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Cow-Hocked Cats

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Have you noticed that your cat or kitten’s hind feet turn outwards more than they should? You may have even noticed that they have trouble walking or they walk differently than your other cats. If so, you may be dealing with a cow-hocked cat, but what exactly does that mean?

Cow-hocked cats are not related to the cow in any way, but they do display a distinctive skeletal oddity that is often seen in cattle, but can be seen in other animals as well. It is a physical deformity nonetheless but the more you know about it, the better equipped you will be to help your cow-hocked cat.

Knowing what how to recognize the condition, how to treat it, and what exactly it means for your cat is the key to ensuring that your cow-hocked feline friend lives a full and happy life.

Without the right care and attention, a cow-hocked cat may suffer debilitating and even deadly consequences.

cat standing outside showing hind leg

What Does Cow-Hocked Mean?

The term cow-hocked is used to describe an animal that has hind hocks that curve inward towards one another. Hocks are the joints that connect the larger bones in an animal’s hind leg. The condition is sometimes referred to as ‘x-legs’.

The hocks on each hind leg should not be close together, but in cow-hocked animals, they will be so close they could almost touch.

When the hind hocks of an animal curve inwards, it causes the lower legs to turn outwards and their feet to face outwards instead of forward like they should. This causes a marked misalignment that can negatively affect the cat’s ability to walk or run.

How Do You Know if Your Cat is Cow-Hocked?

Cow-hocks in a cat are easy to see, so much so that you will not question yourself once you see it. A cat’s hind legs should be relatively straight from the top to the bottom and their hind feet should point forward.

In a cow-hocked cat, the hind legs will be noticeably turned inwards at the hock joint and their feet will point outwards to the side.

You should look at the cat from the back, not the front or side, to confirm if it is cow-hocked or not. Look for a curve at the hocks and if you see it, look further to the cat’s feet for the tell-tale outward facing paws.

Are Cow Hocks in Cats Dangerous?

Cow hocks in a cat can be dangerous depending on how severe the issue is for the specific cat. The severity of this condition can range from mild to severe.

cat walking away on a cemented pathway back view

Cow hocks are not just a visual deformity, they are caused by a genetic misalignment of the hind leg joints. The misalignment that causes cow hocks in cats also causes the animal issues when walking and is often painful.

It can stress not only the cat’s legs, but its spine as well. Cow-hocked cats will have more issues with arthritis, spinal pain, and may not be able to defend themselves against predators.

How to Fix a Cow-Hocked Cat?

There is no known cure to fix or correct the genetic cow-hocked condition in cats. There are some medications that veterinarians often prescribed for cow-hocked cats, especially when they get older.

Often, the arthritis that results from this condition causes the cat significant pain, but thankfully, it can be treated with the right medicine.

It Is often recommended to keep cow-hocked cats indoors to keep them safe from predators and preventable injuries. Owners should also help them maintain a healthy weight to ease the pressure placed on the joints in their affected legs.

Why Do Cats Get Cow Hocks?

Cats that are cow-hocked inherit the genetic irregularity from their parents. It is not a condition that is caused by diet or poor care, cats that are cow-hocked will be that way from birth, although it may not be as apparent until they are older.

Do Cow Hocks Occur in Some Cat Breeds More Than Others?

fierce looking cat standing outside

There is little information about whether the cow-hocked condition can occur in certain cat breeds more than other ones, but it can occur in any cat breed.

It is common in purebred cats because some breeders continue to breed cats with the genetic abnormality because of the high profits they receive from selling a pure bred cat.

Are Cats With Long Legs Cow-Hocked?

Some cat breeds, including the Savannah, have back legs that are noticeably longer than their front legs. This often results in their hind legs appearing appearing to be cow-hocked because their feet turn slightly outwards, but they are not actually cow-hocked.

They may walk differently than other cat breeds, but unless a vet diagnoses these kind of cats as cow-hocked, they are probably fine.

Are Cow Hocks in Cats Genetic?

Cow hocks in cats are almost always genetic. Affected cats should not be bred because they will more than likely pass the condition on to their offspring.

Although some cow-hocked cats do not seem to show many issues, some cases are extremely severe and can be very debilitating.

The majority of veterinarians and cat owners would suggest spaying or neutering a cow-hocked cat. This will not only stop the cow-hocked condition from occurring in future feline generations, it will also prevent injury during possible mating or birthing situations.

Signs of Arthritis in Cow-Hocked Cats

Cats that suffer from having cow hocks may develop arthritis as they grow older.

There are many signs of arthritis in cats including stiffness, difficulty jumping, problems standing or sitting, and abnormal displays of aggression.

sleeping cat zoom in on hind foot

They may not be able to jump as high as they use to or may favor certain legs as they walk.

How to Help a Cow-Hocked Cat

  1. Observe your cat for the tell-tale cow-hocked signs including inward curved hock joints and outward facing paws.
  2. Monitor your cats for signs of pain or difficulty walking.
  3. Consult a veterinarian for a medical diagnosis and a plan of action.
  4. Keep the cat indoors and consider having it spayed or neutered.
  5. Watch for signs of arthritis as the cat ages and continue working with your vet to manage pain.
  6. Help your cat maintain a healthy weight to lessen the stress on their spine and joints.

Final Thoughts

Cow-hocked cats can suffer from arthritis and skeletal issues that may or may not cause problems with their walking. It is an inherited condition and although it cannot be cured or corrected, it can be treated to help your cat live as pain-free a life as possible.

If you think your cat is cow-hocked, consult a veterinarian and figure out the best treatment possible. With a little help and consideration, you can keep your cow-hocked cat healthy and happy!


Learning about cow-hocked cats requires a lot of research and investigation. Since it is not a curable ailment, it is often overlooked. Here are the resources I used in writing this article.