What Is A Cat Spine Problem?

Disclaimer: The information presented below is for general informational & educational purposes only. Always consult with animal professionals in case of specific concerns.

In this post, I’ll provide an overview of common cat spine problems, their symptoms, and treatment options so you know what to watch out for with your feline friend.

Have you recently noticed that your beloved feline friend seems to be in pain or struggling to move around comfortably? Perhaps they appear to be “hunching” their back or favoring one side over the other. If so, there’s a good chance your cat may have developed a spine problem. As caring pet parents, it’s distressing to see an animal companion suffering. In this post, I’ll provide an overview of some common cat spine problems, their potential causes, and signs to watch out for so you can get your furry friend evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. A cat’s quality of life and happiness depends on us keeping them healthy and pain-free. Let’s explore what could be affecting Kitty’s back so we can get them on the path to recovery.

What Is A Cat Spine Problem?

A cat spine problem refers to any issue or condition that affects the spinal column or the structures surrounding it in a cat’s body. There are various potential spine problems that can affect cats, including:

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): This condition involves the degeneration or herniation of the discs between the vertebrae in the spine. It can cause pain, mobility issues, and, in severe cases, may lead to paralysis.

– Spondylosis: Spondylosis is a condition characterized by the formation of bony spurs or bridges between the vertebrae. It is a degenerative condition that can affect the flexibility and movement of the spine.

– Spinal Trauma: Cats can experience spinal trauma due to accidents, falls, or other injuries. Trauma to the spine can result in fractures, dislocations, or other structural damage.

– Infections: Infections affecting the spine, such as fungal or bacterial infections, can lead to inflammation and damage.

– Tumors: Both benign and malignant tumors can develop in or around the spinal column, impacting the function of the spine and causing pain.

– Degenerative Myelopathy: This is a progressive disease that affects the spinal cord, leading to weakness and loss of coordination in the hind limbs. While more common in dogs, it can also affect cats.

– Congenital Issues: Some cats may be born with congenital spine abnormalities that can cause problems later in life.

Symptoms of a cat spine problem may include back pain, changes in gait or posture, difficulty moving or going limp, reluctance to jump, sensitivity to touch along the spine, and in severe cases, paralysis.

What Are The Common Causes Of Cat Spine Problems?

There are various causes of cat spine problems, ranging from congenital conditions to acquired injuries or diseases. Here are some common causes:

  • Trauma: Sudden accidents or injuries can cause serious damage to a cat’s spine, such as fractures or dislocations.
  • Congenital defects: Some cats are born with spine malformations due to genetic conditions.
  • Degenerative conditions: Aging often results in the degeneration of the spine, conditions like intervertebral disk disease or spondylosis are common in older cats.
  • Infections or inflammation: Infections in or around the spine can cause pain and damage.
  • Tumors: Both benign and malignant growths can affect the spine, causing discomfort and mobility issues.
  • Nutritional issues: A lack of certain nutrients can lead to bone or joint issues in the spine.
  • Parasites: Certain parasites can cause inflammation and other issues in a cat’s spine.

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How Can I Tell If My Cat Has A Spine Issue?

Observing your cat’s behavior closely can help detect potential spine issues. Signs may include:

  • Altered posture or gait: Cats with spine issues may show changes in the way they hold their body or move. 
  • Difficulty moving or jumping: They might struggle with activities that were previously easy, like climbing stairs or jumping onto furniture.
  • Pain or discomfort: You might notice your cat flinching upon touch, or displaying signs of discomfort when moving certain parts of their body.
  • Loss of appetite: Pain or discomfort might cause a reduction in eating.
  • Unusual aggression or fear: Cats often become more aggressive or fearful when they are in pain.

Are Certain Breeds More Prone To Spine Problems?

Certain cat breeds do seem to be more prone to spine problems due to their genetic predisposition. For instance, Manx cats, famously known for their lack of a tail, are susceptible to a condition called Manx syndrome, which can cause severe spinal defects. In addition, long-bodied breeds like the Siamese and Maine Coon are often at a higher risk for developing spinal issues, including degenerative disc disease. However, it’s essential to note that any cat, regardless of breed, can develop spine problems due to factors such as trauma, nutrition, and aging. Regular veterinary check-ups and a healthy lifestyle can help manage and prevent these conditions.

Can A Cat’s Lifestyle Contribute To Spine Issues?

Yes, a cat’s lifestyle can indeed contribute to potential spine issues. Sedentary cats or those with obesity often carry extra weight that can strain the spine, leading to degenerative conditions over time. Moreover, cats that engage in high-impact activities may experience trauma to the spine. This can result from accidents during play, falls from high places, or rough handling. On the other hand, a balanced diet rich in necessary nutrients can help build and maintain a healthy spine, reducing the risk of nutritional issues affecting the spine. It’s also important to keep your cat’s environment clean and safe from parasites. Regularly scheduled parasite control can prevent infestations that might cause inflammation or other spine issues. Therefore, promoting a healthy lifestyle for your cat — including regular exercise, a balanced diet, routine vet check-ups, and good home care — can significantly reduce the risk of spine-related problems.

Read more: Understanding Cat Dry Heaving: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

How Are Cat Spine Problems Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of cat spine problems begins with a comprehensive physical examination by a veterinarian. This typically involves a thorough history taking, observing the cat’s posture, walking style, and reactions to various movements. The vet may palpate the spine to identify any areas of discomfort, swelling, or abnormality. To confirm the diagnosis and understand the extent of the issue, several diagnostic tests may be required:

  • X-rays: Cat x-rays can provide clear images of the bones in the cat’s spine and help identify any fractures, dislocations, or signs of degenerative disease.
  • MRI or CT Scans: These imaging modalities can offer a more detailed view, including the nerves and soft tissues surrounding the spine. They are particularly useful in diagnosing tumors, herniated discs, or other soft tissue problems.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests might be conducted to check for signs of infections or inflammation that could be causing or contributing to the spine issues.
  • Biopsy: If a tumor is suspected, a biopsy may be performed to determine whether the growth is malignant or benign.

The choice of diagnostic tests will depend on the symptoms presented and the suspected underlying cause. Once a diagnosis is made, an appropriate treatment plan will be developed tailored to the cat’s specific needs. It is important to follow the vet’s advice and instructions throughout this process to ensure the best possible outcome for your cat.

What Are The Treatment Options For Cat Spine Problems?

Numerous treatment options are available for cat spine problems, largely dependent on the nature and severity of the issue. 

Medication: Over-the-counter or prescription drugs can help to manage pain and inflammation in the spine. Antibiotics may be needed in the case of infections, while deworming medications can effectively handle parasite-induced issues.

Surgery: In some cases, especially in instances of trauma or tumors, surgical intervention may be required to repair the damage or remove growths from the spine.

Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can be beneficial in managing certain degenerative conditions or in post-surgery recovery. It helps to improve mobility, decrease pain, and stimulate healing.

Lifestyle Modifications: Changes in diet and exercise can alleviate symptoms of certain conditions. For overweight cats, a weight loss regime can reduce the load on the spine.

Assistive Devices: Cats with severe mobility issues might benefit from assistive devices such as a wheelchair.


In conclusion, understanding the complex structure and function of a cat’s spine is crucial for cat owners and veterinarians alike. We have learned about several common spinal problems that can affect our feline friends, such as intervertebral disc disease, spinal stenosis, and lordosis. While these conditions can be intimidating and potentially debilitating, there are many treatment options available to help alleviate pain and improve quality of life for cats with spine issues. Early detection and proper management are key in preventing progressive damage to the spine and ensuring optimal care for our beloved pets.