Bow Legged Cats (Is This Condition Normal?)

bow legged cats

Not too long ago, I was at the vet waiting to pick up my cat’s kidney medication. I ended up speaking with a foster who had brought in a kitten that was bow legged for a physical exam.

Apparently, this fosterer has been fostering kittens for more than two decades and has seen her fair share of cats with bow legs. It was an enriching conversation and I learned a lot about cats with such mobility issues.

What Are bow legged Cats? Cats with bow legs suffer from angular limb deformities. This deformity affects the deviation of the natural bone shape. This angular limb deformity can affect a number of the cat’s legs and can be present when the cat is born or starts to look this way after an injury to the leg.

In this article, we will be taking a deeper look at cats with angular limb deformities and what can their pet owners do about it.

Why Does My Kitten Look Bow Legged?

bow legged kitten in my hands

Most pet owners would start to notice an angular limb deformity in their cats as kittens. It is also possible to adopt or foster a cat that has had bowed legs ever since it was a young cat.

If you have a kitten that is predisposed to having angular limb deformities, it can be congenital or developmental.

Congenital Defect

Congenital means that the kitten already has bow legs when it was in the mother cat’s womb. It could be a generic disorder or one of the parents has this defect as well.

This condition is caused by a problem with the growth plates that are found at the end of the cat’s bones.

The cells at the growth plates will stop growing while the rest of the bone will still continue to grow causing the cat’s limb or limbs to grow in a curved shape. Hence the name ‘bow legged’ as it resembles a bow when looked at from the front or back.

There are some cat breeds that are more prone to angular limb deformities. These breeds ae mainly the Scottish Fold and Munchkin.

Developmental Defect

Not all kittens are born with this defect. A cat could have been born with perfectly fine-looking limbs but eventually developed angular limb deformities due to an accident or trauma to the leg.

This can be caused by:

A serious injury to trauma to the cat’s limbs can cause damage to the growth plates which results in an irregular growth of the bone when it starts to heal.

It is very important to take your cat to the vet for an x-ray if there’s any injury to its legs. Surgical correction might be needed to properly set the bone in its correct position. Allowing your cat’s broken bone to heal by itself might not be the best option.

What Can I Do If My Cat Is Bow Legged?

If you have a cat that is bow legged, please know that your cat is still very capable of leading a very normal life. Yes, some cats might not have the best mobility but they can learn to adapt with the proper treatment and home care.

There aren’t any magical cures for cats with bow legs but there are a few things that you should do.

Using A Splint Or Leg Brace

For cats that have minor angular limb deformities, there might not be a need for them to undergo surgery to correct the problem. It might just be more of a cosmetic than a mobility issue.

The vet might recommend that your cat use a splint or leg brace to try and get the bone to grow back to its normal position.

Take Your Cat To The Vet

Most cases of angular limb deformities are obvious when the cat is still young and growing. This is the best time to get your cat to the vet to for a physical examination.

The vet will do a couple of x-rays to ascertain the severity of the deformity. Most vets will recommend surgical correction if your cat is a good candidate. Cats that are still young will have a much better chance of success as their bones and tendons are still soft and malleable.

The vet will cut away the damaged bone and set it in its proper position or let it grow out on its own. Some cats might require more than one operation to realign their limbs properly.

Vitamin D Or Calcium Supplements

Some studies have soon that cats that lack vitamin D in their bodies tend to develop bow legs. Vitamin D is important for growing cats as it helps the body retain calcium and phosphorous which are important minerals for bone growth.

When this happens, it can cause the bones to be soft and deformed.

Unlike humans who can synthesize vitamin D from sunlight, cats do not have this ability and need to get it from their food or external supplementation.

Check with your vet to see if your cat is consuming sufficient vitamin D to support healthy bone growth. Otherwise, it would be best to feed your cat some vitamin D supplements.

Are There Long-Term Health Effects For Bow Legged Cats?

cat under blanket

Although most cats can adapt their mobility to their bow legs, such a medical condition might lead to a couple of long-term health effects.

The most ones that your cat can suffer from are arthritis and joint pain as it gets older. There is the risk of your cat experiencing pain in its joints and muscle ache due to the weird angle of its limbs.

In more serious cases some cats can even suffer from hip dysplasia and back pain due as having bow legs does affect a cat’s gait.

The vet can prescribe pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs to help your cat with its symptoms.

But the best way to prevent the long-term health effects from getting worse is to start defensive measures while your cat is still young.

Here are some things that you can do on a daily basis:

Feed A Good Diet

Ensuring that your cat gets the best diet possible will be very important for maintaining healthy bones and muscle mass.

Cats are obligate carnivores which means that they need a high-protein diet from animal meat. Do not feed your cat dry food or kibbles which are high in carbs and fillers. Get your cat on a canned food or raw meat diet.

Weight Management

fat cat lying on floor

Managing your cat’s weight is very important so as not to put unnecessary stress and pressure on its joints. More than 50% of cats in the United States alone are overweight.

By feeding your cat a good diet and cutting down on unhealthy treats, you can ensure that your cat maintains a healthy weight into its senior years.

I don’t condone overfeeding your cat but chonky cats can be rather cut in their own ways.

Watch your Cat’s Activity Level

Another way to ensure that your cat is not putting too much stress on its joints is to not let it run or jump too much.

Do not allow your cat to jump up and down too much and from high places. Always make sure that your cat has an easier way to get down by placing ramps or restricting access to such places.

Are My Cat’s Back Legs Suppose To Be Straight?

When looking at your cat from the back, its back legs should be straight, slightly bent at the knees and with paws flat on the ground.

In healthy cats, there should not be any deviation of the bones or a frog-like posture which could mean an issue with its limbs.

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