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Feta the Three Legged Cat

Feta Cat's Journey to Mobility

Feta the Three Legged Cat

Hard PT Work Paying Off (Slowly)

March 23rd, 2017 · 12 Comments · Uncategorized

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Hello, friends!

With the help of the fabulous team at Aqua Dog Rehabilitation, Feta and I have been working hard to improve her flexibility, range of motion, and strength.

(Coincidentally, Feta’s fabulous physical therapist, Petra, is competing with her dog at the AKC National Obedience Championship this weekend – wish them luck!!!)

I’ve uploaded some videos to show what we’re doing at PT. Essentially, we are working at re-training her (both mind and body) to use her leg correctly, or at least a bit more correctly. We are also working to relax her muscles and stretch her out in ways that will improve her flexibility and range of motion. We’re still not certain we can ever get her stifle/knee joint to really bend properly – it’s still awfully stiff – but if we can strengthen her core muscles and get her hip moving better then she should be able to hop around pretty well!

Here are some videos from last week’s work:

 

 

Yesterday, 3-22, we went back again! This time we started with massage and laser therapy to try and get things loose and moving.

She didn’t mind the laser treatment itself, but she wasn’t thrilled at having to hold still!

Also, unfortunately, some of the massage was a bit uncomfortable as our therapist, Anita, worked to get out some of the tight knots in the muscles. As always, Feta cat was a tremendously good sport, but she certainly let her opinions of the whole process be known!

“Um…guys? This petting is not good petting.”

 

“Yeah, so, I’d like you to rub right… ACK! Not there!!!”

 

“I regret every moment in my life that has led to this.” -Feta

Next, we moved on to the REALLY hard stuff – practicing our proper posture! And using that darn leg! The bumpy disc is to help with her “proprioception,” or her ability to feel her body and know where its parts are. Since we’re dealing with neurological issues, it is particularly important that we make sure her brain is getting the signals telling her what her leg and foot are doing.

This type of “gait training” is our attempt to re-teach her how to walk, with the hopes that her leg and body will start to better “remember” what to do. It’s kind of like trying to re-direct a river, only the river is the electrical impulses going through her body, and the “riverbed” is the nerve pathways. By essentially forcing her to walk correctly, you can think of it as “pouring a bit of water down the proper riverbed” so it makes it more likely the “river” of nerve signals will eventually flow naturally where we want it to (to get that leg moving!). Obviously, this helps get her muscle strength back, too!

 

Feta absolutely rocked it today at therapy! She is standing better already!

Posted by Aqua Dog Rehabilitation, LLC on Wednesday, March 22, 2017

 

<I will add more videos here if I am ever able to get them uploaded!>

 

I thank our lucky stars every day that Feta is so food-motivated. It makes me a little sad, since it surely is a result of her being starving while she was on the streets, but it sure comes in handy now! The hard part is making sure her normal meals are balanced out with the number of treats she gets. It’s very important to make sure our Tripawd friends stay lithe and lean so they’re not putting too much strain on their remaining limbs, especially when, as with Feta, there are problems with more than just the missing leg.

So, we’ll keep at it, even though it’s slow and frustrating! I do think we’re making progress, and I am hoping that the progress will lead to many more happy years of a mobile kitty cat ๐Ÿ™‚


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Feline Physical Therapy, Take 2

March 7th, 2017 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

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Hello, friends!

After our neurologist appointment a while back, we went to find a place to do some more physical therapy to work on getting Feta Cat’s immobile hind leg a bit more mobile again. This time we headed to Aqua Dogs (& cats!), where they have more equipment (such as a pool and underwater treadmill) to work with.

I didn’t get any pictures (once again, it was a very hands-on session), but we got a tentative diagnosis. Basically, as best I understand it, her nerves are not firing correctly. The wiring has gotten a bit… off. So Feta says, “Hey leg, let’s extend!” and the leg pulls up towards her stomach. Basically, her hamstrings are on strike and not really responding to any calls for action. This problem is compounded by very weak abdominal muscles. Put these together, and we can see why she “scoots.”

