Monday, April 23, 2012

Living with a neurologically impaired cat

Eamon the cat lying in the middle of the floor
Eamon demonstrating his excellent napping skills.
It's been about six months since Eamon had his serious brush with death (the complete entry about that event is here). While I'm still not completely sure what happened that night, I do know that the episode has left him with some residual weakness in his right rear leg.

His checkup visit over the weekend confirmed that weakness, as he had a bit of trouble recovering from a specific portion of the neurological exam. To test for weakness, doctors put the cat's foot on the table, with the top of the toes touching the table and the pads facing up. It's a bit like asking the cat to walk on his/her knuckles. In a normal exam, the cat will pop that foot right back up into the proper position. Eamon has a significant delay.

If you didn't know him well, and you just met him for the first time today, you might never know that he has any sort of deficit. He can jump up on the couch and back down again, he can run, he wrestles with his buddies and he arches his back when you pet him. Only a close examination would tell you something is amiss. When he stands, he tends to put his back feet very close together, with his ankles almost crossed. And he doesn't stand for very long, preferring to sit or lie down. Also, he seems to need to take the stairs at top speed, as a slower speed makes him tumble and fall.

When this episode first happened, I thought his life would be miserable if he had a lasting neurological problem. I just couldn't see how active Eamon could adjust to a life of disability. Once again, I am reminded at how little I truly know.

Eamon has a weakness and an ongoing problem, but his quality of life is really quite good. He has adjusted to his issue, finding workarounds for the things he can't quite do and displaying an extreme amount of happiness at the things he is able to do.

Managing a neurological cat isn't as hard as it might seem, either. I watch him closely for pain and increased weakness, and I work with his veterinarian to increase or decrease his medications to manage his symptoms. I keep him isolated if he's painful or grumpy. And I watch his weight, to ensure that he won't pack on the pounds and increase pressure on his back.

So I'm happy to say that all of my worries of September seem to have been misplaced. He is alive and well, and I'm able to care for him. I'm glad, for once, to be wrong.