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Broken Bones in Cats

 

We usually think of cats as graceful and agile animals that can make impressive jumps. However, even the best athlete can miss. Falls and collisions with cars are the most common ways a cat breaks a bone. Attacks by other animals (and sometimes humans) can also result in bone fractures. The bones most commonly broken (or fractured) are the femur, pelvis, jaw, and tail.

 

What to Watch For

 

The primary symptoms seen are from pain. Cats will try to hide their pain, so watch for these signs:

 

  • Crying, howling, moaning, or growling, especially if touched
  • Not walking, or not using a limb or tail
  • Not eating or grooming
  • Swelling or bruising at the injured area

 

Sometimes a broken bone will poke through the skin. This is called a compound fracture. In addition, there may be other injuries associated with the traumatic event that broke the bone, such as cuts, bruises, or disorientation.

 

Primary Cause

 

A fracture is a crack or break in the bone caused by abnormal stress on the bone, usually from a traumatic event like a fall or being hit by a car.

 

Immediate Care

 

The first thing to remember is that your cat is in pain, and animals in pain can bite, no matter how gentle they are normally. The second thing to remember is that an event severe enough to fracture a bone could cause shock and other not so obvious problems, some of which may not be detectable for days. Therefore, any home treatment is just to stabilize the injury until your cat can be seen by your veterinarian.

 

Any areas that are bleeding or where bone is sticking out should be covered with sterile gauze or a clean cloth if possible. The broken bone(s) should be disturbed as little as possible. Wrap your cat in a thick towel or put him on a rigid surface to carry him to your veterinarian.

 

Veterinary Care

 

Diagnosis

 

Your veterinarian will evaluate your cat’s overall health to assure that more serious problems are under control. Once your cat is stable, multiple X-rays of the suspected fracture(s) will be taken.

 

Treatment

 

There are many factors that will determine how the fractures are treated. The most important are overall health, age, the bones broken, and the type of fracture that has occurred. A splint or cast may be sufficient for the lower leg, but not always.Often surgery will be needed to realign the bones and to place screws, pins (metal rods), wire, and/or metal plates to hold the pieces together.

 

Some fractures may be so severe as to require amputation, especially if the tail is involved. Fractures of the spine and pelvis will be treated by severely restricting activity (cage rest), with or without surgery. Pain medication will also be part of the treatment plan, and in some cases, antibiotics.

 

Other Causes

 

Pathologic fractures are caused by anything that can weaken the bone, such as certain hormonal imbalances, bone infections, and bone cancer.

 

Living and Management

 

The most important, and hardest, part of home care is restricting your cat’s activity, especially jumping. Any bandaging material will need to be kept dry. If it gets wet, especially from urine, or if there is odor or evidence of chafing, you will need to have the bandages checked and probably replaced. You also need to keep your cat from chewing on the bandages. The Elizabethan collar is the most commonly used device, but new collar styles and bandages that taste bad are also becoming more available.

 

Bones usually take 4 to 6 weeks to heal. Follow-up X-rays are normally taken to monitor healing. Fortunately cats seem to heal bones pretty well. Any metal parts that were surgically implanted to stabilize the bone will be left in place, unless they start causing problems.

 

Prevention

 

Since most breaks are caused by traumatic events, limiting access to the outdoors will minimize injuries from automobiles and animal attacks. Pay attention to where your cat likes to go inside. If he likes walking along balcony edges or making risky jumps, try to restrict access to these areas.

 

Comments  13

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  • Broken Neck took my kitty
    07/06/2012 10:37pm

    Your first line that cats are supposed to be agile, but they do not always land right is so true.

    I am grieving tonight over my actions this morning that cost the life of my 5 year old kitty. I did not do anything that every cat lover has not done. I held him one handed under his belly when putting him into another room. I gave him a little low to the floor "toss" and he did not land on his feet but on his head...and his body evidently had enough propulsion that it snapped his neck, he was a large kitty... PLEASE learn from my mistake, when putting your cats down, DON'T ever think they will always land on their feet... My baby was gone in 30 seconds to a minute... ALWAYS take that extra second to put their feet onto the floor, especially if you have hardwood..my baby slipped on the hardwood floor, and it cost him his life and me a best friend.

