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Feta the Three Legged Cat

Feta Cat's Journey to Mobility

Feta the Three Legged Cat

Kittens everywhere!!!

September 21st, 2017 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

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I keep meaning to come back and update, and wondering why I used to be able to do so more often. Well, it finally hit me – duh – KITTEN SEASON!

First off, Feta is doing fine, though we have had pretty much zero progress on her bad 3rd leg. I will eventually write more on that. We’ve also been continuing our bathroom battles, and while I think I MAY have a good REAL solution, she occasionally expresses her displeasure with the setup. What she really wants is to be able to pee like a normal 4-legged (or even 3-legged) cat. Unfortunately, I can’t make that happen, so you just gotta work with me, Cheesecat!

“No I don’t.”

One cool update is we got a really wonderful custom portrait of Feta from Chewy.com! We posted on their Facebook and buy almost all of our supplies from there, and I guess as a loyalty reward they sent us this picture and one of my dog. How cool is that?

Meanwhile, as I alluded to, we have been fostering LOTS OF KITTIES. Kitten season is always really, really tough because there are far more needy babies than there are fosters willing/able to care for them. So here’s my standard shpiel: if you’ve ever even considered fostering, please consider a little bit harder 🙂 it’s not all that hard, it doesn’t take all that much space, and you are literally and directly saving lives by doing so. Plus, it is so much fun! You have to deal with some poop, but you get fluffy friends to cuddle with! It’s great!

Some of the residents we’ve had (some short term, some long term):

Mama and 8 kittens, “foster-sitting” (didn’t keep them the full time, thank goodness!)

Beautiful older kitten in need of socialization

Semi-feral mama and 4 kittens

These guys ended up having lice and ringworm, which, if you haven’t experienced it, is a super-fun contagious skin fungus that is treated by regular sulphur baths and meticulous sterlization protocols. So much fun.

“Halp! We iz tortured!”

These 6 beauties!

This little goober.

This guy I pulled off the street because it looked like his face was falling off and it turned out he was very clearly an (ex-)housecat and not a feral:

These little munchkins, probably my favorite kittens ever <3

These little monsters who are as energetic as they are wonderful. And affectionate. Very, very, energetically, affectionate.

 

These 3 boogers who came in with a nasty cold but recovered beautifully.

Honestly there may have been a couple of others that I’m just not remembering. But, yes, we’ve had a full and very busy house!

Generally Feta is Not Impressed by other cats, but she made exceptions with a few special ones.

Maybe because he was named Babka, after food?

So, there’s a trying-to-be-fast update, you can see we’ve had our paws full. But Feta continues to thrive, even if I sometimes feel like pulling my hair out!

When (if?) things settle down I will go into more detail about our PT and results 🙂


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Feta’s Claw Conundrums (and minor PT update)

June 13th, 2017 · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

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Poor Feta Cat just can’t seem to catch a break!

After all of this time working hard at our PT, a bit over a month ago we were confronted with a new challenge: poor Feta had an infected claw. This could have something to do with the claw caps we tried, or may also be due to her habit of biting at her feet (which had been under control, we thought? but perhaps had simply become better hidden).

Whatever the cause, the nail bed was infected, and it was not good. Her toe became extremely swollen and she was no longer able to bear weight on it without severe discomfort. Additionally, the quick of the nail retracted almost all the way, so her claw had to be trimmed down to practically nothing. This is not helpful for traction!

After two rounds of antibiotics over about a month (as well as numerous foot soaks, toe scrubs, and some NSAIDs; not to mention vet bills!!) Feta’s toe was finally back to normal(ish; the claw still needs to grow back out). However, we had to put a stop to our major PT work while she recovered, which set us back significantly. While we were able to maintain her core strength reasonably well, her bum leg is stiffer than ever 🙁

That said, we’re back on track again – more or less – with healed toes and more PT work. In another post I will share some of the videos and exercises that we have been working so hard on. Essentially, we are focusing on “gait training” to teach Feta how to use her bum leg to hop rather than butt-scoot.

One example here:

Now for something a little different: Feta during her PT appointment at Aqua Dogs. Getting better slowly but surely!

A post shared by Courtney (@courtneys_critters) on

To keep her entertained and working at least a little bit while on “medical leave,” I picked up a couple of puzzle toys for her to force her to work for her food (even if she wasn’t using that leg).

Here you can see her using it, with the “help” of one of my foster kittens!

(Also during this month I had a foster cat and her four kittens who all came down with ringworm! While actually a fungus, not a worm, ringworm is highly contagious and not species-specific, so it was a super fun month of daily laundry/bleaching, excessive disinfections, frequent cat/kitten baths, and complete paranoia over spreading the fungus through the rest of the house! Fortunately, they all recovered and the babies are all in new homes now. I still have mama, who needed some additional socializing, as well as a new litter of 6 orphaned babies! Plus Chewy, featured above, who is an only child. It’s a full house, but it’s a lot of fun! Pictures of all the cuties can be found on my instagram, as seen above, and sometimes on the Facebook page of the group I foster for 🙂 )

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Litterbox Mods for Severely Disabled Kitties

May 8th, 2017 · 13 Comments · Uncategorized

A recent forum post reminded me that I’ve wanted to update my litterbox modification advice based on some trial and error tips I’ve developed over the last many months. So, here we go! Litterbox tips and tricks for severely disabled kitties! (E.g., poor Feta, who still essentially has 2.5 legs, since she can’t bend her remaining hind one.)


It’s often a good idea to have more than one box.

