How to do hydrotherapy on a cat

How to do hydrotherapy on a cat? Well, it is not easy. 🙀 Domestic cats don’t like water normally. They won’t like hydrotherapy normally either for that reason but it doesn’t mean that hydrotherapy is a no-no because it might work. Note: some domestic cats like water. We can’t generalise.

There are a number of reasons why a domestic cat might be treated with hydrotherapy one of which is that they are obese and have lost the desire to be active.

There are two ways for an obese cat to lose weight: eat less and exercise more. Obvious but sometimes not so easy to achieve.

Moses doing his hydrotherapy session at Avonvale Veterinary Centres' hydrotherapy unit
Moses doing his hydrotherapy session at Avonvale Veterinary Centres’ hydrotherapy unit. The photo is by Avonvale.
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There is a success story on the Internet about a lazy cat who weighed almost 22 pounds and didn’t want to exercise. His caregiver, Jenna Joshi from Banbury, Oxfordshire, said that she had reduced his food intake but he hadn’t lost weight.

She said that she had him on a strict diet but it didn’t help and he wasn’t interested in going outside to exercise or play with toys. She sought help and the recommendation was hydrotherapy at a facility run by Avonvale Veterinary Centres.

Their hydrotherapy facility, based at their Wellesbourne Surgery, is available to all their clients and suitable for animals that have undergone recent surgery, have post-operative physiotherapy requirements, have joint disease or neurological disorders or need to get fit and lose some weight.

The last one applies to this gorgeous ginger tabby cat, Moses. As you might expect, he didn’t like hydrotherapy initially but he gradually came around to the idea and now goes to regular sessions. So it is possible for a cat to benefit from hydrotherapy but it needs a lot of encouragement! 😉😻

What they did was they put him on the treadmill and then added some water and now he “sits in the tank as I increase the water level, and knows exactly what to do” said Olivia Stokes, Avonvale’s veterinary hydrotherapist who’s been in the industry for five years and never seen a cat in the water before.

Moses has made progress; he can now get through the cat flap for the first time in a long time! Joshi is delighted and said that, “He is also a lot more active at home and generally feeling much better in himself.”

That has probably come about because he’s lost weight. It’s probable that an obese cat doesn’t feel like being active which makes the obesity worse. It’s a downward spiral which has now been reversed thanks to hydrotherapy and keeping him on that strict diet.

RELATED: Video which debunks the notion that all domestic cats hate water

Some more on feline hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy for cats should only be done under the guidance of a veterinarian and a certified animal physiotherapist. Cats are generally averse to water, and attempting hydrotherapy at home without professional supervision can be stressful and even harmful to your cat.

Here’s what a typical hydrotherapy session for cats looks like:

  • Preparation: A veterinarian will assess your cat’s condition and determine if hydrotherapy is appropriate. Behavior modification techniques might be needed to acclimate your cat to water. They might also need to be trained to wear a harness or life jacket.
  • The Session: During the session, a hydrotherapist will either place your cat in a warm water pool with a harness or on an underwater treadmill. The water level and treadmill speed are adjusted based on your cat’s needs and comfort level. The therapist closely monitors the entire session, which may also incorporate massage therapy.

Important points to remember:

  • Do not attempt hydrotherapy on your cat at home.
  • This is a treatment for specific conditions and should be part of a veterinarian-approved rehab plan.
  • There might be behavioral training involved before your cat can undergo hydrotherapy sessions.

If you’re interested in hydrotherapy as a treatment option for your cat, consult your veterinarian to discuss its suitability and explore qualified animal physiotherapy facilities in your area.


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