    Distraught mother of now one kitty.

  • 08/09/2012 08:19pm

    My sincere condolences. I can only imagine your shock after this tragic accident. Please know that you are in my thoughts this evening. I'm truly sorry.

  • 05/08/2013 03:13am

    Reading your story almost made me cry. I am so sorry for your loss and wish I could hug the pain away. Your baby is in a better place with endless wet food and sun patches. Sending all my blessings.

  • So sorry hun!
    08/30/2012 02:15pm

    I'm sorry for your loss.. My heart goes out to you!

  • Cryyyyy
    11/03/2012 03:47am

    I just lost my baby last night to what i believed to also be a broken neck ....this pain is unbearable!

  • 11/04/2012 02:37pm

    I am saddened and heart broken for you.. It has been 4 months since I lost Argyle, and for the first month I cried and my home seemed so sad.... It will take time to have the hurt replaced by happy memories.. I am still getting there.. Three new kitties have come to my home, and the need for helping them have a stress free transistion has occupied my mind for the past month... You will NEVER forget your baby.. but if others can have the same love you gave him, they are indeed lucky kitties.. My deepest condolences to you in this hard time...

  • 04/04/2013 09:42pm

    i am so sorry. it was an accident. a heart pained one. sorry for your heart.

  • Hugs
    11/03/2012 11:37am

    I'm crying with you. Big virtual hugs are coming your way and please know that you are being thought about today by someone who understands your pain of losing a treasured furry friend and family member.

  • George trying to recover
    05/12/2013 01:45pm

    Our girl George was hit by a car and dragged herself home on the day my new cat book went to press! With a fractured hip (separated from the pelvis by a good distance), the vet said she would have a “better than 50-50 chance” if kept in a dog crate for a month. We are seniors on a fixed income (basically Social Security) and cannot afford $3000 or more for surgery. She is now about halfway through and we think doing OK. I’ll post updates on the book website, www.catconnection.info – the webpage already shows a pic of George in her crate. Send her your thoughts towards a good recovery, please…

  • 08/18/2013 05:42pm

    Hi there! I am wondering how your cat's fractured hip is doing now. I have a 6 month old feral kitten that jumped off my roof to try to catch a bird. Alas, his hip is broken. Surgery is not an option. I am starting the healing process today. Trying to keep this still hyper, frisky kitten immobile for the next 4-6 weeks is going to be one heck of a challenge.

  • 08/18/2013 05:50pm

    After X-rays showing the leg bone broken just below the hip joint and separated from the hip, our vet said George (actually a girl cat) would have a better than 50-50 chance of recovery by spending a month in a dog crate, and she did fine in a medium crate from Walmart. The vet also said she would limp for the rest of her life...but now you would never know she had any problem - no limp at all. When she first came out of the crate, she was a bit stiff and could not jump at all, but this worked off in a few days, now she can jump as much as she ever did!

    To make sure the bowels did not get blocked due to pain, we had to give her 1/4 teaspoon of Metamucil every day while she was in the crate. You can get the unflavored variety as cats don't usually appreciate the orange flavor!

    Read her story on her blog (also has a pic of the crate and all its features):
    George's blog is at http://georgecatconnection.blogspot.com/

    George was given pain pills for the first week.

  • 10/16/2013 05:42am

    Hi Larry, my name is oki, i live in Indonesia, and i just found kitten around my neighbourhood, apparently she was paralyse because her backbone was broken long before, by the way she just 3 months old, i go to 2 vet and all they said lethal injection is the only way, i just want to hear your advice about this, since she looks okay and healthy on the front body from stomach to the head, but hardly to got pee,
    what should i do about her ? since the operation is impossible here in Indonesia, and if there was, it should cost a lot, thanks in advance for your response, you can mail me directly to sevenoceangalaxy@yahoo.com

    Sincerely
    Oki Harahap

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