SPACES FOR ANIMALS WITH MEDICAL
ISSUES AND DISABILITIES
Designing safe spaces for cats with disabilities, seizures, epilepsy, and Feline cerebellar Hypoplasia
Caring for animals with medical issues and disabilities is always a daunting job. It takes over you as you try to control as many things as you can. It's hard seeing your beloved pet struggle and it's even harder when you're not certain how to help them and provide them with security.
Having a cat with seizures, epilepsy, tremors, Feline cerebellar Hypoplasia/Wobbly Cat Syndrome, brain tumors, or anything that can impair their walking, everyday functions, and sensory issues can be a real challenge. We all try to do our best, but there is no general guideline for selecting the right furniture pieces for these kinds of situations, and not everyone has the time or mental capacity to dig deep into the problem and scour the Internet for things that might work.
This is a theme I've wanted to delve deeper into and due to some life situations, I've found my way back to it, as this subject was a draft in my notes for a few years. Unfortunately or luckily (depending on how we chose to approach this subject) we had our fair share of cats with different diagnoses and stages of illness. There is a line where we want and need to provide a quality of life while trying to keep an animal safe. We cannot force an animal to stay on the ground level to keep it safe, but we can do what's in our power to make the best out of what we have.
The vertical spaces for those cats can be lower to the ground, made with higher fences, padded with thick carpet, or with soft large pillows.
Don't forget that you're the best advocate for your pet and you should always be fighting for what's best for them, and we're here to help if we can. You know your cat best, you know its habits and the places it prefers. Sometimes those places are near you, but in some situations, those places are hidden nooks in which your cat goes to seek comfort and to get away from triggering noises, lights, or other pets/tiny humans. If you're not certain, send us a message. We have a lot of products, which can be overwhelming to choose from(sorry), so let us help you find the perfect one for your situation and your home, remember that everything is made to order and can be customized to work for your specific needs and space. Give us as much relevant info on the animal in question.
Always ask yourself what are the things your cats love, which are the areas they prefer to occupy, are there special kinds of fabrics they prefer, do they like to play and with what, do they hide a lot, in which positions they sleep, are all those places revolved around you or are they loners. Those are the questions only you know the answer to, and those are just the kinds of problems we love figuring out.
Cats with impaired balance often don't know or act like they're different. If there's no pain involved, they go about trying to be just a regular cat with regular skills. Nobody brings them down telling them they can't do something. If they can, they will, and sometimes it's scary as they tend to lose balance and fall, and falling from heights can be dangerous. Creating safe spaces can be an ideal solution, as it's often easier to direct a cat to a specially dedicated area where they can do what they want than to retrofit your whole home to fit their special needs. Your cat will want to jump on the tables, high bookshelves, or balance on a slippery smooth countertop, which isn't something you can just remove, but you could entice your cats to use their special places. You can't always beat them, but you can offer them an enticing space to have as their own.
All of our cat shelves can have higher fences, and they could even be padded with high-density foam and covered with the same fabric as the cushions. All the sizes of our Wally Flat Plus shelves could be made with higher fences and with a cat that has issues where it could be unconsciously spasming at some point, opting for a size bigger shelf could be ideal as the cat could comfortably sprawl itself. We could create a space with multiple wide ramps with higher fences that lead to a bed or a house. Cats with cerebellar hypoplasia will have a difficult time jumping or running, so the best exercise will be climbing. The ramps would be carpeted with our standard anti-slip striped carpet for extra grip, placed at a degree that is easy to walk on and could have extra inserted support non-slip wooden strips along the ramp, to keep those legs secured. All of our standard Wally Flat shelves could have a fence and have large pillows on them. Our Wally Tunnels could have closed-off entries from the bottom, closed-off windows, or some kind of special design where the window is. The options are endless.
If you need a renter-friendly solution, we can make special free-standing ramps or stairs and make a unique cat tree/climber/house with hidey holes for the ones that are triggered by light/sound/smell and need a dark safe space to decompress.
if there is a problem that we didn't have and aren't educated on, we'll reach out to all our available veterinarians, specialists, or rescuer friends and research the subject. To be frank, I love a good challenge and an opportunity to both learn something and help someone. That is the reason we started this company in the first place.
