Help make my cat's recovery as comfortable as possible.
September 3, 2006 7:57 PM   Subscribe

Help me make my cat's broken bone recovery as comfortable as possible. Also, help me make her sister less of a bitch.

One of my cats broke her leg last weekend. Our best guess is that a hard-edged stool fell on her -- she was alone, and the stool was knocked over when we ran out to see what happened. She spent the rest of the weekend at the emergency vet, and she had a metal plate surgically installed in the leg on Monday. The vet says that she must be confined for the next two months -- no running, jumping, or fun of any kind.

She's living in a "large" dog crate right now (26" x 18.5" x 16"). It's big enough for her to sit upright and turn around in circles, but not big enough to stretch out. She has a Purr Padd (basically, a square of polyester quilt batting) to sit on, and she has dry food and water available at all times.

At least twice a day, I let her out to stretch her legs, use a flat scratching pad, and visit the litterbox. I give her a couple of hours of time on my lap, too. She hasn't shown any interest in her favorite sedentary toy.

We move the crate around the house so she can be near us - she's one of those cats who always wants to be in the same room as the people. I put it back in the same place every night, so her environment feels more stable.

Is there anything else I can do to make her more comfortable? She seems depressed and bored inside the crate.

Additionally, her sister is a total bitch. We adopted both cats as kittens together, and before the weekend at the emergency vet, they'd literally never been separated. The uninjured cat was pretty freaked out while the injured cat was away. Unfortunately, when injured cat came home, uninjured cat didn't seem to recognize her (as in this other person's previous thread).

It's been five days now, and the uninjured cat has gotten more brave -- more brave about walking up to the injured cat and hissing in her face, that is. Yes, both cats have been bathed. I bought some Feliway earlier today and sprayed it around the uninjured cat's favorite places, but it hasn't made any difference yet. Is there anything else I can do? Should I invest in a Feliway diffuser? I've been giving the uninjured cat plenty of attention, and she's cheerful when she's not around the injured cat.

Thanks much. As a reward for reading the whole post, here's a picture of my poor cat in her new abode. (You can see the bandage on her back leg.)
posted by liet to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
I'd just try to make sure you let your injured cat reabsorb your scent, cast/cage included. my older cat got sick this year, and the kitten was freaked out for a couple of weeks. The antiseptic smell was pretty intense. It may just take time. I wouldn't give up just yet.

If you could get away with a larger cage, it may be more comfortable for your cat. Do you have any friends with large dogs whose carriers you could borrow? Or old playpens? I bet you could put something on top so that your cat could not jump out, but would have room to scoot around and lay out. Maybe even room for a litterbox.

As for hissing, it still distresses me to hear mine going at it, but they seem less bothered than me. I heard from a woman who rehabilitated abused cats that if there's no blood, its all kosher.

you could also try techniques suggested for acquainting new cats, like feeding the free cat nearby so that it has something to do but is still around, and making sure that the healthy one isn't feeling ignored and threatened by the attention the hurt one is getting. There have been plenty of threads on introducing cats on askme, i bet some of those tips would help you as well.
posted by gilsonal at 8:25 PM on September 3, 2006

Oh, and any sort of play you can do with her without her running around and stressing the injury will help her stay mentally alert and not depressed. Things like catnip mice, if she's one of the ones who just rub it on their face instead of having full on freak outs, moving a laser pointer light around the room, crinkly toys, putting a paper ball outside the cage but still in reach etc.
In research with zoo animals, animals in enclosures were found to be less stressed when provided with materials to manipulate and occupy their time. No need for the fancy stuff either. I've found that paper balls and bottle caps are worth their weight in gold. Good luck!
posted by gilsonal at 8:28 PM on September 3, 2006

I have no advice to offer, but lots of sympathy -- what a cute kitty!
posted by davidmsc at 8:41 PM on September 3, 2006

Cats don't send letters or email, hissing is just one way they talk to each other, unpleasant as it is. I don't think I'd worry about it unless it persists well after broken leg cat is better.

