Celia Haddon - Cat Expert

Understanding animals through their behaviour

DISABLED CATS AND WOBBLY CATS

This is a wobby kitten unable to balance well

DISABLED CATS

Disabled, deaf, blind and deaf-and-blind cats all need special care. They should either be indoor-only cats or have a completely fenced-in garden. Unlike humans cats that are deaf or blind, still have two more good ways of sensing the world – their sense of smell and their whiskers.

Blind cats. Cats blind from birth develop improved sound and whisker abilities (Rauscheker 1995).  Keep furniture in the same place, particularly the litter tray. Leave doors either totally closed or totally open. Use fireguards on open fires. Talk to your cat before touching her so she knows you are there. A fixed routine of putting food down, instead of leaving it always available, will help you keep track of your cat. A bell on a collar or a reflective collar may make it easier for you to know where the cat is if he has access to the garden. Ponds must be fenced off in the garden and balconies made safe. Windows that will be open in summer need screening. Try www.cataire.co.uk , www.thescreendoorcompany.co.uk www.flat-cats.co.uk or www.flyguard.co.uk

Caring for a Blind Cat, by Natasha Mitchell, a 62 page book, available as pdf or in hard copy from http://www.catprofessional.com Natasha Mitchell, an Irish veterinary opthalmologist can be found at http://www.eyevet.ie/ 

Deaf cats. White cats, especially those with blue eyes, are often born deaf (Strain, 1996). They probably develop extra keen visual powers to compensate (Lomnver et al., 2010) These cats need to be indoor-only cats or have a proper fenced in garden. They can’t hear traffic. Use visual signals instead of talking.  A gentle touch will also get their attention. Try thumping the floor with a walking stick or clapping hands with palms slightly cupped. This makes a vibration which the cat may “hear’ through its body and will serve to get a cat’s attention. A torch, or flashing the porch lights, are also useful for “calling” your cat in at night. A fixed routine of putting food down, instead of leaving it always available, will help you keep track of your cat.

old cat litter tray

Dog bed used as a litter tray for an arthritic cat

Cats with disabilities or arthritis. Useful information for owners of cats with only three legs or cats with severe arthritis can be found on www.icatcare.org   Arthritic cats often hide their pain and just become less mobile (Caney 2007). There may be accidents with getting to the litter tray. Litter trays should be easy to get into. If need be, cut down the entrance side using heavy shears. Losing weight will often help diminish pain. There are now good painkillers for cats that are easy to administer. A new website may also be helpful – http://threehappypaws.co.uk/

Heated cat beds, comforting for arthritic cats, can be found at www.catac.co.uk and memory foam beds (for dogs but they’d be fine for cats) at www.purelypetbeds.com. Ramps are available at pet care shop websites or at www.easyanimal.co.uk which also sells a litter tray with steps. Protective clothing, instead of Elizabethan collars, to stop cats licking themselves or interfering with stitches can be found here.

WOBBLY CATS AND KITTENS

Wobbly cats include cats with very many underlying disorders. These disorders may occur in a kitten whose mother was ill when pregnant, or in a cat that is diseased,  injured, or poisoned. Occasionally wobbly or twisty kittens occur among pedigree rex cats – if so, report this to the owners of both stud and queen. Arnold Chiari malformation, following an accident, has also been seen in cats. Your vet will need to make a careful diagnosis (Penderis, 2009)

Symptoms may include poor coordination, wobbles, sight problems, spasms, deformed front legs, odd way of walking. Wobbly/twisty cats can lead enjoyable lives if looked after by nice humans. They like doing everything that normal cats do – but just find it a bit more difficult! For safety they should have a cat proof fenced garden. International Cat Care (www.icatcare.org) have details on cat fencing for the garden.

Litter trays must be untippable since puss may need to lean against a side while using it – newspapers all round it please and be prepared for accidents. Clean under the tail if cat can’t squat well. Feed in an area where mess doesn’t matter. Twisty cats may need a dish at a higher level – use phone books under the dish. Untippable water bowl too. No slippery floors. Keep an eye on sores developing on the legs and consult your vet about them. Brush and clean round mouth, nose and eyes since cat may not be able to wash itself.

Think about installing ramps up to your bed! Or to best armchair! Stairs are a hazard. Install solid stair gates if necessary – not mesh as they will climb up it. Beware of banister gaps in case of the cat falls through them. Keep floors clutter free so the cat doesn’t trip over things.

* There is a list of equipment for disabled pets on this website under Disabled Dogs – Support and Help.

REFERENCES

Caney, S., (2007), ‘Feline Arthritis,’ Veterinary Focus, 17, 11-17.

Lomnver. S. G., Meredith, M. A. & Kral, A., (2010) ‘Cross-modal plasticity in specific auditory cortices underlies visual compensations in the deaf,’ Nature Neuroscience, 13, 1421-1427

Penderis, J., (2009), ‘The wobbly cat; diagnostic and therapeutic approach to generalised ataxia,’ Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 11, 349-359.

Rauscheker, J. P., (1995) ‘Compensatory plasticity and sensory substitution in the cerebral cortex,’ Trends in Neural Science, 18, 36-43.

Strain, G.M., (1996), ‘ Aetiology, Prevalence and Diagnosis of Deafness in Dogs and Cats,’ British Veterinary Journal, 152, 17-36

COPYRIGHT.

These notes are my copyright. I am also usually happy to have the exact words reproduced on websites, in return for a link, my name, and if permission is asked beforehand. I like to check the websites where it might be used. Email me via this website for permission which will usually be given. Organisations wishing to use them in print should contact me via this website. Copyright © 2007 Celia Haddon. All Rights Reserved.

Safety notice.

All normal safety precautions should be taken when dealing with animals. The advice in this section should be taken only at the owner’s own risk. All sick animals should be seen by a vet.

General advice of the kind found in this website is no substitute for an individual consultation with a vet or qualified behaviourist working on a vet’s referral.

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