Do CATS go in the water treadmill?

I get asked this question, and the answer is...YES, but...

We have done pretty much every treatment option available on cats, but most will respond well with just manual therapy and modified exercise plans. It is tricky to get cats to perform specific exercises, so we try to adapt things to get them to practice stretching, loading or pulling, depending on the issues. They also have a very short attention span, so 2-3 repetitions of something may be all that is needed, or possible. So generally, for cats, less is more.

But, our cat patients usually love the hands-on treatment and stretching here in the clinic. And about half of them were the type of cat that didn't like handling before we started therapy. Their backs hurt, or they were unstable or stiff in their joints so quick escapes were uncomfortable. Avoidance was their rule of thumb until they found someone to help them move again and reduce their pain. We check very cautiously to find the areas of pain, looking for skin and muscle tension around the site and approaching the area slowly.

We handle cats very gently and work with their bodies in ways that relax their muscles and allow for better joint movement. First, we check for which movement is painful (for instance, straightening the elbow if it is arthritic), stopping as their muscles start to react and feeling for the slightest resistance throughout the body. Then, we find the comfortable directions of movement, holding the body part and moving in three dimensions (like rotation, sideways motion, and gliding of the joint surfaces), working our way around until we reach the desired goal. We teach the body to move more appropriately in response to injury, until we get the injury healed. And we teach the cats which movements are tolerable, or use what treatment option is needed to reach comfortable movement.

Cats do well with acupuncture generally, as well as LASER. They like anything having to do with warmth. The warm water in the pool and treadmill can work in our favor. Usually, we resort to water therapy if we need specific strengthening or endurance. Most cats will not need this kind of work because they don't go on long walks or chase balls for long periods. Cats are also usually not so heavy that we can't support them on dry land or a land treadmill.

Often the first things people notice is that their cat doesn't climb up or jump anymore. Many of the cats we treat have back pain or spinal injuries. Some have arthritis in their hips, knees or elbows, especially if they were climbers and jumpers. We have worked with paralyzed cats after trauma or saddle thrombi (blood clots in the aorta) and they can learn to use carts or wheelchairs like dogs. Cats also injure their cranial cruciate ligaments like dogs and people, although not nearly as often. We also see cats with oddball genetic issues that limit their mobility.