Unfortunately, your cat's just not going to enjoy being cooped up, and it sounds like you're doing what you can to help her and be a good owner. It looks like it's a back leg (is it?), so I'd maybe try dragging some string or a cat dancer around for her to paw at with her front feet. Part of the problem may be that those Varikennel crates don't allow the animal to see out very much at all, plus having the food and water dishes at the door (where they go, I know) means she's even more removed from the outside world. Is there any way you can borrow a wire crate of the same size? She might be a lot happier if she can actually see what's going on, plus you'll be able to interact with her more and so will her sister. She still won't like being caged, but she might be less distressed about it in a wire crate.
posted by biscotti at 9:15 PM on September 3, 2006

The feliway diffusers are quite effective, in my experience. As to the other cat: she's just pretty much had her world turned upside down. Her lifelong companion was injured, then vanished and reappeared a few days later. Cats don't seem to deal well with other injured cats sometimes: I don't know why.

The hissing and the like sounds like fairly typical stressed-out feline behavior. I'd just keep doing what you're doing and make sure they both get plenty of affection, catnip and food.
posted by baggers at 9:16 PM on September 3, 2006

Your well cat is just letting the confined cat know that she doesn't like the smell. Your cats will be fine given time. We had our two fixed at the same time and they hissed at each other for 2-3 weeks. When the smell went completely away, they were fine with each other.

If there's no clawing, biting, back arching, etc., it's really just a means of communicating displeasure.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 11:12 PM on September 3, 2006

Let the bitchy sister spend some time in a separate crate. Especially when she starts the hissy fit thing.

It will give the injured kitty a chance to have some peace outside the cage.

Maybe (or maybe not) the bitchy cat will get a little aversion therapy too and behave better.

Hats off to you for helping your injured cat and not just euthanizing it. Years ago my sister's collie was severely injured by a car and they spent a fortune fixing Daniel up. He lived a long and pampered life thereafter. :)
posted by bim at 6:12 AM on September 4, 2006

I'd suggest feeding yogurt to both of them. It's a good source of calcium, and the microorganisms predigest the milk, which some cats have problems with.
posted by dragonsi55 at 6:22 AM on September 4, 2006

Seconding a slightly larger crate, with more wire if possible. We used something like this for cats and very new kittens when I used to breed. The shelves should be removable so there would be no jumping until it is allowed.
(Then you'd have a crate big enough for the two of them if you had company with an allergy, or a strange repair person that the cats couldn't stand. It would be worth keeping around.)

This one looks like a dog crate, but it has bigger sizes and on the petsalley cat crate page there is a section for crate pads. I don't think your cat would know it's not for kittens.

Also, your healthy cat is probably not angry at the injured cat so much as the situation. Or perhaps angry at the crate.

One of the ways cats ask each other "what's up? how's your day? Whatcha been eatin'? is to sniff each others butts. Gross, I know. But now your cats can't do that, so there's this communication link missing and it can be very upsetting. If you think they might be gentle with each other, and your vet says it would be ok (For sure, ask the vet) you might let them spend some quality time together in the crate. Again, I cannot stress how important your the opinion of your veterinarian is in this case.

good luck!
posted by bilabial at 7:07 AM on September 4, 2006

I would try and find more ways to let the cat do what it normally did, both to help your cat and his sister. Right now, he is a bit of strange creature in a box. When my cat had a toe amputated (cancer), it spent some time in a cast. We didn't crate him, as he would've been miserable. Instead, we let him around in a room that had no places to jump on/off in. He didn't move around alot but it made him happier to be free. Even though he was in pain, he still begged to go outside, which we did (leashed and surpervised!) Very strange, but he seemed to enjoy it. We covered the cast with plastic so it didn't get wet. Because he was in pain whenever he set down his foot, he developed a bit of a silly three legged hop. He still had it for awhile after his cast came off, but he readjusted fine. Good luck with your cats!
posted by typewriter at 7:34 AM on September 4, 2006

If both cats respond to catnip, maybe you could have a little Nip Time once or twice a day, just to make everybody a little mellow and to fill the healthy cat's nose with a good smell.