This time, in addition to stretches (which were a bit more forceful than we were doing before, sorry, Feta) we tried electrical muscle stimulation, or e-stim therapy. Nerves transmit signals using electricity, so what makes a muscle move is really an electrical current. E-stim therapy uses this principle to make a particular muscle contract. We place two electrodes (to complete the circuit), then the machine sends a pulse of electricity through the electrodes that tells the muscle to contract. This way we’re working the muscle even if the nerves are a little bit out to lunch.

Feta doesn’t seem to mind this treatment at all – in fact, she thinks the electrodes are the best cat toy EVER.

This is what it looks like when her leg starts going.

(You’ll note the bare strip – we had to shave her bum so that the electrodes could get good skin contact. Sorry, Feta!)

We are renting an e-stim machine from the PT office, and are doing the e-stim twice a day for 5 minutes at a time. We are also working on the “scrunching” stretches to get her stifle bending, as well as stretching her leg out behind her to get the hip and muscles going. Finally, we’re practicing her weight-bearing / standing, with particular attention on good posture to activate the abs and light “bouncing” pressure to encourage bend and flexibility. I will try to get some video of this if I can get my phone tripod to work!

The hope is with all of these exercises we can “re-train” the nerves in her leg to work the way they are supposed to. By practicing the correct way of moving and stretching, we may be able to restore those wonky or forgotten neural pathways and get some real movement back in her leg!

If we manage to get that far, we will want to get her on the underwater treadmill. So, her water desensitization continues, though it is taking a lesser role while we focus on our other exercises. She is still on a fairly strict diet, but with all this torture physical therapy she needs a lot of rewards, and there’s only so much kibble she can eat! (The cat food bag suggests 1/2 cup per day, yikes.)

Despite all of this unpleasantness, Feta Cat remains truly delightful, kind, and gentle. All in all, I think she is enjoying life, even if I make her do ouchy exercises and switched her to the “fat cat” kibble!

Reading up on horseback riding techniques in her spare time, apparently.

 

She really, really enjoys toilet paper roll rings.

A not-so-perfect circle?

 

“I haz box. Box is GOOD.”

 

This whole process is extremely time-consuming and very expensive, but darn if I don’t love this ridiculous cat. She’s had a rough road so far, and I’m glad I’m able to help her enjoy some of the finer things in life <3 (like cardboard boxes and toilet paper rolls!)

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Feta Cat’s Water Training Continues

March 2nd, 2017 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Armed with some great ideas from friends, I have started getting Feta over her fear of the tub!

We started trying the clicker training, but it was getting very complicated with the placement of the treats and cat and clicker, and she was very nervous about the whole thing. So, to get her feeling more comfortable, we turned to the one thing that always makes her happy: meals!

First, I put a rubber-backed rug in the tub so she wouldn’t slip. Then, we started off feeding her with a tiny trickle of water going from the faucet.

So far, so good! Except for that leg…

What I love about this approach is that she slides the bowl forward when she eats, so she is naturally pushing HERSELF closer and closer to the water. I am there the whole time praising her and petting her, also.

“Ain’t no bathtub wet enough to keep me away from you, breakfast!”

After a couple of repetitions of that, we increased the faucet flow a little bit. Now it was splashing up a little bit of spray, which ended up getting on Feta’s face as she ate. This was probably increasing the difficulty too fast, as Feta paused a few times to turn around and glare at me. So we dialed it back a little from there. (We want to stay at the edges of her comfort zone, but still firmly within them!)

“Seriously, human???”

Since the noise and spray were not a big hit with the cat, and on the advice of friends who pointed out that standing water would likely be less scary AND more applicable to the underwater treadmill, we moved on to stopping up the tub a bit. First, we started with only a little bit of standing water, so she could eat without getting wet at all. This was easy! We’ve been increasing it gradually since then, and she’s being so brave! Check her out today:

Not so sure about this…

“Ugh, wet paws! But also… food. Hmm.”

“Well. Food is worth Wet. I’m going for it!”

 

I think we may introduce clicker training again soon, to get her working on stepping into the water on purpose. But for now, for desensitization, this is working great! I am working hard to make sure that she’s not too stressed during the process, and whenever she asks to leave the tub, I take her out and bring her downstairs and turn on her space heater. The whole endeavor is a huge pain in the neck, but she’s had so much trauma already, if water will help her fix her leg then we are going to do it, but also make it a positive experience!

