17 year old cat trouble walking

Notemaker

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I don't know how to go about this without a lot of back story, so bear with me. My 17 year old cat, Wayla, had a rough start to life. The vet said she got vaccines when she was too young, and they ruined her immune system. When she was a younger, she almost died from worms that we couldn't get rid of for years. We have to keep her inside because the vet said she couldn't handle more vaccines, and she picks up every little thing and almost dies from it. The past ten years, she has been the healthiest that she has ever been. We keep her inside the house and safe. We've been feeding her wheat germ ever since the vet said she needed some fiber to stop her anal sacs from getting abscessed (about 10 years ago). The wheat germ seemed to really help her eyes, which we were told about 14 years ago would go blind soon after she almost died from toxoplasmosis. Once, she become bug infested with something that was not fleas (the vet had no idea what the bugs were) and we gave her a bath. The stress from the bath gave her seizures. She completely recovered from this as well, this happened about 13 years ago, I think.

What I'm getting at is, my cat is very old, and had 10 very good and healthy years that we didn't think she would have. The vet is extremely traumatic for her, and exposes her to germs that she probably couldn't fight off, especially now that she is so old. We have decided that unless she seems completely uncomfortable and miserable, we don't want to put her through a vet experience. If you all think she should go to the vet, please say so, however, I would also like your thoughts on ways to help her be comfortable and what you think might be going on.

So this is the current problem:
Yesterday, Wayla did her normal routine of telling us all good morning, getting hugs, eating treats, and then going into her cat house to sleep. The past few months, her age seems to have finally caught up with her. It is harder to get her to eat, and she sleeps most of the day and night. So, when she wouldn't come out of the cat house to eat, that seemed normal. When she slept the whole day in the cat house, that, too, was normal.
Last night, when she finally came out of the cat house, she acted like her left hind leg wouldn't hold her weight. That has continued to today. She walks fine for a few steps, then she stumbles to the left. She can jump on the furniture, but she has to try a couple times because her left leg gives out. She acts like she sees okay, she can see our other cat across the room, she finds odd crumbs on the floor she wants to check out. She doesn't act like she's in pain, at least not much. She has always gotten annoyed with me easily (part of her cattitude), and as I was following her around last night to make sure she didn't hurt herself, she got mad at me and huffed off like she thought she was fine. She wants to sit on the back of the couch, but as she tries to get settled, her leg gives out and we have to catch her before she falls off.

All kinds of thoughts have gone through my head. Is it more seizures? But she hasn't had a seizure since that once when we gave her a bath, and then one of her pupils were dilated and fixed, and now both of her pupils look normal. She has seemed a little arthritic for the past year or so. Does she just have a stiff joint from sleeping in the cat house all day?

For the past five months or so, I've noticed her drooling just a little bit when she sleeps. Her left eye waters some, also, but it is clear. I thought both of these were normal signs of a very old but generally healthy cat.

Other than being a little scared to walk, and falling over from time to time, she seems fine, content, and happy.

What do you guys think is going on? Do you know of anything I can do to make her more comfortable?
 

FeebysOwner

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Hi. I don't know about the drooling (teeth/mouth issues?) or the watery eye, but you could just call your vet and ask if there is cause for concern since the vet knows Wayla's background. They could at least tell you if they have seen/heard of those types of issues with their older cat patients.

The leg issue could easily be arthritis related. I noticed that Feeby (16+ yo) seems to limp a bit more if she has been napping for a while and then gets up to move. She was limping all the time a couple of years ago, and I started her on Glyco Flex Plus (glucosamine, chondroitin, and green lipped mussels) and the limp diminished for the most part - other than those long naps/immobile sessions. Maybe if the vet thinks it would be OK for Wayla to take some arthritis meds/supplements, you could see if it might help some?
 
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Notemaker

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Thanks for responding so quickly. I would call and ask Wayla's vet, but he retired several years ago. She has been so healthy for the past 10 years that I never took her to another vet, thinking the risk to her immune system and the trauma of going wasn't worth it since she wasn't sick. I don't have a vet that is familiar with her to call.
I looked up the Glyco Flex Plus at Walmart. It sounds worth a try. How big are the chews? Are they softer, or harder? Wayla only has a couple teeth left, and does best with the crunchy outside, soft inside treats. If the treats are too soft she doesn't like them. If they are too hard she can't eat them.
 

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Glyco Flex Plus are big chewables. I was cutting them into smaller pieces for Feeby and she was eating them readily, but started to turn her nose up at them. So, now I just smash them into tiny crumbles (easy to do) and mix with baby food meat. Feeby loves them that way. The instructions say to start off with 2 for the first several weeks, but I didn't do that as I had heard the initial two-a-day could cause loose stools.

Our Walmart doesn't carry them, nor any pet stores around here. I order them from Amazon. Just make sure they are the same thing. Here is what they look like and they are made by Vetriscience.

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Notemaker

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Thank you, FeebysOwner.

I have ordered some Zesty Paws Wild Alaskan Salmon fish oil for Wayla to try. Do you think that would help? She hasn't been getting the wheat germ that made her feel so good because she's been eating so much less and I mix it in her food. I wonder about trying wheat germ oil, maybe she will just lick it.
 