A beautiful living room centerpiece, no? Real conversation-starter!

With Feta, since she sits her bum directly down on the litter, being able to potty in a CLEAN box is extremely important. Since she likes to pee and poo at the same time of day (cats, go figure) this means she often needs 2 separate boxes, so she can pee in one and poo in the other. Much as I dislike having DOUBLE the mess and eyesore, it’s better than cleaning up messes outside of the box!


Mats, mats, and more mats!

Inspector Dog says, “Yes, mats are acceptably placed. I shall now poop on them.” Thanks, Inspector Dog :/

I now have two plastic floor protectors underneath my entire setup, for ultimate floor protection, with puppy pee pads underneath in case of spillage. (Once Feta missed the box and it went under the plastic, and that was gross and unhappy.)

Plastic over the rug! Since this photo, I have added the additional base-layer of pee pads – unattractive, but useful.


“Open” access is critical. Wings and walls are a no-go.

This obviously varies by kitty, as some actually prefer having something to lean up against. Feta, however, has trouble maneuvering – it is hard for her to turn around – and so she needs an “open floorplan” to avoid feeling trapped and panicked. This means Flat, no wings, no walls. For example, this is a no-go for Feta:

Feta says this is UNACCEPTABLE!

Again, this is a big bummer since obviously it leads to a lot of litter spillage, but it’s still better than cleaning up messes directly on the floor.



Now, it’s time for arts and crafts! Make your very own artistic box for your cat to pee and poop in!!!!

Feta Cat does not approve of this activity, and its distraction from providing her with food and ear rubs.



Instructions for Feta-Approved DIY Handicapped-Accessible Litterbox

With all these tips in mind, this is how I am currently making Feta’s boxes. Using this method, they last pretty well, and I generally only replace them every few months.

Supplies needed: Packing or duct tape, superglue for reinforcement, scissors or knife (or both) for cutting cardboard, waterproof shelf liner or other “waterproofing” material (note: when I bought this from Amazon, it was around $6; if what you are seeing is expensive, there are sure to be cheaper alternatives)

Step 1: Obtain Box (Feta suggests buying cat food, cat treats, and cat toys from Amazon or Chewy.com, as they both have excellent boxes)

Step 2: Cut 3 walls of the box down to size. Save one of the “short flaps” to reinforce the bottom of the box. The height of the walls will depend on the mobility restrictions of your cat. For Feta, we’re currently at about 2-3″ high. Obviously, the taller the sides, the harder for your cat to get in, but the easier for you to clean up. (Leave one wall full-size to give you a “backsplash” wall, to help keep things clean.)

Step 3: Remove cat from box.

Seriously, Feta, could you NOT?! I am trying to use that!! “I am cat. This is box. What did you expect.” -Feta

Explain to the cat that the box is destined for potty time, NOT playtime.

Succumb to the irresistible charms of Cat and play Box with your kitty for a few minutes.

Step 3: Take the “short flap” that you set aside from Step 2, place it in the “gap” in the middle of the box bottom, and tape them together securely. The point of this is to have a nice, flat bottom without any little “cracks” that could get ripped by a vigorous litter-digger (like Feta >:( )

So flat! So taped! Much wow.

Step 4 (the hard part!): Cover the box in your waterproofing material. If your cat is a big “digger,” make sure to have as few seams as possible, and reinforce the seams with superglue. This means fewer, bigger pieces of plastic are better than smaller ones. Overlap is good, except that the plastic often sticks to cardboard better than it sticks to itself, so it can get dug up more easily.

Note: if you don’t have a waterproofing material, you can “waterproof” by covering the box with duct tape or packing tape, but because of the number of seams, this method doesn’t last as long. Also, it’s more expensive.

As I noted before, the plastic liner seems to stick to cardboard better than it sticks to smooth plastic. So, I cover the smooth areas (like tape, or the seams where it meets other layers of plastic) with a bit of superglue for extra sticking power.

See the faint squiggle of superglue?

The corners, obviously, are especially tricky. I end up using multiple pieces of material, again trying to avoid seams as much as possible, and adding superglue to make sure they stick together extremely well. Along the seams and along the corners of the box are where problems are going to show up first, so I spend a little extra time trying to protect these areas very, very well so I won’t have to replace the entire litterbox for a while.

You can see in the above picture I also went up the side walls of the box and over the lip. This is optional, but I feel like it helps keep things a little cleaner, especially if your kitty is prone to… erm…. aiming problems.

Once all this is finished, you are done! Admire your handiwork. Add additional waterproofing to the “backsplash” if you like, and you can optionally extra-secure the edges on the outside of the box with more tape.

 

Such a work of art! National Gallery, here we come!

Now clean the superglue off your fingertips. How did you get so much all over your fingertips??

 

Oops.

Finally, fill your beautiful new box with your kitty’s favorite litter, set out your multitude of floor protectors, and watch with conflicted joy and annoyance as your beloved kitty urinates and defecates all over your brilliant creation. Congratulations!!


Final note: why my obsession with the seams? If your kitty digs into the litter and is able to lift up a bit of the plastic liner, the litter will get underneath it and start to give you a big mess. Behold:

Grosssssss!

So secure your seams, everyone! Now go forth and make some beautifully-functional litterbox art.

Questions / comments / tips for further improvements welcomed in comments!!!

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Hard PT Work Paying Off (Slowly)

March 23rd, 2017 · 12 Comments · Uncategorized

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 🙂

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Feline Physical Therapy, Take 2

March 7th, 2017 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

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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