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Cat having back end problems.

Species: Cat
Breed: Siberian
Age: 2-5 years
Hi Dr. Marie,

It's Christmas Eve so the vet here is closed. I hope you're able to maybe put my mind at ease, or tell me I need to call the vet emergency line.

My female Siberian cat will be three in January. She's a purebred cat from an amazing breeder in the US with no history of medical issues in her lineage. She weighs about 15 lbs. I feed her grain free food made in Canada called Acana, and Snappy Tom wet food (half a small can a day).

Two nights ago I noticed she was walking kind of funny, I didn't really pay much attention to it but yesterday it got worse. It looks like she can't lift her butt up when she walks. She can move her hind legs, I've seen her jump and climb (it's not easy but she does it).

I keep checking her legs to see if they're still warm and they are.

I should note that normally we live in an apartment with carpet, but because we're on Christmas vacation we're now staying in an apartment with wood floors, and the bed is much higher than she is used to. Could she have just slipped on the floor and pulled something? Maybe she strained jumping?

I talked to her breeder and she says just to keep her away from my other cat so they can't play and make her rest - she's probably fine. I just feel like something doesn't look right. What are your thoughts?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi there, and thanks for your question.

I have a few questions for you before I type out a full answer:

1. Is Moscow spayed?

2. You mentioned that her legs are warm. Can you tell if her paws, particularly the paw pads are significantly colder on the back feet as compared to the front, or are they the same temperature?

3. How is her appetite?

4. Does she go outside?

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Yes Moscow is spayed. We've felt in between her toes and on her pads and all four paws feel the same. Her appetite isn't as full as it normally is but I expected that when I moved her out of her normal house. She is strictly an indoor cat.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

OK, thanks for that info.

This is a tough one to give you a concrete answer on, so I'll give you my thoughts and also some criteria that may help you determine whether you need to see an emergency vet.

The reason why I was asking if her feet were cold was because of the possibility of something called either saddle thrombus or the medical term is aortoiliac thrombosis. This is where a blood clot forms in the blood vessels that supply the back legs. If there was a clot then we would notice that the back feet are very cold because they are not getting blood circulation. This is a very serious condition. And it could definitely cause her to have trouble moving her back end properly. But, if you are not noticing the temperature difference then I think this is less likely. I should also mention that cats with this condition will usually be very painful in their hind limbs.

The next thing I think of when a cat is having some difficulties with walking is whether there is an infection somewhere. This is obviously much more common with an outdoor cat that could have been in a fight. I still occasionally see indoor cats that get a random wound from something inside, so this is possible, but less likely. If there was an infection then we would notice the symptoms getting less and less and her appetite getting worse. If this is happening then, yes, I would take her in.

It's also possible that she has injured something. Hind end injuries are hard to diagnose in cats. It could be something simple like she has slipped and strained a ligament. Or, it could be something much more serious like a pelvis fracture. I have seen many indoor cats for serious fractures because they have done something silly like fall off a staircase. I had one cat break his pelvis by falling off the top of the tv!

One other possibility is if there is a problem near or around her anus. Can you see any red, raw areas? If so she could have an anal sac infection or a skin infection in this area. If this is the case then I would recommend having her seen soon because these types of things are very uncomfortable for cats.

Here are my criteria that I would use in a case like this to help you to decide whether to see an emergency vet:

1. Appetite is important. If goes a full day without eating, or if her appetite is decreasing every day then she needs to be seen.

2. If she has shown no improvement in 48 hours then I would have her seen.

3. If she has any difficulties with her breathing then she needs to be seen right away. Respiratory problems can be a sign of heart disease which would fit with the saddle thrombus issue we talked about above.

4. Use your "gut". If you feel that something is really wrong, then it is better to be safe than sorry.

In the meantime, the best thing you can do is try to discourage any jumping or running. If she wants to get up on to the bed then lift her up. (Jumping down is likely ok for her seeing that it is her back end that is affected.) Unfortunately there is no over the counter pain medication that is considered safe to give for cats.

I hope that helps! Have a wonderful Christmas!

Dr. Marie.

Customer reply:

Thanks a lot Dr. Marie.

I was reading about the blood clot issue and that's why we keep checking her leg temperature, and we'll keep checking in on it too just to make sure.

Thankfully my partner is a paramedic so I have someone around who has a good idea of breathing and what a circulation problem feels like. Obviously cats are different from people but it's still nice to have someone who has a general idea of normal and not-normal.

I've got her in a separate room from my other cat so they can't play for now (they play hard!) and hope rest and relaxation will fix everything.

Thanks for letting me know what to watch out for!

Merry Christmas to you and your family as well :)

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

You're doing all of the right things! Thanks for caring so much for your little girl!

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.