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Thank you, FeebysOwner.I have ordered some Zesty Paws Wild Alaskan Salmon fish oil for Wayla to try. Do you think that would help? She hasn't been getting the wheat germ that made her feel so good because she's been eating so much less and I mix it in her food. I wonder about trying wheat germ oil, maybe she will just lick it.
I have never tried either the oils or wheat germ, so I am clueless about either of them. Be careful if she is not eating enough - watch her weight. And, supplement her own food with anything you can get her to eat. Canned tuna or chicken in water, baby food meats, deli turkey, what ever will get more calories in her. If the tuna/chicken/baby food meats are a hit with her (Gerber Stage 2, no onions/garlic/etc., or Beechnut) then you might be able to add some wheat germ to those.
 
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Notemaker

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I didn't know it was safe to feed cats baby food. I'll give that a try. Thanks!
 

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I didn't know it was safe to feed cats baby food. I'll give that a try. Thanks!
Baby food meats, without anything else in them. Gerber is just the meat, broth, and some corn starch (for thickening), which is fine. Beechnut is just meat and broth only - and, of course, that is even better. It just can't be a cat's sole food since there are no vitamins/taurine/etc. in them for cat health.
 
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Notemaker

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Update:
I found a can of Friskies in the back of the cabinet (it was not expired) that Wayla used to really like (I quit feeding it to them because it would give my other cat diarrhea). I brought the food to where she was comfortably sitting on the back of the couch, and she ate a lot! She even growled at me when I thought she was done and tried to take it away.

When she finished eating, she almost fell off the back of the couch when she tried to get up. Then she went to the cat house and slept for several hours.

I noticed that she was awake and sitting in the cat house with her head sticking out, so I brought her some more food. She took a couple licks, then jumped out of the cat house and almost fell over, but caught herself. She has been having trouble with a loose tooth lately, so often when she's done eating she shakes her head. She tried to shake her head, and fell completely on to her side. Since I became upset, of course that upset her, so she tried to quickly jump up and run from me, falling over again as she tried to shake her head as she went. She finally decided it would be best to sit behind the TV, where she wouldn't be bothered, and where she was kind of up against a wall so she couldn't really fall. I went to do some dishes (as fast as I could!) and while I was gone she tried to jump onto the couch. She made it, but almost fell off. For the past several minutes, she's been sitting on the back of the couch without too much trouble. Once in a while, she decides to try to shake her head or clean herself, and then she almost falls off. She has been able to stand slightly to spin around and get more comfortable without falling off the couch. She shakes some, like it is hard to stay steady, but seems to be a little more stable than yesterday. Unless she shakes her head, then it seems worse. She still seems content and happy, just wishes I would leave her alone and stop worrying so much.

Do you guys agree that it seems more like a hip or joint or arthritis problem than something more serious, like another seizure? It has been almost 15 years since she's had a seizure, and it was just the one time. Like I said, her pupils didn't match back then, and now they look fine. She also seemed much more distressed then. Now, she is a little worried about falling, but more worried that I have been fussing over her so much.
 

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I know you don't really want to take her to a vet, but what you are describing about Wayla doesn't seem to be solely about arthritis or a seizure. Her having difficulties with balance could be a whole host of things - and, the fact that she is shaking her head, while it could be related to her tooth issue, it could also be related to an ear infection. That type of infection could explain both the balance issues as well as the head shaking.

Ask family/friends/co-workers/neighbors for recommendations of vets they trust and make an appointment. Even if 10 years has passed, if you have her vet records from that time, you would need to share those with the new vet. There are also vets who do house calls, if you think that is a place to start before you take her to a vet's office.

If it should be something like an ear infection, antibiotics could be given and resolve at least one of her current issues.
 

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Even with a great immune system at 17 years old, the chances are there are a few things she needs support with and you can't learn what they are and what to do without a vet and some tests. By waiting it's possible things are getting worse and more expensive.

I understand your concerns and I would be afraid too, but... I'm not saying this for her but let's go with kidney disease... with a diagnosis and support, cats with kidney disease can live even some years. Without the treatment, they would die in a much shorter time.

Giving her age the symptoms you mention really need an exam by the vet. Give a call to the vet before taking her, maybe they can suggest something to calm her and make the trip less stressful. Personally I like to give Fortiflora probiotics the day before, on the day, and the next couple days of a vet trip to support the immune system a bit extra.
 
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Notemaker

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Thank you all for writing. I don't think it is an ear infection, because she doesn't act like she feels sick. She doesn't scratch at her ears or anything. She has been losing teeth off and on for a little bit now, and has gotten into the habit of shaking her head after she eats. The only time she shook her head yesterday was after she finally ate.
I have seen her hip give out while she's walking. When she tries to jump on furniture, she doesn't miss, but sometimes as she's preparing to jump she stumbles to the side.

So far, she seems to be doing a little better today. She is moving slower and you can see her compensate faster so she doesn't fall when her leg gives out. She ate a little, and drank some, too. She growls when we try to help her and seems to do best when we don't intervene.

Since she is 17, I doubt that she would have some more years left if she did receive proper treatment for what ever problems she may have. Since stress makes her sick (the seizures after the bath, the abscesses when my dad died) and she hates the vet and meds so bad, I would rather avoid causing her such distress at the end of her life. I think she would rather die a little sooner while happily at home without people squirting things into her ears or eyes and making her take pills, than live maybe weeks or months longer and go to the vet. I also worry that the stress of a vet trip could cause her to die sooner.

Because she's not a normal cat, it is hard to know what is best. Thank you all so much for the input.

Obviously, I would do anything to extend her life. She means the world to me. But I think adding years to this 17 year old cat's life (especially since she was so sick when she was younger) is a little far fetched, and in the long run I think trying to do so would not be best for her.
 
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