Q:My old cat, Sylvester, does not jump up like he used to. This is OK sometimes because it keeps him from getting on the counters, but I am starting to feel sorry for him. There is a window that he has always laid in and it is hard for him to jump there now. I put a stool in front of it and he actually uses the stool to help him get up. Is there anything else for an older cat to help them jump again?
A: If we could only turn back time . . . That is a funny question for the Dascoli Family. Recently Dad and Mom Dascoli decided to try out a jumpy house with the girls. It looked like fun and they do it all the time. But let me tell you, we were both so worn out after less than 5 minutes of jumping (and most of that time was spent lying and unable to get up) that I thought that would be how I ended . . . in a blow-up bouncy castle at 40-something. So sad.
Unfortunately, people and dogs and cats will all experience this with the gift of longevity.
Our bodies simply do not have the strength and muscle mass as before. In addition to a loss of power, there can be actual pain with arthritic bony changes in the back, hips and knees. This all results in an animal or person that is unable or afraid to jump because of pain or weakness.
That being said, there are several options to explore with your cat to see if you can get that spring back in his step.
The first thing you need to do is to try to reduce his weight. Cats, particularly those in the United States, often become overweight as they age because they are less active. Many cats in the United States are indoor-only and spend a good bit of their time sleeping and not hunting bugs and prey. In addition to this, they have access to dry food all day long and tend to snack aimlessly and never really become satisfied with their diet. Feeding canned food at mealtime only is one option to get control over their calorie intake while keeping them happy with a meat-based diet.
Supplements can be helpful, too. There is a product called Cosequin that is nice. It is an everyday powder supplement that you sprinkle onto their food that will, over time, help to support cartilage production and protect existing cartilage from breakdown. By supporting the critical cartilage that lines their joints, we are better able to alleviate joint pain that comes from chronic wear over time.
Another type of supplement that I like to use on cats is an injected product called Adequan. It is also a joint supplement, but it is injected into their muscle weekly for four weeks. After that, the pet gets booster shots every one to three months based on the needs of the pet. I like this product and have seen favorable results.
There are other pain and inflammation treatments available to a cat. The age-old standard is a steroid shot. This really makes them feel good for a few weeks, but it will wear off and does come with a few side effects. Long-term steroid use in the cat can lead to cardiac complications, diabetes, weight gain and muscle weakness — not what you want if you can help it in the cat. But this is an option for some pets.
Oral pain medicine is another choice in the cat. It takes away pain, but must be administered two to three times daily and does also have side effects — namely, you have to hunt the cat down to medicate him. The good part of this option is that the medicine makes him sleep more so he can't run as fast, but he can still hide. Been there, unfortunately.
So there you have a few options for your cat. Try one or more and see what works best for your situation. The important thing to take away today is to keep trying to make your pet's life better and more comfortable.
Old age and disease need to be addressed more with time. As an owner you can give your pets that care in their golden years. Don't give up on them and they will not give up on you. Good luck and see you at the gym!