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5 Causes Of Bowed Legs In Cats, And Is Recovery Possible

5 Causes Of Bowed Legs In Cats, And Is Recovery Possible

Recently I’ve been talking to a friend of mine that has been thinking of adopting a cat. She told me how she is almost sure she will welcome one, but she’s a bit worried since it’s a bow legged cat. 

What would living with a cat like this be? Is she even able to move around normally, and do things on her own? What causes this condition in felines?

These were all really good questions, especially when coming from people who are about to become cat parents.

Bowed legs in cats aren’t a simple thing, and it’s a good idea to know a bit more about this condition. Let’s see what it looks like, what causes it, and if there is a way to help cats with bowed legs.

What Are Bowed Legs In Cats?

According to PetPlace, bowed legs in cats present a limb deformity in the form of abnormally shaped or crooked limbs as a result of abnormal bone growth.

If you haven’t seen a bow legged cat before, take a look at the video below.

Some cats are born with this health condition, while others develop it throughout their lives. There are a few main causes of bowed logs in felines.

1. Luxating Patella

Devon Rex cat resting on a pillow

Malcolm Weir explains how luxating patella in felines presents a condition where a kneecap “pops out” or moves out of its normal location.

Cats of all breeds can have this condition, but, Abyssinian cats and Devon Rexes have genetic predispositions to develop it. 

Cats with Luxating patella usually manifest symptoms such as intermittent lameness and difficulty jumping. 

Many cats with this condition can tolerate it for many years, and even live completely normal. However, as the cat ages, the symptoms usually get worse, and result in decreased mobility and joint pain.

In some cases, the veterinarian might suggest surgical correction of the luxating patella.

2. Hip Dysplasia

Most people will connect hip dysplasia with dogs; Although it’s true they have this health problem more often, some cats might develop it, too. The breed that’s prone to this condition is the Maine Coon, due to its large size.

Hip dysplasia refers to the abnormal development of the hip joints that will cause degeneration of the joint. This health problem can be extremely painful for cats.

Some of the most common symptoms that occur are cat’s limping, strange walking, avoiding physical activities, difficulty getting up, and difficulty moving.

Hip dysplasia often occurs in obese cats, as their weight puts pressure on the hips.

In the case of hip dysplasia, it is important to keep the cat at a healthy weight, and give her painkillers, as well as nutritional supplements for the joints.

If the cat has a more severe form of dysplasia, surgery will be needed to restore the joint.

3. Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

the cat is lying on the cardboard

This is another disease that usually affects smaller dogs, but might also occur in cats.

According to Krista Williams, this condition occurs when the blood supply to the femoral head is interrupted, causing necrosis.

The most obvious sign of this disease is progressing hind limb lameness. The common treatment for this health problem includes the osteotomy of the femoral head and neck.

Some cats might require long-term anti-inflammatory medications.

4. Spina Bifida

Masahiro Tamura and his associates [1] point out how spina bifida in cats is a congenital malformation that causes incomplete closure of the dorsal vertebral arches.

This health issue mostly affects the Manx breed, also known as the tailless cat. Spina bifida prevents a cat’s spine to develop normally, and causes her quality of life to decrease drastically.

The main symptoms of spina bifida are the cat’s staggering when walking, weakness in its hind legs, and tenderness or pain in the affected areas.

Reconstructive surgery for this condition is possible, but the chances of the cat recovering completely are not great.

See Also: Cat Quality Of Life Chart – Determine Cat’s Health

5. Injuries

Some cats will have bow legs due to an injury. This can happen when a kitten falls off from a height, or if somebody accidentally steps on her.

Also, many cats will end up with a limb deformity as a consequence of a car accident. Olsen and Allen [2] explain how 51% of cats that had free access to the outdoors were suddenly killed as a result of road traffic accidents.

So, it’s really important to keep your cat indoors.

Can A Bow Legged Cat Recover Completely?

a woman examines a little kitten

Is there a way for a bow legged cat to recover completely from this health condition?

Well, this depends on the cause of this health problem. If an injury or accident is the reason for bowed legs in her, this might be treated with medications and physical therapy.

Some cats have a chance to have a full recovery, while others won’t be as happy.

If your cat has this deformation due to a congenital condition, she still can get normally-shaped legs, with a surgical procedure. 

Even if the veterinarian establishes there’s no good chance for your cat’s bowed legs to get back to normal, this doesn’t mean she can’t still have a good life.

Of course, this does mean that your kitten will probably need your help and ongoing supportive care. Remember that limb deformities are likely to cause reduced mobility and pain in our pets.

How Can You Help A Bow Legged Cat?

Even if a kitten has some form of deformity, this doesn’t mean she’s less worthy of your attention; Quite the opposite!

It will be more rewarding knowing you’ll make a little kitten happy and safe in your home. There are some things you can do to help a bow legged cat, and still provide her with a nice and loving life with you.

The following are the steps that you can undertake:

Take your kitten to a vet clinic, to establish what exactly caused the leg deformation in her. This way, you’ll know whether there is a chance for a surgical procedure to fix this problem in your cat. Also, you’ll get the best advice on how to take good care of your pet.

Provide her with a high-quality diet, based on meat and a high amount of protein.

Keep your cat at optimal body weight, as obesity can lead to further problems with movement.

Make sure she still has her daily activities, but without putting too much stress on her joints. Placing ramps around the places your cat usually jumps on is a good idea here.

The Bottom Line

A cat can have bowed legs due to some congenital health problems, or acquire it during life, as a result of an injury.

Sometimes this condition can be treated and the cat’s legs can go back to normal. However, in many cases, a cat will have this deformation for the rest of her life.

Bowed legs can be painful for felines and might significantly reduce their mobility, and, therefore, their independence as well.

This means that a disabled cat will probably need your assistance. You should be careful that she doesn’t jump too high, or is involved in any other activities that can put additional stress on her joints.

Of course, a kitten like this can still have a beautiful life. Make sure you consult the veterinarian about any doubts you might have about treatment for this condition in cats, and on living with a cat with bowed legs in general.


[1] Tamura M, et. al. Tethered cord syndrome with spina bifida aperta in cats: two case reports of different types. JFMS Open Rep. 2017 May 12;3(1): DOI, Retrieved June 04, 2023.
[2] Olsen TF, Allen AL. Causes of sudden and unexpected death in cats: a 10-year retrospective study. Can Vet J. 2001 Jan;42(1):61-2. DOI, Retrieved June 04, 2023.

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