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Can Hydrotherapy Help Your Cerebellar Hypoplasia Cat?

April 23, 2012

A while back, I came across the video below of CH cat Flurry during one of his hydrotherapy treatments. While he certainly doesn’t seem to happy about the situation at first, he’s a good sport and does quite well.

While making a cat tread water may sound as unnatural as, well, making a cat tread water, some CH cat parents have turned to hydrotherapy to increase their cat’s muscle development, overall fitness and mobility. And some have had great success.

Photo courtesy My Friend Fluffy

From what I’ve read and heard, hydrotherapy usually involves your pet walking on a treadmill underwater, or in more advanced cases, swimming. The idea is that the cat can learn to walk by learning to swim.

As with humans, aquatic exercise can be beneficial simply by working against the water. That resistance helps promote bone density and encourages muscle development. Aquatic exercise may also improve arthritis, heart and orthopedic conditions, muscle development and many types of injuries.

As the cat builds up endurance, he’s in turn strengthening his muscles, which will help when he’s back on land.

Additionally, the buoyancy of the water displaces body weight, which reduces stress on joints, minimizes pain and allows for easier movement and a wider range of motion.

While I haven’t tried this with my kitties, I can understand why some folks would give it a shot. CH cat pet parents claim that some of their CH cats become more capable as they age, which may be due to several factors including the brain re-wiring itself, the cat putting on more muscle mass and becoming more coordinated over time through playtime and exercise.

And CH cats aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this. I’ve read several stories about cats who have been hit by cars and have faced paralyzed limbs or other problems who have overcome their “fate.”

Hydrotherapy is simply another opportunity for CH kitties to get that exercise that may help them over time. While I’m not familiar with the costs associated with doing something like that, CH cat pet parents Karen has had some experience, and shared a few tips with the Yahoo CH Kitty Club group.

Photo courtesy MSNBC

She says you can try hydrotherapy at home with small kittens by putting some water into a deep pan (to keep the kitten from touching the bottom) and then holding her in the water so she “swims.” I assume you could also do this in your bathtub with your adult cat; however, I also realize that the situation may end rather badly!

However, your cat may not always be aquaphobic. It sounds like cats who experience hydrotherapy become less and less nervous around water. In one case, a cat went from swimming for 90 seconds with the aid of a harness to swimming for 20 minutes without any aid at all!

Another Yahoo CH Kitty Club member said her Einstein didn’t like hydrotherapy at first because he was afraid of the water, but he did well, and now he walks and runs “like a champ.” She said that if you can keep with it, it really does improve your cat’s balance and muscle tone.

Karen also suggested “towel walking” as a way to improve your cat’s coordination. Much like many of the walkers made for CH kitties, the idea is to hold them up so they can practice walking around.

So what do you think about hydrotherapy? Have you tried it? Would you try it? Please share in the comments!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2012 5:36 am

    I’ve done a lot with human hydrotherapy and if cats can learn to like the water it sounds a great idea.

  2. April 26, 2012 9:57 pm

    Our cat seems to have figured out how to move much faster than most moderate CH cats and has quite a different gait. He’s improved over time, as we’ve lived in wood floor places. We give him safe areas (mats) and he simply builds muscle by figuring out how to move back and forth. It may sound a bit mean, but it’s really improved his strength.

    • April 27, 2012 7:58 am

      Thanks for commenting — isn’t it amazing how they figure things out? We have hardwood floors so our two CHers have had to learn to deal with it, and they’ve compensated nicely, too! What’s your cat’s name?

  3. June 19, 2015 1:10 pm

    Currently working with my new CH baby in the pool. Stormageddon is 8 weeks old, moderate/severe CH as she cannot stand or walk at all. Will be posting pictures & video of hydrotherapy and how the results look on land.

    • Veda Maas permalink
      August 17, 2015 4:18 am

      Please do! My baby has lost all interest in even trying (spoilt) and I need to get her moving again. Becoming quite desperate and depressed about her just lying there…

  4. Pete permalink
    July 7, 2015 10:14 am

    Lenora, I would love to hear more. We have a new born, bottle feed apparently CH kitten. She is a little less than 4 weeks right now. So everything for her is new and she can only barely crawl. We are looking for ideas and your kitten is very young as well.

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