Cats are usually graceful creatures that move accurately. After all, they always fall on their feet, right? However, even they are prone to accidents. Either from a miscalculated jump, a falling object, or a fall. And these can result in a fractured (or broken) leg.

There are several ways of fixing a broken leg. Most commonly involving placement of surgical implants to provide stability while the bone heals. Which takes between six to eight weeks, but it varies from case to case. For example, fractures involving the joints, old age, and the presence of medical conditions, such as diabetes or chronic kidney disease, all affect bone healing negatively. 

When can my cat exercise after surgery?

Although surgical implants are relatively strong, they cannot withstand as much tension as a normal bone. Therefore, exercise should be strictly restricted in the initial phases of bone healing, for three to four weeks, when the implant is absorbing all the energy created by movement, without “any help” from the bone. This can be done by confining your pet in a small crate or cage. In certain cases, sedation may be required. If you’re worried that your cat might be doing too much, talk to your vet.

After that, healed soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) and cartilage start taking some of the pressure off the implants, and activity can be introduced slowly, by allowing your cat supervised access to one or two rooms for further two to four weeks.

Can cats have physiotherapy?

Cats are certainly different to dogs, and people! However, they too can tolerate physical rehabilitation if led appropriately by an experienced professional with a deep understanding of feline behaviour. Sessions should be kept short and interesting and should be undertaken in a quiet, relaxed environment

Surgery alone may not return the cat to its previous physical activity. In humans, physical therapy is a standard of care after orthopaedic procedures and has been shown to aid in recovery. Physical rehabilitation is a veterinary derivative of the human-oriented profession of physical therapy and can help to restore strength, coordination, and balance, with the use of physical or mechanical agents, such as light, thermotherapy (heat and cold), water, electricity, massage, and exercise.

When can physical rehabilitation be started and what does it involve?

Physical rehabilitation can be started at home. However, do not start any exercises unsupervised. Always ask for an exercise plan from your veterinary surgeon and/or physical therapist.

During the first 72 hours after surgery, the goals of rehabilitation include reduction of pain and inflammation without losing the joint’s ability to move, by stimulating vascularisation and healing. This can be done using a passive range of motion exercises, massage, specific therapeutic exercises, and cryotherapy.

After the initial recovering phase, rehabilitation should aim at recovering function, by restoring strength, balance, and flexibility. This can be achieved with increased exercise, therapeutic exercises, and a range of other techniques; potentially including electrical stimulation, laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, and extracorporeal shock wave therapy, all shown to reduce pain and inflammation, enhance healing and reduce recovery time in the early and late stages following orthopaedic surgery.


Fracture repair is usually effective and carries a good to excellent prognosis in most cases, with cats resuming normal activity levels within three to four months after surgery. In more complicated cases, cats can experience reduced flexibility, develop osteoarthritis over time. Or continue lame, although this can be a mechanical lameness resulting from anatomical alteration of the previously broken leg and is not always a painful lameness.

For optimal healing, it is instrumental that you follow your vet’s advice and always attend regular post-operative re-examination consultations.

Physical rehabilitation can be done and is usually associated with an early and more complete recovery from surgery and trauma. However, protocols are individually created for each patient depending on the location of the fracture, type of surgery performed, the potential for healing, and health and temperament of the cat. You should never initiate any form of therapy without consulting your veterinary surgeon.

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