cat wearing an Elizabethan collar and Cat leg splint sleeping on the floor.

How Do I Know My Cat’s Leg is Broken?


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Has your fave feline been in an accident and you’re now wondering how to tell if your cat’s leg is broken? Swelling, limping and showing pain or discomfort are all symptoms of a break, but it could be that your cat has sprained their leg or torn a ligament instead.

Understanding what’s what will help you secure the best treatment for a speedy recovery.

A sprained leg can usually be bandaged and will heal with the right treatment, but a broken leg will require a visit to the vet. If it’s a complex fracture it will very likely mean surgery too.

Limb injuries like these were among PD’s top 10 claims in 2021, so it’s worth knowing more about them. Here’s what to know about cat bone fractures and breaks.

Close-up of cat sitting at the table with veterinary caring of it

Bone fractures in cats

They say cats have nine lives. More likely than not you’ve seen your cat achieve unbelievable feats – from jumping off high places to the type of acrobatics only felines can accomplish. Read our article Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?, but know it doesn’t mean that cats don’t suffer broken bones.

The most common bone a cat can break is their thigh bone (called the femur), which is the long bone in their hind leg between the hip and the knee. The femur is a weight-bearing bone and is therefore more prone to fractures from things like falls, being stepped on, or car accidents.

Other bones cats commonly fracture include the tibia and fibula in the lower leg and the pelvis, especially cats that have been hit by a car.

Potential causes of a cat’s broken leg

There are several common causes of a cat breaking a bone, including:


This is the most common cause of bone fractures in cats and can be due to falls, being stepped on, car accidents, or other types of physical trauma.


This is a condition in which bones become weak and brittle, and can break more easily. Osteoporosis is more common in older cats.

Nutritional deficiencies

Cats require certain nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, to maintain strong bones. An imbalanced diet that doesn’t contain enough of these nutrients can lead to weak bones that can break more easily. It’s one reason why kittens shouldn’t eat adult cat food, for instance.

Certain medical conditions

Some medical conditions, such as hyperparathyroidism or bone cancer, can weaken your cat’s bones. Hence, they increase the risk of you needing to deal with a cat with a broken leg.


Cats that are extremely active or do a lot of strenuous physical activity may be more at risk of breaking a bone.


Certain breeds of cats may be more prone to bone fractures than others, particularly those with more slender builds or longer limbs. This includes Siamese, Abyssinian, Burmese cats and the Maine Coon.

Close-up of domestic cat lying on table with vet and owner talking to each other in background

How to tell if my cat’s leg is broken

It can be difficult to determine if a cat’s leg or bone is broken or sprained. In both cases, they’ll show signs of pain, swelling, and limping. However, there are a few differences that can help you differentiate between the two:

Pain level

A broken bone is typically more painful than a sprain. If your cat is crying out in pain or has a very painful reaction to touch, it may be more likely that the bone is broken.


Both sprains and fractures can cause swelling, but fractures often cause more pronounced and rapid swelling. Swelling can also be more localised in the area of the fracture.

Limb positioning

If your cat has a broken leg it may look twisted or bent in an abnormal way. A sprained leg may look more or less normal.

Inability to bear weight

If your cat has a broken leg they’ll typically not be able to bear any weight on it. A cat with a sprain may still be able to bear some weight, although with some difficulty.

How to fix my cat’s broken leg 

You shouldn’t try to fix your cat’s broken leg at home. It’s important to go to a vet immediately. They can perform an exam, take X-rays to confirm what type of break it is and determine the best course of treatment.

In the meantime, you can do the following:

  1. Try to keep your cat as calm and still as possible. If they’re in a lot of pain, they may be agitated or restless. Keep them in a calm and comfortable place, and avoid moving them unnecessarily.
  2. Again, don’t attempt to set the broken bone, it’s important to let a vet set it properly. Trying to do it yourself can cause them further injury and pain.
  3. Your cat may not feel like eating or drinking, but make sure they have easy access to fresh water and offer them small amounts of their regular food.

Speaking of common injuries in cats, abscesses from cat bites, infections, as well as gastroenteritis are among our top claims. Read more here:

Insurance for the unforeseen

A cat’s broken leg or sprained leg may mean many expensive visits to the vet. Often, these visits cost way more than you thought they would. That’s why it’s so important to have cat insurance for accidents like this.

PD Insurance is an award-winning insurance brand that offers three value-rich, month-to-month plans to choose from. This will help ensure your fur baby gets the medical attention it needs while giving you a financial cushion.

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