One more thing to think of is that your cat may pee, poop, vomit or salivate during a seizure. Our furniture is made for those types of issues along with the carpet and fabric options we have in our shop. We can make it all with outdoor paint we use for our Catio furniture, to make it even more resistant to pee stains and smells. For more options please send us a message, as we usually have some new unpublished options that could work ideally. All of our furniture can be regularly cleaned and disinfected, the pillows could have one of our waterproof fabric options as a cover and they can be regularly washed. Also, they come attached with hook and loop fasteners which means they won't fall down in any situation. The carpet is not absorbent, you can clean it with a sponge or a damp cloth. It also has a thick rubber underpadding which will help with grip and soften the occasional fall.
For cats that are more prone to ground activities, we offer a Floory bed and cot. Both are sturdy and won't topple. The Floory bed is better for a cat that loves to sprawl more while being supported by a high-density cushion that is easy on the joints and distributes the weight of a cat evenly. The cot option has a subtle sway which is preferable for cats that love to curl up and snuggle. The hammock keeps the warmth contained which is beneficial. Cats with severe wobbly cat syndrome are unfortunately the ones we'll be constricting to the ground level, but that can still be a joyful experience. We can customize all the Wally tunnels to act as floor houses and put them on 1cm high legs.
You could raise their food and water dishes off the floor and opt for wider bowls, just make it as easy as possible for them to eat and drink. In the future, we might do our take on a Cerebellar Hypoplasia feeding station.
Generally, after a seizure your cat may be aggressive, disorientated, wobbly on its feet, and seem blind or deaf. This is called a 'Post Ictal Phase' and this is the time most cats will retrieve to a safe, dark, and peaceful place, so offer a bigger sheltered box-type space with pillows inside for comfort. Turn down the lights, turn off any music remove other loud things from the space, and try to reduce stimulation of your cat's brain.
One more thing you could do is to make sure that their indoor living space is enriched with lots of toys that engage the mind and prevent heightened stress or anxiety. Fortunately, there's an abundance of cat toys and puzzle feeders that will keep them occupied, as they need physical and mental stimulation to prevent behavioral and health issues. Making just a few changes to their environment can greatly improve their quality of life while still allowing them to do all the climbing around and exercising their feline nature. You could put cushions or children's play mats underneath the cat activity to prevent any injury.
Our feline friends deserve to have the best lives possible. We might have saved them, but in all honesty, they are the ones who saved us and deserve the World.
On a personal note: As our luck would have it, while writing this post I was monitoring our workshop cat Edo because he seemed to have some kind of issues while sleeping. He would start kicking with his legs and I presumed it had to do with his injury that deemed him unable to jump or climb. We can only presume that a car or something hit him. He was supposed to be a part of TNR but as soon as I saw how unbalanced he was, he became our workshop cat. I haven't confirmed that he's actually seizing up and will keep monitoring him.
Some days before a tomcat came to our workshop, we took him to the vet, spayed him, and let him loose. In the coming days, the cat wouldn't leave our workshop, he was waiting for us and seeking help. We took him home, he slept for a couple of days and I presumed he was decompressing from the life outside. He was cuddly, so I presumed he used to belong to somebody before, but that the outside life got to him. I thought he had some inner ear problems because he would wobble when jumping down from the bed. Fast forward a couple of days and he started seizing up and I could see he was in full ataxia. And it was just as I feared it would be, the dreaded dry FIP, the neurological kind. It wasn't my first encounter with the monster, so I knew what to expect, but now we had a cure that could help. It has been a couple of days and he seems to be getting better. The ataxia is still present, he's still wobbly but more present and with a healthier appetite. If the cure works, he might get better with moving around but it doesn't bother me, we'll make him as safe and comfortable as we can. I knew from the second he started seizing up that I had a new permanent cat, he will be staying with us to the very end. We named him Logan. Wish him luck, he'll need it.