How Safe Is Acupuncture for Cats With Leg Problems?

"Who knew that sticking needles in me would make my leg feel better?"
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If your cat suffers from arthritis or other issues in his legs and joints, acupuncture might safely ease his pain and put a spring back in his step. Ask your vet about its usefulness for Puffy. If she doesn't practice acupuncture, ask her to recommend a vet who does.


Originating in ancient China, acupuncture is now one of the best-known and most frequently used complementary veterinary therapies. Acupuncture in cats doesn't differ much from human treatment. The process of sticking fine needles into certain sites in the anatomy works by sending signals throughout the cat's nervous system. The points used to aid cats with mobility issues include eight spaces between the toes. According to, in traditional Chinese medicine these points are referred to as the "Eight Evils" when dealing with the forelegs, and the "Eight Winds" if the hindlegs are involved. In classical acupuncture, there are a total of 360 points in the body.


As cats get older, the cartilage in their joints degenerates, so there's little or no cushioning left between the bones. While the result is painful, arthritis often isn't as noticeable in cats as in canines. Although your older cat might seem a little creaky when he gets up from a nap or walks about, you're more likely to notice that he's not as active as he used to be or he doesn't jump up on his favorite perches anymore. Acupuncture can help ease arthritis pain and aid mobility. The number of sessions your cat requires to see results vary, but expect at least 8 to 10 weekly or bi-weekly sessions, lasting at least half an hour each.

Other Mobility Issues

Besides arthritis, acupuncture might aid other issues pertaining to your cat's legs or mobility. Needle placement depends on the medical issue and diagnosis. At the Cat Hospital of Chicago, veterinary acupuncturists treat neurological problems that might involve the legs, such as paralysis, stroke and vestibular disease, which results in a cat out of balance. Acupuncture is also used to treat musculoskeletal issues including strains, weakness and sprains.


One of acupuncture's great advantages over other forms of therapy is that there are few, if any, side effects and little or no danger. Even if it doesn't work, it doesn't hurt. The Merck Veterinary Manual states that acupuncture might not be a good idea if the pet can't stay still long enough in order for the needles to be inserted safely. It adds that "extreme negative reactions" might occur if the needle is accidentally inserted into a nerve. Once in a while, an animal patient consumes a needle, although that's probably something to be more concerned about in a dog than a cat.

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.

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