Female Bengal Has Uncoordinated Movement of Her Leg

by Sharon Streeby
(St. Joseph, Missouri)

QUESTION

My 5 year old female Bengal, Asia, recently started having episodes where her right rear foot seemed to itch. She will try (usually in vain) to bite that foot. When she tries to reach her foot, the leg rapidly pulls away from her, and she repeats this over and over, with her mouth "chasing" her foot.

There are no rashes, sores or other issues visible. It seems like some sort of neurological issue to me.

I took her to the vet, who thought she likely had an allergy of some sort. He gave her an injection of cortisone. The only difference this made is that now the leg pulls away from her more slowly, and at times she actually reaches her foot with her mouth and bites at it.

We have 5 cats in total, all indoors, none ever go outside. All the cats get along fairly well. They have had the same dry food since they were kittens, and they also get a "treat" in the morning. For this, a small can of Fancy Feast is divided among all the cats, so they really only get a spoonful. I am also using the same litter.

My vet told me that he didn't really know what else could be wrong, unless she was having some sort of seizure. Any ideas?

Thanks so much for your help!


Hi, Sharon,

The three things at the top of my list would be (1) allergy (2) neurological and (3) psychological, as in a type of obsessive/compulsive disorder.

Almost always, if it were allergic in nature, it wouldn't be just one foot and no other part of the body. Also, the steroid injection should have helped enormously if not completely stopped the behavior.

That leaves neurological or psychological. I have seen cats with seizure activity that manifested itself with a small, fairly short, bizarre behavior confined to one body part or one activity. That's certainly a possibility. There could also be an actual neurologic deficit and/or pain that she feels in that foot and is the cause of her behavior.

Obsessive/compulsive disease in cats is rare, but does occur. It usually follows some type of stressful event in the cat's life. Has someone moved in or out recently? Construction? Were you away? Were you home for the summer and not back at work? Have you added additional animals to the household or have any left? Just about anything out of the ordinary is stressful to a cat.

I believe if it were my cat, I would head to the neurologist first if you have a veterinary neurologist withing driving distance. If you have a cats only hospital within reach, that would be another suggestion. If it is very difficult for you to get to a neurologist, then I would suggest a second opinion from another vet in the area and have them include an x-ray of that foot during the visit.

Good luck. I would love to hear back from you after you find the cause. You can contact me about this question through the comment section at the bottom of the page.

Thank you,
Dr. Neely

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