Cat losing control of back legs
Has anyone ever had a cat with a degenerative problem of the spine or muscles in the back legs?
Our orange kitty Reilly has been having a steady decline in his motor skills. We have had him since he was about a year old, rescued from the streets and he had never been considered a very graceful kitty, even from the begining.
I first noticed him having trouble landing from jumping down in early 2004. In September, just before we were leaving to fly across country to a funeral, I saw his head shaking slightly, sort of trembling. I didn't think it was a seizure, because it was just his head, but I called the vets office (it was only 15min before closing) and they wouldn't let me bring him in so he had to wait for us to get back from our trip.
When we returned and took him to the vet, he checked out as fine. He was about 4 years old at that time and bloodwork (extensive) was normal. Over time I observed him having more and more trouble getting around the house. He didn't seem well coordinated when jumping down from furniture and when he ran, his back end would fish-tail and if he knocked into your leg, he could knock your leg out from under you. (he and I liked to play 'chase' up and down the hall after each other)
Eventually, he couldn't run anymore and as he walked, his back legs would sway from side to side. This progressed to his hind end sort of swaying as he walked and getting his back twisted to the side where he couldn't straighten out and he'd sit down suddenly on that side. Now it is much worse, he can usually only take a few steps before he gets sideways and sits down. He uses his claws in the carpet to pull himself upright again, usually spinning in a circle once or twice before he is able to get up.
He cannot use the litter box because he cannot get traction to stand in the cat-sand so we have set up a litter box with a towel in it and he uses that. He is also having trouble eliminating solid waste and will try to reach his box, but usually lays on his side just outside the box, paddling his hind legs as he eliminates. Husband and I clean up after him, he cannot help it.
If you hold his tail, using it to help hold his back end up, he can walk very well. He just doesn't seem to have the strength to hold himself up and get his legs to work. When he moves his back legs, they sort of 'hesitate' before he lifts up to swing them forward and again when he puts them down. He will also, while laying down, seem to uncontrollably flex and straighten/stretch his back legs. They will be fully extended, claws seperated and the leg will sometimes shake with the 'effort'...but he seems to not notice it at all! If I massage the muscles, it will relax, but he doesn't seem to be aware of it.
We treated him with steroid injections for about a year. I thought I was seeing improvement, but I know now that it was wishful thinking and him gaining weight that made me think that. He has been on a steady decline for several years.
If you stroke his back, when you reach a point about midway between his shoulders and hips, his skin shivers and he will 'sink' away from your hand. This makes me think it is a spinal thing. The vet thinks so also and we have not done any other tests because the only surgury that could be done, we cannot afford to do and there is no guarantee it would be successful. In the mean time, Reilly gets whatever he wants. When his quality of life is more miserable than happy, we will make the hard decision...but for now, he is still playful if you drag the string within his reach and he loves to be loved and purrs like a Big Block motor.
Has anyone else had a cat with this type of problem?