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Will a Cat Fake a Limp for Sympathy? Vet-Verified Behavior Explanation

Written by: Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Last Updated on June 19, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

sick cat with feline disease

Will a Cat Fake a Limp for Sympathy? Vet-Verified Behavior Explanation


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats are stereotypically perceived as being independent, yet they enjoy the attention of their human family members. Have you ever wondered whether a cat would fake a limp or illness just to get sympathy and attention? Would your cat actually try to trick you into feeling sorry for them?

Though we don’t know if a cat would fake a limp for sympathy, they have definitely been documented faking a limp for self-gain. Some cats might try to fake a limp to get attention from their human companions. Let’s dig deeper and learn more about this phenomenon.


Video Evidence of a Cat Faking a Limp

Until a viral TikTok video was uncovered, stories of cats faking a limp were thought of as nothing more than rumors and anecdotes. Now, you can be one of the 10 million people who have seen a cat caught in the act of trying to pull a quick one on their human companion.

In the video, you can see a cute ginger cat named Edward sitting on the counter with one paw up. The cat then starts moving around without using the paw, as if he is injured. However, the kitty seems to forget which paw is supposed to be injured and starts limping with the other paw.

It quickly becomes obvious that the cat is not injured at all and is just trying to get extra attention from his human companion. The cat’s owner makes it clear in the comments under the video that the feline is completely healthy and safe; they just wanted attention after a day of being without it.

What remains uncertain, though, is whether cats can fake a limp specifically for sympathy. This requires the assumption that cats know what sympathy is and how they can extort it. The more reasonable explanation is that a cat may fake a limp to get their owner’s attention, which is what happened in the video.

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A Study Offers Insight

A study was done to determine whether cats would fake an illness to get attention or cope with stress. It turns out that when cats were faced with changes to their environment or caretakers, some would display signs of illness, such as vomiting, in response. The study doesn’t look at faking injuries like a limp, but it does offer insight into the fact that cats can and will exhibit signs of stress when they are not comfortable with their environment. So, it is not a stretch to consider that a cat would fake a limp just to get attention or to deal with the stress of their changing environment.

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How to Determine Whether Your Cat Is Really Hurt, Ill, or Pretending

If your cat suddenly starts limping when they seemed fine the last time that you saw them, there is possibly a chance that they are faking it. However, you’ll have to determine whether that is truly the case so you can get them medical help otherwise.

Gently holding your cat’s paw and rubbing it may give you an indication of whether any pain is present. If your cat is hurt, they will likely pull their paw away and might even yelp or cry when you touch their paw. Be warned though that a cat in pain may not respond favorably to such an interaction. Many cats don’t like having their paws touched in general and a cat with a painful paw may definitely lash out at you if you try to touch their paw.

If your kitty does not pull their paw away and doesn’t seem to be bothered by your touch, they are probably not hurt, and you will likely see them use the paw again once they get all the attention that they were looking for. If you are not confident that your cat is okay, though, you can always give your veterinarian a call for expert advice and guidance.

However, these guidelines are very generic and on an individual level you might have to factor in other aspects of your cat’s care too. For example, a cat with a favor may sometimes have an unexplained limp on one limb, even though the limb itself might be pain-free. This means the cat may not appear in pain when their paw is touched but may still need veterinary care.

There are two considerations to always keep in mind:
  • Your cat’s tendency to fake a limp would be learned behavior, and as such, there would usually be a history of your cat faking a limp for a specific reason (such as getting your attention).
  • Your cat might actually be hurt. When in doubt, it’s best to have your veterinarian rule out a medical issue.

black cat lying on bed
Image By: cottonbro, Pexels

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In Conclusion

If your cat decides to fake a limp to get attention, don’t take the deceit personally. They are not trying to anger or upset you, and they should not be reprimanded for the behavior. Instead, they’ve likely learned that doing so gets them something they like. Many owners find that simply giving their cat the attention they want restores normal behavior sooner or later.

If you’re in doubt about your cat’s limp, though, it’s always best to seek veterinary input to ensure that it’s not suffering from an illness or a painful condition.

Featured ImageCredit: Kittima05, Shutterstock

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