When my cat broke the same leg, the only place she was comfortable was where she could lay with the cast hanging off - she preferred a windowsill or the coffee table. I didn't stop her jumping around; the vet was pretty confident she would police herself and I think she did pretty well. Your cat needs enough room to sprawl, which I don't think she's going to get in that crate. A bigger crate is going to be pretty expensive, though - maybe you could thrift a playpen and put a makeshift top on it?

The healthy cat is probably getting less exercise without her partner to play with, so I would recommend getting a Cat Dancer-type toy or maybe a laser pointer so you can wear her out real good. That should help with the hissing, since she won't be so nervous.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:29 AM on September 4, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everybody.

having the food and water dishes at the door (where they go, I know) means she's even more removed from the outside world

That's a good point. The current crate isn't big enough for real food and water dishes, unfortunately -- the cat has a pretty big turning radius with the injured leg, and I'm afraid she'll stick her bandaged foot in the water.

We have a furniture-free spare room, but the vet vetoed staying in there. Our care instructions actually say "confined to a travel crate."

I'll ask around about a bigger crate. Wire sounds like a great choice, as long as the squares aren't big enough for her paws. I worry that standing up on her hind legs is exactly what the vet doesn't want her to do.

A bigger crate would give her room to bat toys around, too. So far, she hasn't been interested in toys when I let her out to stretch, but it might be because she realizes that she only has so much time out, and she'd rather spend it in my lap. She was always a slutty lap cat!

You're making me feel better about the healthy cat, too. Her behavior isn't seriously aggressive -- she's taking swipes at the other cat when she has the opportunity, but I don't think her claws are out.
posted by liet at 8:56 AM on September 4, 2006

(notsnot's girlfriend) my cat and my sister's cat grew up together and used to be best friends, but since i took my cat with me when i moved out, they no longer recognize each other when i go to visit. my sister's cat will hiss at my cat, although my cat doesn't seem to care. the vet said that once a cat has left the "pride" he is no longer welcome back. so, basically i guess you'll have to start reacquainting them from scratch. as far as making your sick kitty feel happy, i suggest a little jar of veal baby food. they love it.
posted by notsnot at 10:02 AM on September 4, 2006

If she's meant to be in a travel crate, I assume that means a crate small enough to limit her movement fairly severely, so don't think that you want a BIGGER crate, just a wire one so she can see out more (put a blanket or towel over one end so she can feel safe for sleeping). You should be able to find a wire crate approximately the same size as the Vari-Kennel one she's in now. You can still mount the dishes off the floor (which is a good idea), but they won't be obstructing her view in a wire crate. A large bird or ferret cage might be ideal, actually, since the bars will be closer together than they would be in a dog crate.
posted by biscotti at 11:06 AM on September 4, 2006

We had to do this with my roomates cat for 4 weeks when he had a bad abscess and he meowed the entire time. I thought I was going to lose my mind. What seemes to help was putting the crate where he could watch TV or see out the window. The meowing would stop temporarily when he had something interesting to watch.
posted by fshgrl at 12:43 PM on September 4, 2006

When my cat was hit by a car, he was initally diagnosed with a broken hip, and scheduled for surgery once the weekend was over. When new x-rays were taken right before the operation, it turned out that he also had a herniated diaphragm. Needless to say, the diaphragm was operated on that day, and the broken hip surgery was postponed. We were to keep him in a crate after the diaphragm surgery, so we bought a 2x3x3 wire crate... and I think he spent a grand total of ten days in it. He hopped around on three legs for about a month, hobbled for a few more months, and years later seems perfectly normal. He never had the hip surgery. Our vet told us that cats are very good at healing on their own, and letting him move around as much as he wanted was helpful in the healing process. I'm not saying you need to let the cat out altogether- just that a larger crate may be a good thing.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:15 PM on September 4, 2006

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