Physical orthopaedic examination in cats does not always reveal signs of lameness and no objective gait analysis method has yet been standardised for use in cats. The aims of the present study were to define appropriate parameters for pressure mat analyses during walk and jump, and to define reference values for gait parameters of healthy cats. Further, the distribution of the vertical force within the paws and the influence of a non-centred head position were investigated.
The hypothesis was that cats have a symmetrical gait, a front/hindlimb asymmetry similar to dogs, and that peak vertical force (PVF) and vertical impulse (VI) have high intraclass correlation coefficients, confirming the reliability of these parameters. Data for walking (n = 46) showed gait symmetry indices of close to 1.0, besides PVF front/hind (1.3 ± 0.2). The PVF front/hind for jumping cats (n = 16) was 1.7 ± 0.6. Results from the distribution of the vertical force within the paw (n = 39) showed that the main weight during a strike is transferred from the caudal towards the craniomedial part of the paw.
The findings support the hypothesis that healthy cats have similar gait symmetry to healthy dogs and that PVF and VI are reliable gait parameters. In conclusion, the present study provides a reference interval for healthy cats. Further studies are needed to investigate gait parameters in cats with orthopaedic disease.