I’m very proud of this brave and patient kitty <3

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Clicker Training for Rehab Behaviors!

February 25th, 2017 · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

Feta Cat is continuing along about as before. Increasing her dose of Gabapentin has reduced her toe-biting tendencies (thank goodness), and we are continuing to work on heat therapy (quality time with a heating pad) and massage/stretching to loosen up her gimpy back leg.

Talking to the fabulous Nurse Jenn, who helped with Feta’s initial PT appointment, we are indeed going to try “hydrotherapy” with Miss Feta. In other words, I want to teach my cat to swim.

Like most cats, Feta is NOT a fan of water. So, rather than cart her off to PT and completely traumatize her by introducing her to the whole idea all of a sudden (in a loud and dog-smelling environment, no less!), I am working to train her to be less afraid of water and, if possible, associate water with Good Things Happening.

When working with fear and anxiety, I believe very strongly in using positive-only training methods. (I think corrections can be great if used carefully and kindly in certain situations, but areย  counter-productive when dealing with fear-related behaviors, where the key is to cultivate calm and trust.)

So, since there’s not a ton out there on training cats specifically, I’m primarily brushing up on dog training techniques! In particular, I want to train Feta to accept water (and eventually swim) by using clicker training.

If you’re new to the idea of clicker training, this is a silly but informative video explaining what it is and how it works:

This is a great tutorial on how to get started (and using a cat, no less!):

For more detail on how to be the most effective clicker trainer, this video is great (if not especially exciting!):

This video is specific to training to overcome fears. I haven’t figured out the exact protocol I’ll use with the cat + water, but am going to do something similar to this. I think first approaching the bathtub bravely, then being calm in the dry bathtub, then being calm with a trickle of water, etc. I sure am glad this cat is food-motivated!

What I love about positive reinforcement (like clicker training) is that you can really get it to work with any animal! Modern zoos use clicker training to teach their animals how to do things that are needed for their “doctor visits.” I love this video, as an example:

Some people say, “You can’t train cats!” I say, nonsense, if you can train a rhino, you can train a cat!

Do any of you have any training tips to share?

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The Cheesecat Scoots Along

February 24th, 2017 · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

Not too much new with Feta Cat lately! The gabapentin is doing a great job at reducing her toe-biting, and we’re continuing to do her leg-relaxation therapy.

Every morning we do the same routine.

Step one: Obtain cat, heating pad, and soft blanket. Put blanket on lap, followed by cat. Put heating pad under Gimpy Leg.

“Would you hurry up? I require additional coziness.”

Step 2: Wrap heating pad over Gimpy Leg, taking extra care to cover Super Stiff Hip.

“Getting warmer. Literally. But where is my BLANKET?”

Step 3: Comfortably wrap heating pad-wrapped cat in soft fuzzy cat blanket. Make sure you have a good secure wrap around the neck to act as a head rest, or else cat will be Seriously Displeased.

“Okay, I guess this is satisfactory.”

Step 4: Say admiring things like, “You’re such a good kitty!” and, “You are soooo pretty!” while cat activates Purr, followed by Nap.

“I’m totally awake. I.. um… ….zzZZZzzZZzzz”

After about 20 minutes of this, we commence with her leg-stretching exercises, which she likes SIGNIFICANTLY less. Poor baby. I hate causing her discomfort and pain without truly being able to explain why I’m doing it, but I do think at least on some level she understands that I mean well, since she hasn’t tried to bite or scratch me. (She does periodically put her paw on my hand or face and try to push me away while meowing, though!)

“I guess, in balance, my adopted life is okay.”

When I’m not warming or torturing her, she’s having a lot of fun playing with her toys and being her crazy little weirdo self.

OM NOM NOM NOM

 

“I smells the catnips! WANTS IT!”

 

“Ferocious Box Kitty prepares to pounce on…. oh, hey! Did someone leave a kibble here?! SCORE!!!!”

The last picture may or may not include the silly cute flowery collar I bought her because WHY NOT. I think it looks fetching! And, as per usual, she couldn’t care less! ๐Ÿ˜€

Next on our agenda is getting Feta some more physical therapy – maybe with professional help we can get her leg a little more un-stuck. Eventually this is going to include training her to like (or at least) accept water, so we can try some swimming. Stay tuned!

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