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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

How Holistic Treatments Helped a 'Cat From Hell' Lead a Better Life

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

cat xray degenerative disease

Fi's "VD" abdomen and pelvis radiograph, which shows degenerative joint disease (DJD) in her R hip.

 cat xray degenerative disease

Fi's right lateral radiograph, which shows degenerative changes along her vertebral column.

 cat from hell

Fi lounges, comfortable on her floor post-treatment.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Image: Joop Snijder Photography / Shutterstock

Comments  5

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  • Declawed cats
    07/16/2013 08:49pm

    While I am more of a dog and horse person, I grew up with cats...dozens of them. My family always had a collection of volunteer cats...they moved in from the streets, got fed and neutered, and became pets who slept indoors (although they kept the back free of gophers during the day). We never had serious litterbox issues with any of them, even when they got old.
    When I met my husband, he had two cats, both declawed. Both of them had serious litterbox issues, although one was worse than the other. I have always suspected declawing made them neurotic. To this day, my parents still have a cat, strictly indoors these days, and he has wonderful litterbox manners, so it is not that the others were allowed outside.

    Obviously, this cat had other health issues, but all the declawed cats I have known have been really neurotic. I think it offends and humiliates them. Maybe I am anthropomorphising too much but it just seem so wrong!

  • 07/27/2013 05:50am

    Thank you for your comments.
    Although we cannot tell if Fi's issues are solely from her declaw, I agree with both you and Jackson Galaxy that they are at least in part a contributing factor.
    I feel as though if a cat owner wants to declaw their feline friend simply as a means of keeping their furniture looking fresh, then it is in their best interest to consider another pet besides a cat.
    Dr. PM

  • Fi
    07/16/2013 11:05pm

    Kudos for Fi's humans for giving her another chance. So many times people won't adopt a kitty that has been "returned" multiple times - especially if there's a little box problem noted.

    More kudos for calling in the experts who figured out Fi's problems and are working to make Fi more comfortable.

    I've always thought that the first thing to do after a litter box accident (besides cleaning it up!) is to take Fluffy to the doctor to rule out medical problems.

    Kudos to all of you!!!

  • 07/27/2013 05:52am

    Thank you for your comments and kudos.
    Fi is a really lucky that she was given multiple second chances (I guess that would be third, fourth, and maybe even fifth).
    The good news is that we can now strive to keep her feeling more comfortable and having more appropriate bowel movement habits on a day-to-day basis.
    I really like to hear that you bring your cats to have a veterinary exam when abnormal elimination patterns (or other color besides, I'm sure) appear.
    Dr. PM

  • 07/21/2013 11:54pm

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