As cats age, they may experience a decrease in mobility, which can have a significant impact on their physical and mental health. Just like humans, cats need the freedom to explore the world around them, both inside the house and outdoors. Here are some essential things every cat parent should know about helping their feline friend stay active and healthy.
Symptoms of Feline Mobility Issues
If you notice changes in your cat’s behavior or lifestyle, it may be a sign of trouble. There are several indicators to look out for when it comes to feline mobility issues. Some of the most common symptoms include:
– Changes in grooming patterns
– Sleeping more often than usual
– Increased aggression, including biting and scratching when touched
– Shallow breathing
– Decreased energy levels
– Weak back legs
– Limping or change in the gait
– Difficulty with or slowing down on stairs
– Dilated pupils
– Arched spine
– Less eager to jump or inability to reach higher surfaces
It’s important to remember that cats don’t always display their pain in the same way that dogs do. As a result, signs of mobility loss in cats can vary. If you notice any of the above symptoms in your cat, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Causes of Cat Mobility Loss or Cat Paralysis
Paralysis in cats is often an indication of an underlying health condition. A cat’s mobility can be partially affected, temporary, or permanent if left untreated. Here are some feline health conditions that may impact your cat’s ability to move around:
Arthritis in Cats: Arthritis is by far the most common condition that affects cats, and with its slow onset, the signs can be easily missed. Thirty percent of cats over the age of eight deal with arthritis pain, and that number increases dramatically in cats over the age of 12 to 90% of the feline population. Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) and osteoarthritis occur when the cartilage in your cat’s joints weakens and breaks down, leading to painful joint inflammation.
Feline Diabetes: Just like in humans, senior and overweight cats can be prone to diabetes. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to difficulty walking and standing due to diabetic nerve damage. Along with mobility issues, diabetic cats are at high risk for developing vision problems and going blind.
Saddle Thrombus: Saddle thrombus occurs when a cat has decreased blood flow to the legs. This happens when a blood clot dislodges and is trapped in the pelvic end of the aorta. Most commonly occurring in cats with heart disease, the symptoms can be treated by your vet by dissolving the clot and managing your cat’s pain. Once treated, your cat’s mobility should return to normal. However, saddle thrombus is an especially difficult diagnosis, as it has a high rate of recurrence if successfully treated.
Traumatic Injury: A traumatic injury such as a bad fall or being hit by a car is a common cause of paralysis in cats. Trauma can leave a cat with broken legs, broken pelvis, or serious spinal injury, any of which can cause a cat to become paralyzed.
Kidney Disease in Cats: Advanced kidney disease can cause weakness in their hind legs. Most often, the back legs appear wobbly or buckle unexpectedly underneath your cat.
Neurological and Spinal Conditions: Back injuries, including slipped discs, and neurological conditions are not uncommon in cats and can occur at any age. Some spinal problems can occur due to infection, inflammation of the nerves or muscle, or even cancer. It’s essential to consult your Vet immediately if your cat begins dragging a leg, is unable to move their legs, or appears unable to stand.
Additional feline mobility conditions include cerebellar hypoplasia, IVDD, paralysis, and mobility loss due to trauma or injury.
Mobility Loss Solutions for Cats
Supporting your cat’s mobility and keeping them active is vital to a cat’s quality of life. Cat wheelchairs are perfect mobility solutions for cats experiencing sudden paralysis or rear leg weakness. A cat wheelchair allows disabled and paralyzed cats to run, play and allows them to get the exercise they need. Feline wheelchairs support your cat, enabling them to stand, walk, and run so they can regain their independence.
Additional benefits of a cat wheelchair include:
– Improved mental health
– Helps cats rebuild their strength
– Rehabilitative support post-injury or surgery
– Prevents muscle atrophy
– Provides more exercise, which improves bodily function.
A disabled cat can greatly benefit from the assistive support of a mobility cart. There are two types of cat wheelchairs: rear support wheelchair and full support wheelchair.
Rear Wheelchair for Cats: A rear wheelchair is perfect for cats with weak or paralyzed back legs. The wheelchair supports their hind end, allowing your cat to continue to get around with ease. A cat wheelchair will help a disabled cat to stand and walk during rehabilitation. Not only does a wheelchair make it easier for a cat to move, but it can also encourage feline mobility.
Full Support Cat Wheelchair: A quad wheelchair is ideal for cats needing support in both their front and back legs. With both front and back wheels, your cat is fully supported. A four-wheel cart helps cats maintain their balance and remain supported as they exercise. Even some cats who are disabled in only the rear legs will do better with a 4-wheel wheelchair. With their whole body supported, some cats are more comfortable. The added support of the front wheels makes it easier to move and allows them to move more naturally.
Improving Cat Mobility with a Wheelchair
According to Dr. Padgett, “Paralyzed cats can learn to get around with assistance in an indoor, open area just as well as dogs can. An owner of a paralyzed cat that is considering a mobility cart has to be 100% committed and be able to spend a large amount of time with the animal. The animal will likely need assistance urinating and defecating, will need to be cleaned often, and will need to be watched to be sure they don’t end up getting stuck somewhere they can’t escape.”
Cat Wheelchair Accessories
In addition to cat wheelchairs, there are also several cat wheelchair accessories available to make managing your cat’s mobility easier. These include:
– Drag Bag – the drag bag is perfect for indoor cats to wear when they’re not using the Walkin’ Wheels. It protects their legs and chest from injuries caused by scraping.
– Front Vest – the Walkin’ Front Vest is a great alternative to the standard wheelchair harness, perfect for escape artist cats who can wiggle out of most harnesses.
– Belly Support – this neoprene belly support wraps around the sidebars of the wheelchair and supports the center of your cat’s body. Great for cats with spinal disease or weak backs.
It’s important to be patient with your cat as they adjust to using a wheelchair. Some cats need a little more time to adjust. Once they realize that the wheelchair is helping them explore the world around them, they’ll never want to take it off!