DEAR DR. FOX: We have a 13-year-old paralyzed female cat. She has been unable to walk or use the litter box for about 10 months.
She spends all her time lying on a pad. She eats and drinks on the pad. Her appetite appears normal. She urinates and defecates lying down -- we put papers down to clean up the mess. She appears to be in pain only when she is touched or picked up to be bathed (which we do a few times per week). She is alert, and her eyes are clear. Her stool and urination appear normal.
We have taken her to two different vets; one thought she might have a tumor near her spine, and the other could not diagnose her without a CAT scan. The X-rays have not revealed anything. We give her two prednisone tablets a day for pain.
We need to make a decision about euthanizing her or waiting for her to pass from old age. Would you say that we are being kind to this poor animal, or are we torturing her? -- F.S., Newark, New Jersey
DEAR F.S.: I commend your commitment to caring for your poor cat. Partial or total paralysis can be caused by a blood clot, such as thrombosis interfering with the circulation to the hind legs, which can be diagnosed by determining if there is any pulse in the femoral arteries in each inner thigh.
I have drafted a basic Quality of Life assessment for animals under our care, which may help you make a more objective decision regarding if your cat has a life worth living and if euthanasia is preferable to keeping her alive. I hope this will help with your decision-making:
QUALITY OF LIFE: VETERINARY CRITERIA AND ASSESSMENT
In considering the quality of animals' care and welfare, be they domesticated or captive wild, healthy, ill or injured, the following criteria are critical in assessing their well-being and having a life worth living:
-- Provision of physical safety, hygiene and comfort.
-- Satisfaction of basic physical and social needs.
-- Freedom from fear.
-- Provision of emotional security.
-- Relief from pain and suffering.
-- Control over immediate environment, especially for self-care and protection.
-- Freedom to express natural behaviors.
-- Opportunity to experience various sensory stimuli, which many species seek and enjoy.
HOUSE SOILING PROBLEMS IN DECLAWED CATS
In an excellent review of the risks and benefits of declawing cats, which included the results of a telephone survey of cat owners, veterinarian Dr. Amanda F. Gerard and co-authors presented some significant findings in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Cats who had undergone this surgery and who lived in a multi-cat (three- to five-cat) household were more than three times as likely to have house soiled as were single-housed cats with intact claws. The less traumatic surgical technique of carbon dioxide laser resulted in a lower incidence of house soiling, but this was still an issue in all cats subjected to declawing, regardless of the technique employed. The authors cite references indicating a 4.4 percent increase in the number of cats being declawed since 2001 to almost 25 percent of the owned cats in the United States today.
For more details, see "Say No! To Declawing Cats" posted on my website, DrFoxVet.net.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)