Cancer is among several causes, says a veterinarian, of progressive rear leg weakness in an old cat.

There are basically four categories of causes for gradual weakness in the hind legs of an older cat, including cancer, says veterinarian Dr. Jules Benson, BVSc, chief veterinary officer with NationwideDVM, a pet insurer company.

He points out that “progressive” or gradual are relative terms, because cats can be skilled at concealing a disease that’s been building for a while, and by the time the owner notices it, it’s often very advanced.

Arthritis May Cause Gradual Back Leg Weakness in Old Cats

This is common in senior cats and can be detected by X-rays. The usual plan of treatment is pain control and joint supplements such as Cosequin and Adequan.

Cancer Can Cause Progressive Rear Leg Weakness in the Senior Cat

Dr. Benson notes that two forms of cancer can be responsible. The first is bone cancer (osteosarcoma).

This occurs less commonly in cats than in dogs, but it’s still something to consider.

It’s also usually more treatable than it is in dogs, because metastasis (spread) does not occur as commonly.

“Osteosarcoma tends to be very painful and can lead to fractures of affected bones,” says Dr. Benson.

Soft tissue cancers can also affect the spinal cord and brain, sometimes causing gradual weakness or loss of hind leg control, depending upon the site of the tumor.

“Radiographs can sometimes be diagnostic, though more advanced imaging techniques like CAT and MRI are often recommended,” says Dr. Benson.

Infection May Cause Progressive Back Leg Weakness in an Old Cat

“Several diseases can affect the brain, leading to hind limb weakness,” notes Dr. Benson. These include: taxoplasmosis, feline infectious peritonitis, Cryptococcus and tick-borne diseases.

“This is by no means an exhaustive list, but covers some of the more common conditions,” says Dr. Benson.

Early detection is key to more successful treatment outcomes.

Don’t delay medical attention if you even think you’ve been noticing that your older cat’s back legs have been progressively getting weaker.

Dr. Benson is regularly consulted by many media outlets including ABC, NBC, FOX, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times to provide pet health advice to pet parents nationwide. pupp
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.