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!
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!)