If your kitty's walking has been a little wobbly and you're sure he hasn't been sneaking your hooch, check for a congenital deformity. Birth defects and hereditary traits can cause knee issues, and most are treatable if caught early. Your pet can have congenital conditions even if his parents don't.
If your kitty's kneecap occasionally slips out of position, he may have a condition called luxating patella. It develops when your kitty's leg bones don't connect properly or when they are more curved then they should be, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Four grades of patellar luxation distinguish between severe kneecap movement, Grade 4, and minor slippage, Grade 1. Your vet can identify patellar luxation after a simple physical exam. A Grade 1 case may not require surgery, but your vet may have to break out the scalpel if the kneecap is completely out of place.
Lots of senior cats develop arthritis as they age, but a sprightly young adult feline can get it, too. Some cats inherit traits that predispose them to cartilage degeneration, which impacts their knees, hips and other joints, according to Healthy Pets With Dr. Karen Becker. Not all cases of arthritis are related to genetics, though. Infections, autoimmune disorders and physical injuries can all contribute to joint damage. Talk to your vet about treatment options if he identifies arthritis as the cause of your pet's knee pain.
Other Causes of Knee Problems
Your cat's knee problems may not be related to hereditary traits or birth defects at all. Your pet has ligaments in each leg, an anterior cruciate ligament and a cranial cruciate ligament, that connect his leg bones together, according to Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Studies. Your cat can tear them simply by being a bit too frisky as he chases a bug around the house or if he pulls too hard when his leg is stuck in something. A bad landing after a fall could stretch the ligament, causing temporary pain and stiffness. Some ligament damage heals on its own, but a bad tear requires surgery to repair.
What to Do
While cats are good at hiding pain and other signs of injury, your kitty won't be able to keep his knee problems secret for very long. If your cat avoids moving or hobbles around on three legs, it's time to call your vet. Even if your cat is still able to get around the house, you should get him to the vet as soon as you can to prevent the damage from becoming worse. If the problem is congenital, it's possible that he'll end up with problems in both knees eventually. Keep your cat in a small area with access to food, water and a litter box so he doesn't need to exert himself.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.