Neurological? Psychological? Just plain clumsy?
September 28, 2012 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Why are my girlfriend's cat's back legs going out from under him?

Her cat was walking across the room at a normal pace when both his back legs went out from under him to the right and his left hip hit the hardwood floor hard enough to make a *thump* noise. He got up and continued walking immediately, almost without losing any forward momentum, and he wasn't doing that embarrassed "nothing happened to me stop looking okay" thing that cats do. She says she's seen his back legs go out like that maybe twice in the past week or two but usually while he's running, not just walking. Also, lately he's developed the habit of yowling for no reason and sometimes looks restless for a few minutes until we call him and pet him and immediately he's distracted and stops looking freaked out. His eating and bathroom habits are as normal as they've ever been.

What do you think could be causing this? We have our opinions and she'll be talking to the vet as soon as possible, but I'd like to know what you think (without biasing you with what we think). He's around 12 years old and in what appears to be good health otherwise, still very spry.
posted by komara to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't mean to scare you, but when my dear Feecat started doing that, it was because through a series of terrible mistakes her vet had not innoculated her against FIV and she had it. It was a miracle that in the two years she had lived with us since she was a tiny kitten she hadn't infected our other two cats.

I would have them run a test for that if you're not sure if they did it properly.
posted by winna at 6:09 PM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

At his age, these could be strokes. I think you should go to an emergency vet if there's one in your area.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:20 PM on September 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

My cat (12 years old) did that due to diabetes.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:20 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

My cat used to slip on hardwood floors as due to a foot accident he couldn't retract his claws very well in one foot and would loose traction on slippery surfaces as he got older and less agile. Have all the slips happened on the hardwood? The floor might be slippery or he might have an injury and so find it harder to walk on the slippery floor.
posted by wwax at 6:32 PM on September 28, 2012

I had a cat with dual hip dysplasia; I started noticing something was wrong when his legs slid out from underneath him. As Sassyfras says, this is also a sign of diabetes, but hip dysplasia - though far more common in dogs - is also seen in cats, especially Abyssinians.
posted by catlet at 6:36 PM on September 28, 2012

I didn't observe my cat going into diabetic shock, but what you describe sounds like what my partner described.We were working on finding the correct insulin dosage for him when he died, before we got it right. Vet, ASAP. Might be nothing, but might be something treatable but time-sensitive.
posted by Stacey at 6:38 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, we're thinking diabetes as well. Glad it's not just us. She'll be talking to the vet in the morning.

He just had his blood work done a month or two ago - do you think that should have shown any indicators? Or is a diabetes test not part of a normal panel?
posted by komara at 8:54 PM on September 28, 2012

Another thing - the yowling - my cat did that. He was asking for water. He'd often times stare at the sink and howl for us to fill it up for him.

(not sure if the blood work is part of a normal panel)

Good luck and let us know how it turns out.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:19 PM on September 28, 2012

This could absolutely be neurological or physiological and I'm glad you're going to the vet first thing in the morning. Don't try to diagnose him yourself, there really is a range of things that could be causing this (including just stupid clumsiness). Regardless, this symptom absolutely needs investigation asap (Personally, if I saw it again I'd be at the emergency vet rather than waiting).

Also, if he starts reacting to things that aren't there, drooling excessively, or walking with a high stepping gait (it's pretty distinctive, google will give you details if you see something and are not sure) then it becomes an emergency and needs to be treated as such. Any other weird symptoms will probably make it an emergency too.
posted by shelleycat at 1:22 AM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing diabeties. My brothers cat had very similar problems before they managed to get his insulin regimen under control. He's doing very well now so hopefully your cat will recover as well.
posted by elendil71 at 3:23 AM on September 29, 2012

Very serious; causes can vary widely. Our dear departed white cat did that at the very end of his struggle with kidney disease, when his liver failed, two days before we had to put him to sleep. However, liver failure apparently isn't always fatal, especially in younger cats. Check to see if the delicate skin in his ears is yellow.

Sending good thoughts to you and hoping everything turns out OK.
posted by tully_monster at 3:35 AM on September 29, 2012

Sounds like diabetic neuropathy. Yeah, get the cat checked for diabetes.
posted by sybarite09 at 6:28 AM on October 1, 2012

Thanks, everyone, for the concern and advice. His bloodwork came back today and it's still a mystery.

- he doesn't have diabetes
- he isn't undergoing any sort of renal failure, which is kind of strange because:
- his potassium is low (hypokalemia)
- the vet needs to see him (long story about that) to check for hypertension
and hypokalemia and hypertension both have kidney problems as a likely root.

So anyway he's still doing as fine as he has been for the past few days which is to say he's mostly pretty darned good, and the vet doesn't have a straight answer yet, and he returns tomorrow for some observation.
posted by komara at 9:35 PM on October 1, 2012

After another vet visit today we think it's hyperthyroidism - the test results will be back tomorrow. Fingers crossed because that's easily treatable.
posted by komara at 7:21 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

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