The musculoskeletal system comprises bones and joints, cartilage and connective tissues, and muscles. Common musculoskeletal problems for cats are fractures and torn ligaments, but they can also develop arthritis.
Broken bones in cats are most often caused by traffic accidents ; other causes include falls from high places. A break may be closed, with both bone ends inside the skin, or open (compound), with one or both broken ends protruding through the skin. The cat may be unconscious or in shock, or crying with pain. A fractured limb or tail may hang limply or at an odd angle.
Take your cat to the vet immediately. The vet will check for any internal injuries and take radiographs. The broken bone will need to be kept immobile for about 6 weeks, until it has healed. For a leg fracture, the vet may fit a cast or a splint.
A serious fracture may need to be secured with implants or external fixation. At home, you will need to keep your cat quiet and restrict his activity; you may even need to keep him in a wire crate. The vet will prescribe pain relief and he or she may fit your cat with an Elizabethan collar to stop him from licking or chewing the area.
The ends of bones meeting to form a joint are covered with smooth cartilage to allow ease of movement. In arthritis, the cartilage wears away and outgrowths form on the bones, leading to pain especially during movement and inflammation.
Arthritis may be due to natural aging, previous injury, or a developmental disorder. Obesity puts extra strain on the joints, aggravating arthritis. Your vet will feel and move the joint and carry out radiography and may withdraw a small sample of fluid from the joint for tests.
Your cat may be referred for MRI scanning and will probably be prescribed pain relief; the vet may also advise dietary supplements for joint health and recommend a diet for weight control. At home, you will need to ensure that your cat can easily reach his food and water bowls, bed, and litter pan.