common at this stage of the disease’s progression. The symptoms may include:
- Dragging of limbs
- Lack of balance
- Inability to jump
- Shaking and twitching
Starting your cat on a proper diabetes treatment plan is imperative. Changing your cat’s diet to one that is high in fiber and carbohydrates can also control blood glucose levels.
- Because obesity and diabetes are often linked, your cat may have difficulting jumping on things due to its size. If your cat has gained weight and is no longer fit, the days of dynamic jumping have likely been put on hold.
8) Infectious Diseases
Bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and viral infections can lead to rear leg weakness in cats. In severe cases, these infections can directly affect the spinal cord leading to paralysis. Feline infectious peritonitis or FIP can inflame the spinal cord due to an abnormal response to a viral infection.
Any infectious disease that affects the central nervous system can hamper your cat’s ability to walk, jump, and perform basic tasks.
Although many diseases of this significance are treatable, some are not. If your cat is exhibiting any form of paralysis, emergency care is required.
9) Heart Disease
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, also known as HCM, is a heart problem that can cause a cat to lose its ability to use its hind legs properly.
Because HCM directly impacts the heart’s ability to pump blood to the aortic valve, oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body is disrupted. This can lead to immediate paralysis of the rear legs. In addition to paralysis, other core symptoms may include:
- Lack of appetite
- Faint pulse
- Discoloration of the footpads and nail beds
Feline aortic thromboembolism occurs when a blood clot emerges from a larger clot in the heart and becomes trapped in what is known as the saddle. This is the location where the aorta is divided into the primary arteries of the hind legs.
Once blood flow is blocked in this location, the result is extreme pain and the inability to use the rear legs. Hardening of the legs and cold bluish foot pads are the most obvious visual clues.
This should be treated as an emergency situation as it is life-threatening. The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center (MSPCA-Angell) has a detailed guide regarding this condition that a concerned cat owner should read.
Lameness, pain, and swelling are the most obvious symptoms of bone and joint cancer. Any affected limbs can become hot to the touch, and fracturing of the bone is a possibility.
VCAHospitals note that 90% of all bone cancers that arise in felines are malignant and the most common is Osteosarcoma.
A routine exam can identify the earliest stages of arthritis, hip discoloration, nerve disease, and cancer. Early detection can help to prevent pain and increase mobility while also reducing the likelihood of a severe side effect, such as paralysis.