Feta’s Claw Conundrums (and minor PT update)

Tripawds is a user-supported community. Thank you for your support!

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:

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 🙂 )


To remove ads from your site and others, upgrade to a Tripawds Supporter blog!

Feta’s PT Progression

Tripawds is a user-supported community. Thank you for your support!

Greetings, Feta Fans!

We’ve been hard at work doing our exercises, and while it’s hard to document well since it takes two hands to really do them right, I wanted to at least attempt to show our progress.

We sent a video to the lovely tech who is helping us, and she is happy with how we’re doing so far! Good job, us!

About a week ago, she was still showing a lot of tenderness in her back, though Awesome Tech Jenn still thought it showed improvement compared to how she’d been at her consultation visit.

Her weight bearing practice was going well, though, and continues to improve!

When we practice, I’m scratching her back/butt to get her to really use her abs and her leg to hold good kitty posture, and also to force her to distribute more weight onto that back leg (as opposed to basically doing a handstand, which she prefers at this point) and also to use her muscles to keep maintain her balance. This also helps her back as well as the leg and hips.

As she’s getting better with this, I’m also scratching her back leg a little bit, in the “crook” of the “knee” of her stifle joint, to get her to flex that a bit more, too. We also do some gentle “bounces” where I very gently and carefully press down on her hips to get her to bend and flex a bit more while bearing weight on the leg.

She tends to want to bend only in her hock, to the point that it’s all the way down on the ground, so I’m really trying to encourage her to bend that stiff stifle joint as well.

We’ve been working very diligently with her leg stretches, working on them at least 2x/day. Doing short but frequent sessions is really important for healing – keep at it too long and you stress both the leg and the cat, and push it too hard and you could get a lot of inflammation that is actually counter-productive. Gentle and consistent is best. And remember, the more relaxed the animal, the better stretching and movement you’re going to get! Keep it gentle and positive!

You can see our massaging and stretching from last week here (note: it may look like I am squeezing or forcing her, but while it’s important to be firm, always err on the side of being gentle! I am holding her leg with a loose hand, and mostly gently applying pressure with the flat of my hand):

Then today, I took some more video to show her progress – you can tell she is still quite stiff, but look how much more bend we’re getting! And how much more comfortable she seems!

I’ve found that letting her lie down with the stiff leg dangling off my lap down towards the ground is a great way to get a relaxing passive stretch. Works great on humans, too! (Some variation of this was very helpful for me when I was recovering from broken ribs! Although my PT had me doing it with the top leg dangling down and the bottom leg bent upwards.)

To get the “bicycling” movement, we start by loosening and working on the stifle, then very gently combine it with the easier hock flexing. In general, you start at the top, loosening the hip, then the stifle, then the hock, then the ankle, before you expect them all to start moving together.

This type of healing and strengthening is not a quick process, so we’re going to just keep on doing what we’re doing and hoping for continued gradual improvements. It will likely be a long time yet before she’s really using that leg voluntarily (she is quite lazy, and won’t want to use it until it’s easy) but the more we get it loose and strong, the sooner that day will come!

Thanks to all her fans for your encouragement as we trudge along through this process!

Cat-Butt Anatomy (and what our PT is working on)

I am not a vet, or anything close to one, so to try and help Feta I’ve been doing a lot of research.

For example, massage. How can I give her a really good massage if I don’t know what, exactly, I’m rubbing?

One of my favorite guides is actually a drawing done by the talented Raven-Scribbles and hosted over at DeviantArt. Check out this beauty:

You can see another representation here:

This gives a much better sense of what we’re working with on Feta’s hind end. Looking at that big, swooping hind-end muscle that connects to the leg bones, you can imagine how if it were weak and pulled too tight the cat wouldn’t be able to bend the leg normally, and would have a very stiff, straight hind leg. The same holds with all those other smaller muscles, like the ones around the hips and going into the stifle (that upper joint on the leg).

This seems to be what’s going on with Feta, and why we’re working so much on massage, heat/electromagnetic therapy, and passive range of motion stretches. By relaxing those tight muscles, we are hoping she can get some range of movement back. Then, we can work on strengthening those muscles so she can better support her own weight.

Speaking of which, Miss Feta is on a diet – it’s especially important for Tripawds to stay lean, so excess body weight doesn’t strain their remaining legs and joints, which are already working overtime! Unbeknownst to me, Feta the Fatty has been raiding the automatic cat feeder, so she’s been sneaking extra kibbles when I’ve not been looking. We’re (okay, I am) now working to get her a little leaner so she can work on her hind-end exercises more easily.

Sorry, Feta!