Chiropractic for Cats – How a comprehensive approach to therapy can help our feline friends.

By Eirlys Green MSc, BSc (Hons), EEBW
McTimoney Animal Chiropractor at Aceso Animal Therapy

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When we think of Animal Therapy, and the wide variety of techniques being used throughout the industry, we tend to automatically link these treatments to horses or dogs – understandable considering these are our usual clients! I personally find that feline maintenance treatments are not as well known in comparison with our equine and canine clients, and I can’t help but wonder if this is a trend throughout the industry. Perhaps there is a lack of awareness with the cat owner’s regarding the availability of therapies that are suitable for their pets, and how these may benefit their animal? Could it be that the wider variety of CPD opportunities and research into the equine and canine spheres is resulting in an unconscious lack of practitioner focus on our feline friends?

Cats are well known for their nine-life challenging acrobatics, and although they are extremely agile and resilient, over time these leaps (and falls) of faith can take their toll on the body. Therapeutic techniques are ideal for relieving those small issues and imbalances within the body, with an aim to reduce the risk of compensatory issues or overuse injuries, and keep our feline friends feeling in tip top condition.

Of course, the type of therapy provided will depend heavily on the individual and what they are most comfortable with. Not all of them will tolerate hands-on therapies and therefore utilising home exercise programmes with their owners may be the ideal way to assist in their recovery. Despite this, many cats do thoroughly enjoy manipulation or massage techniques, and we see a huge improvement in their health and well-being when these therapies are integrated into their normal veterinary care routine.

Behavioural Indicators
As an animal practitioner, you always need to be able to adapt your treatments to the individual, and learning the more subtle indicators of pain is essential for patient-therapist relationships. When treating cats there are additional behavioural changes to take into consideration, for example;

  • What would their usual activity levels be and has this changed at all?
  • Have they been spending less time exploring outside?
  • Are they no longer wanting to use the cat flap?
  • If they are a house cat, have they been spending more time by themselves, or less time playing with their favourite toys?
  • Have they been unable, or unwilling, to jump up onto their usual high perches?
  • Have you noticed a change in their grooming habits?

This is certainly not a definitive list. Even the most subtle of differences in their behaviour, posture, or movement is worth noting down and seeking further advice on.

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Adaptations for Treatment

Practitioners all have their own ways of adapting therapies for different situations, and these are just a few things I personally find useful with my feline clients. Before all else, I allow the cat to have a blanket or bed to hide in during the session, so they feel they have a safe place to retreat to if needed. I also treat them at a higher level than I do the dogs, whether this be on a sofa or on a table if safe to do so, as I find they are much more confident and relaxed when perching in comparison with being on the floor during a session. In terms of the assessment and treatment, extra time is taken in between manipulation movements or the massage of different areas, to allow the cat time to process the changes being made to the body. We all know that cats like their own space, and it is important to respect this during treatment.

In addition to these behavioural considerations, I have found that at home exercises can certainly be more challenging with feline patients, as they generally have less training than our dogs and horses. Through an understanding of the individuals’ interests, demeanour and activity levels, exercise plans can be tailored to work in conjunction with their normal routine with great success.

A Cracker of a Client

As a McTimoney Animal Chiropractor, my usual day-to-day routine is based around equine and canine clients, however I am lucky enough to have a few very chilled out feline clients. Cracker, a 19-year-old Bengal X Burmese, is one of my regulars.

Cracker’s owner contacted me after he was involved in a fight with another local cat. Luckily for Cracker he had no major injuries, however he was showing signs of muscular discomfort through the ribs, pelvis, and hindlimbs. After the all clear from the vets we started with gentle McTimoney Chiropractic treatment and massage to rebalance the musculoskeletal system, and Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) to assist with previously diagnosed arthritic changes in the right hock. Cracker also receives a monthly Solensia (monoclonal antibody therapy) injection with his vet clinic, to assist pain related to arthritic changes.

Cracker received McTimoney treatment with another practitioner following a shoulder injury at a young age, and I believe this exposure to therapy and rehabilitative exercises had a positive impact on his behaviour and adaptability to a new treatment plan. Cracker is a very confident cat and is more than happy to stand for musculoskeletal adjustments to be made, however we still ensure he gets breaks in between to process the changes being made to the body. Following this, he assumes his favourite position on the sofa for the LLLT and massage therapy – this is his favourite bit as he gets lots of chin scratches throughout!

Whilst feline clients can sometimes be more demanding in terms of treatment adaptations, the appreciation (and purring) they show you once you have their trust makes it all worth it. I for one will be aiming to spread the awareness of feline therapy this year, to ensure that all who need it have access to suitable therapies to benefit their health and wellbeing.

Eirlys Green MSc, BSc (Hons), EEBW, MMAA RAMP, McTimoney Animal Therapist, treating small and large animals across Hampshire, West Sussex and Dorset. Eirlys is a member of the McTimoney Animal Association, the Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners, and the International Association of Animal Therapists.

The McTimoney Animal Association (MAA) is an independent regulatory body. All members hold a PGDip or MSc in Animal Manipulation (Chiropractic) from the McTimoney College of Chiropractic. Members of the MAA abide by a code of ethics and standards of proficiency as well as being fully insured to treat animals.