When Florence Rostami’s Turkish Van, Nazzaning, was injured in June, Florence thought the cat had simply broken her paw. But her veterinarian explained that the cat’s condition was far more serious, and would require a hospital stay.
I cried so much, said Rostami, an attorney in New York City. We were devastated. My mom, my daughter and I stayed in the hospital until midnight the first night.
Nazzaning was in the hospital for four days undergoing a battery of tests. The actual cause was never determined, but an MRI did show swelling in her spinal vertabrae. The vet recommended anti-inflammatory meds.
Rostami took it a step further and asked about physical therapy for the cat. She was excited to find out that hydrotherapy was an option.
I was very happy, she said. Turkish Vans are natural swimmers, and I thought that this might wake up her instinct.
Boaz Levitin, a veterinary neurologist who examined Nazzaning and recommended hydrotherapy for her, told the New York Post that most cats aren’t candidates for this style of rehabilitation. Im a big believer in physical therapy, but most cats just see water and flip out so Ive never recommended that for them before.
Nazzaning was the first cat to undergo hydrotherapy at Water 4 Dogs, an animal rehabilitation center in NYC that typically only works with canines.
She was definitely nervous about what was going on, and she was vocal and meowing, said Jean Marie Cooper, the manager at Water 4 Dogs. At first she was balling up and not moving, but after a few treatments, I think she started feeling better and relaxed.
In each 30-minute treatment session, Nazzaning walks on a treadmill immersed in 4 to 5 inches of water. A therapist keeps her upright and ensures proper foot placement.
Her muscles needed to learn how to move the correct way again, and because shes partially buoyant in water, if she makes a mistake its much less severe than if shes walking on dry land, Cooper explained.
Then she swims in a 4 1/2-foot pool while supported by a therapist, to help strengthen her limbs and provide all-over exercise.
Nazzaning goes to therapy three times a week. She also gets at-home massages and stretches several times a day.
Hydrotherapy and other forms of animal rehabilitation are rarely available to cats, according to veterinarian Jane Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council, a nonprofit coalition for the proper care of cats.
Its only in the past 10 years that theres even been a market for animal hydrotherapy, Brunt said. Now, people are realizing that cats need this care, too. There are lots of videos showing how owners can habituate cats to getting wet, and hopefully more institutions will offer rehabilitation services that are cat-friendly.
The cost — $160 per session — is a budget-buster for many cat owners. But Nazzaning’s owner says the money spent has been well worth it.
Now her balance is better and she is walking on her own, said Rostami. I really believe that if she didnt go to therapy, she may not have found the confidence to walk again.
After Nazzanings success, Cooper says she hopes to see a wider range of animals try hydrotherapy.
Theres no animal we wouldnt work with, said Cooper, from rabbits, ferrets and reptiles or even horses although it might be tough to get a horse in the pool, she joked.