I was enthused to be requested again by Jackson Galaxy, of the Animal Planet television program My Cat From Hell (MCFH), to lend my holistic veterinary perspective to a complicated case involving inappropriate feline elimination.
I feel it is fantastic that through his show and book, Cat Daddy, Galaxy is able to educate pets owners on a worldwide basis about the importance of investigating behavioral issues for their underlying medical roots. Instead of dismissing a cat’s tendency to leave a puddle of urine on the carpet next to the litter box or a pile of feces in a secluded corner of the closet as mere bad behavior, feline owners are now recognizing that their cats should have an examination with their veterinarians for appropriate diagnostics to explore for a host of contributing health problems.
In the fourth season of MCFH, I will be working on two cats: Fi and Buddha. My role has slightly changed, as Galaxy is now having me go to the clients’ homes to provide holistic medical consultations and acupuncture treatments. In seasons two and three, the clients and patients came to see me in-facility at Veterinary Cancer Group. My petMD article, A Veterinarian’s Perspective on Treating a Cat From Hell, and the video, Molly’s Follow Up, tells the tale of the hellish cat mentioned in the article.
As with Galaxy’s approach to his feline behavior cases, going to my clients’ homes permits a deeper investigation into the environmental factors that can be contributing to my patients’ state of illness or poor behavior.
Fi, a declawed, spayed, female Persian cat, made her way into her forever home after being put up for adoption multiple times. When I met Fi, she was exhibiting the unpleasant habit of inappropriately defecating (pooping outside of the box). Galaxy and I speculated that her tendency to exhibit abnormal elimination contributed to her history of bouncing between owner and rescue.
In Fi’s case, her bowel movements weren’t simply tiny nuggets being deposited in an improper location. She was having diarrhea, which ranged from soft and pudding-like to watery and explosive. Fi definitely needed a thorough workup at this point.
Before my appointment with Fi, she had an internal medicine consultation with Dr. Erinne Branter at Advanced Critical Care of Los Angeles. Fortunately, Dr. Branter determined that Fi did not have any significant medical conditions (inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, infection, etc.) that would be contributing to her undesirable elimination habits. Dietary modifications helped to firm up Fi’s stool, but there were more issues that needed to be addressed.
In evaluating Fi’s spinal and joint health via radiographs (X-rays), she was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease (DJD, the progression of arthritis to the point where joint surfaces are compromised). It turned out that Fi’s discomfort in her back and hip joints was causing her to be less able to get in and out of the litter box. As a result, she would choose a variety of other more comfortable locations around her owner’s home to do her business.
Fi’s overweight body condition is one of the likely contributing factors to her discomfort and compromised mobility. Fi had a body condition score of 4 out of 5 (with 1 being the extreme of thinness and 5 being the extreme of obesity).
To learn how to determine a pet’s BCS, refer to the Body Condition Scoring Chart created by the Nutritional Support Services at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Pet owners should always strive to keep pets on the lower end of the BCS scale (2-3).
Fi was a very cooperative patient for her examination and treatment. As I was able to palpate the uncomfortable locations on Fi’s body and knew of the radiographic changes, I found she was a great candidate for a combination of needle and laser (Multi Radiance Medical MR4 Activet) acupuncture treatment. The laser reduces inflammation, lessens the pain response, and improves blood/lymphatic circulation.
Fi was also given nutraceuticals (food derived compounds with medicinal effects) to safely provide an ongoing anti-inflammatory effect and promote her better joint health. Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) and combination glucosamine/chondroitin products are very safe, well tolerated by the body, and can significantly reduce a patient’s reliance on pain relieving medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs], opoids, GABA-analogues, etc.), which can potentially have mild to severe side effects.
Reportedly, Fi readily showed improvement post-treatment by starting to eliminate in her litter box again. There is ongoing homework needing to be done, as Fi must further slim down, consume a diet more based on whole foods, and take her nutraceuticals to maintain a more comfortable state.
Thanks to the combined efforts of Jackson, myself, and other members involved in her care providing team, Fi is on her way to having an improved quality of life and a more positive relationship with her owner. Hopefully, with consistent effort and treatment, Fi will no longer be a “Cat from Hell.”
You can see my appearance on My Cat From Hell and treatment of Fi via this YouTube video: Dr. Patrick Mahaney appears on Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell Season 4 to Treat Fi
Fi's "VD" abdomen and pelvis radiograph, which shows degenerative joint disease (DJD) in her R hip.
Fi's right lateral radiograph, which shows degenerative changes along her vertebral column.
Fi lounges, comfortable on her floor post-treatment.
Dr. Patrick Mahaney