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Published: Jun 25, 2012

Most cat owners did not go to medical school, so when their veterinarian diagnoses their feline friend with a luxating patella, their look will probably be one of confusion. Most people have heard of the patella, and know it's the medical term for a kneecap. "Luxating" simply means "out of place" or "dislocated," reports VCA Animal Hospitals. This means the animal's kneecap may frequently pop out of its socket.

Luxating patella in cats is a treatable condition, once diagnosed. The clinical signs of a luxating patella are typically pretty easy to spot. The cat will likely favor the knee in which the problem is occurring, and may limp or avoid using that leg. Pet owners should note if their animal seems less active than usual, particularly if the animal is showing difficulty jumping, as this activity requires both knees and kneecaps to be working correctly.

Luxating patellas aren't necessarily permanent. Like any other joint, it's possible to pop the dislocated kneecap back into place. Many cats learn to do this on their own naturally, usually by kicking their leg out to the side. This can snap the patella back into place and allow the cat to walk normally. However, the condition is likely to recur over time. Thus, pet owners should not treat this as a permanent solution and make an appointment with the vet to get the knee looked at.

On its own, a cat is likely to be able to tolerate a luxating patella for many years. However, owners should intervene if possible because the condition can ultimately lead to arthritis in cats, which cannot be reversed once it begins. A problematic patella also increases the likelihood of the cat tearing the ligaments in its knee, which can be very painful.

The only way to permanently correct this problem with cats' kneecaps is through surgery. The procedure is simple and most cats will be feeling better in no time at all. Cats that undergo corrective surgery before arthritis begins to develop generally have a good prognosis and should be able to walk normally. On the other hand, felines that have developed arthritis due to a luxating patella will need to undergo additional treatment and will likely need to manage the pain through specialized cat medications.