Have you ever gotten pins and needles in your arms or legs after being stationary and stuck in the same position for too long? It feels like you have 100 kittens hanging off your limbs with their little tiny claws.
Sometimes I wonder if my cat’s legs do fall asleep like mine. He can sit still for hours or contort his body like a gymnast when he sleeps. Any normal human being will feel a cramp or numbness in their body if we try to emulate our cat’s flexibility.
But can cats’ legs fall asleep after some time? It is highly unlikely that our cats’ legs fall asleep after a prolonged period of inactivity. A cat’s blood circulation can prevent such an occurrence which can affect the way they hunt or sleep. There are some possible medical reasons that can cause a cat’s feet or paws to go numb.
Even though the study of whether our cats’ paws fall asleep might not be of great interest to scientists around the world, it is definitely something worth discussing in this article.
Why Do Our Limbs Fall Asleep?
We all had times when our limbs went numb and followed by a rather weird prickly, tingling, burning and itching sensation when we try to stretch it out.
I get it the most when I fly long haul where I’m confined to limited legroom for many hours.
This sensation is called Paresthesia or more famously known as that ‘pins and needles’ sensation.
It happens when pressure is applied to a certain area of your body which irritates the nerves and hinders the blood supply to that specific area.
Our body runs on electrical impulses and when there’s such a roadblock, the nervous system isn’t able to transmit the impulses properly.
Do Cats Get Numb?
There are many times when I’ve looked my cat in the eye and wondered how on earth does he not get uncomfortable being in that position for so long.
I would have to be stretched off by an ambulance if I remained still for that long. This is why our cat’s body is built for this purpose.
Cats Have Better Blood Flow
Let us take a look at an average cat’s blood flow. The heart rate for most cats is around 120-160 beats per minute. This is two times faster than a human that averages around 60-80 bpm. The reason why cats have such a high rate is due to a faster metabolism.
The cat’s body burns off more energy which requires a faster and stronger blood supply to transport nutrients and oxygen to its muscles and organs.
The cat might be able to recreate the same sensation if it ends up in a situation where there’s restricted blood flow to its limbs. But sitting or lying still for hours is a piece of cake for cats.
Cats Have Strong Paws
Don’t underestimate the strength of your cat’s paws. They might look like little fur mittens but they can certainly handle your cat’s weight and more.
Your cat’s paws are meant the handle extreme forces when required. Cats can fall from a couple of meters and still not be injured.
Everything feels and looks compact in your cat’s paw pads which means that the blood doesn’t have to waste time flowing to the end of long fingers and toes like in humans. A cat’s paw is also full of nerve endings that help them get feedback from the ground. This is why many cats don’t like their paws touched because it is just too sensitive.
Furthermore, your cat’s paws are very flexible and are able to bend and turn at strange angles that look painful. This flexibility allows one or more legs to be in strange positions for a long time and not fall asleep.
The Need For Explosive Action
One of the most popular cat positions is called the ‘catloaf’. This is when the cat’s paws are nicely tucked under its body which makes them resemble a loaf of bread when viewed from the top.
By being in this position, our cats are able to relax, take a nap and still be aware of what is going on around them.
Make some noise while your cat is napping in a catloaf position and you can see its ears quickly rotate to point at the audio source.
Cats can literally go from 0-60 in this position.
This can happen when they spot a delicious prey or sense the presence of sudden danger. Imagine a cat in the wild whose legs have fallen asleep and have to spend the next 10 seconds shaking it off.
This precious 10 seconds could mean a sumptuous meal for the cat or a predator.
Why Is My Cat Limping?
If your cat is limping, it isn’t due to your cat having a leg that has fallen asleep. It is most probably due to an underlying medical condition that is affecting your cat’s mobility.
Cats that are overweight are at a higher risk of getting feline diabetes. In fact, more than 50% of cats in America are overweight. The two main culprits are the lack of exercise and a very poor cat diet like dry food or kibbles.
Cats that suffer from diabetes are not able to control their blood sugar levels naturally and require medication and a diet overhaul.
One complication of feline diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy and it affects the femoral nerve of the cat.
These cats will start off with having weak hind legs which will gradually progress to them not having control of their legs at all.
Walking will be painful and the cat can also experience numbness in its legs.
Another condition that can cause your cat to limp is leg paralysis. This is when your cat isn’t able to feel or move one or move its legs.
The thing is, leg paralysis doesn’t always have to be a direct injury to your cat’s legs. It can be due to trauma to any part of the cat’s body that has control over its limbs like the brain and spinal cord.
There are a few factors that can cause leg paralysis in cats:
- Physical injury
- Tick bites
Here are some common symptoms of leg paralysis:
- Leg dragging
- Loss of appetite
- Fecal incontinence
- Urinal incontinence
Can Cats Get Cramps In Their Legs?
In all my years of owning a cat, I’ve never once noticed my cat getting a cramp in its legs. It kinda goes against the fact that a cat’s legs are a lot more robust than most humans.
If you notice that your cat’s muscles are cramping up, it could be due to a condition called Myoclonus or Muscle contraction disease.
Cats with this condition can have specific muscle groups that contract in an involuntary and rhythmic manner, sometimes even up to 60 times a minute.
Myoclonus in cats can be caused by genetics, infection or a certain medication that they are currently taking.
Can Cats Fall Asleep Standing Up?
Although very rare, there have been cases of some cats suffering from Narcolepsy. This condition can cause a cat to fall asleep while it is standing, eating or even in the midst of playing.
The cat’s brain is unable to control its wake and sleep cycle and puts the cat to sleep at the weirdest of moments.
Narcolepsy in cats isn’t life-threatening and can be managed with some medication.
What Should I Do If My Cat Is Limping?
If you notice that your cat has been limping for a while and it doesn’t seem to get better. It is best to get your cat to the vet for a proper examination.
There’s no way of knowing that your cat might have diabetes or an internal injury to its spine without doing a blood test or scan.
Not ever limp signifies an underlying medical condition though. My cat has gotten a limp a couple of times in his life due to playing too hard or landing awkwardly on the ground. But it tends to clear up after a day or two.