Pillow Foot in Cats: A Detailed Guide Everything You Need To Know About Pillow Foot In Cats

Pillow Foot in Cats: A Detailed Guide Photo by Pegli Zhu: https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-cat-lying-on-blue-tarpaulin-976710/

Knuckling, another name for pillow foot is a condition where a cat's paw folds under, giving the foot a nearly "lumbar pillow" appearance. We discuss its causes and management process here.

Pillow foot, otherwise known as knuckling, is a condition in which a cat's paw curls under, causing the foot to appear almost "pillow-like." Numerous conditions, including nerve damage, muscle weakness, or injuries, might contribute to this syndrome.

In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for pillow foot in cats, as well as tips for preventing the condition from occurring.

Causes of Pillow Foots In Cats

Cats' pillow feet can be brought on by a number of things. Among the most frequent causes are:

  • Neurological issues: Pillow foot can be caused by nerve damage or disease that affects the cat's ability to control its paws. This can include conditions such as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), and feline spinal cord injury.

  • Muscular disorders: Certain muscular disorders, such as feline muscular dystrophy, can cause weakness or atrophy in the muscles that control the cat's paws, leading to knuckling.

  • Trauma or injury: Trauma or injury to the paw, such as a broken bone or ligament tear, can cause the cat to hold its paw in an abnormal position, leading to knuckling.

  • Degenerative joint disease: Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease can cause inflammation and pain in the joints of the cat's paws, leading to knuckling.

  • Congenital disorders: Some cats may be born with congenital disorders that affect the structure or function of their paws, causing knuckling.


Knuckling in cats is characterized by a curled under paw that appears almost "pillow-like." Some of the most common symptoms of this condition include:

  1. Curled under paw: The most obvious symptom of pillow foot is a paw that appears curled under, with the toes pointing upwards.

  2. Difficulty walking: Cats with pillow foot may have difficulty walking or may limp on the affected paw.

  3. Abnormal gait: Cats with pillow foot may have an abnormal gait, such as a swaying or stumbling motion.

  4. Pain or discomfort: Cats with pillow foot may limp, whimper, or lick the painful paw, as well as exhibit other indicators of pain or discomfort.

  5. Weakness or muscle atrophy: Cats with pillow foot may have weakness or muscle atrophy in the affected paw.

  6. Loss of sensation: In some cases, cats with pillow foot may have a loss of sensation in the affected paw.

However, not all cats with pillow foot will show all of these signs, and some cats may show other signs of discomfort or pain.


Treatment for Feline knuckling will depend on the particular cause of the condition. Some common treatment options include:

  • Medications: If the underlying cause of pillow foot is a neurological disorder, such as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), anti-inflammatory and pain medication may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy, such as range-of-motion exercises and playing with interactive toys, can help to improve muscle strength and function in cats with muscular disorders.

  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a broken bone or ligament tear or to correct a congenital disorder.

  • Weight management: In cases of degenerative joint disease, maintaining a healthy weight can help to reduce the strain on the affected joints and reduce pain.

  • Nutritional supplements: Nutritional supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, may be recommended to support joint health and reduce inflammation.

  • Specialized shoes: Specialized shoes or paw wraps can be used to provide support to the affected paw and prevent knuckling.

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture may help with pain management and muscle function.

How to Prevent Pillow Foot In Cats

Preventing pillow foot, or knuckling in cats can be challenging, as it can be caused by a variety of factors. To lessen the likelihood of the illness developing, various actions can be taken:

  • Keeping your cat at a healthy weight: Obesity and excess weight can raise the chance of developing a degenerative joint disease, which can result in a pillow foot. Maintaining a healthy weight for your cat might assist in easing joint pain and lessen the chance of knuckling.

  • Providing a nutritious diet: A diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can support overall health and may help to reduce the risk of degenerative joint disease.

  • Regular exercise: Regular exercise can help to maintain muscle strength and function, which can reduce the risk of knuckling due to muscular disorders.

  • Avoiding trauma or injury: Try to avoid situations that could cause trauma or injury to your cat's paws, such as rough play or climbing to high places. As such, you can decide to keep your cat indoors when you don’t have time to monitor his/ her activities outside.

  • Regular vet check-ups: Regular check-ups with a veterinarian can help to identify any potential health issues early on, including conditions that can lead to knuckling.

  • Avoid certain breeds with congenital defects: Some cat breeds are more prone than others to congenital flaws that might result in knuckling.

Conclusively, only some cases of pillow foot can be prevented, but taking these steps can help to reduce the risk of the condition developing.

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