When cats are injured in a Road Traffic Accident, in many cases they are required to be on cage (the feline equivalent of bed rest) rest following extensive surgery. A treatment plan involving cage rest can be just as critical as the surgery itself in helping them make a full recovery.
Typically, the cage rest period is around 6 to 8 weeks and the point is to confine them to prevent further complications after surgery – as can be imagined, running and jumping around can cause problems when it comes to healing.
It is also very important to keep your cat on cage rest after soft tissue procedures, as there can be a lot of sutures which, again if put under too much strain from overuse, can cause wound breakdown and swelling. A variety of metal implants (plates, screws, wire) can also be used in certain procedures following a road traffic accident. These can break or loosen if put under too much strain and overuse, in turn potentially causing the bone to become displaced or fracture. This can require more surgery and will add to the recovery time and cage rest. The most important thing is the cat heals as well, and as speedily, as possible.
That said, keeping a cat on cage rest can be easier said than done. Cats disregard for rules is the butt of many a joke, so when they are injured, or ill, it can be a challenge to keep these fiercely independent creatures from further harming themselves.
The first rule of cage rest is to follow your vets instructions – he or she knows what is needed for your cat to heal in the best possible way. Deviating from these instructions may result in prolonged healing time, improper healing, additional damage to internal organs, or limbs not healing correctly.
Every cat is different, and every injury and treatment process is different. Some cats soon adapt to being on cage rest – others, not so much. Of course, it is distressing to have an upset cat howling for freedom, and those pitiful mews don’t make it an easier.
However, if ever there is a time for tough love, this is it. The most important thing is for your cat to heal. Considering many RTA victims don’t survive, a few weeks on cage should help to put things in perspective compared what could have been, so it helps to remember this.
With that in mind, here are a few tips that could make the cage rest period more acceptable for all…
The Importance of Cage Size
Firstly, the cage needs to be large enough to accommodate your pets size. They need to have soft bedding and be able to get up and change position comfortably. There should also be enough space for food bowls, water bowls and litter trays. The cage should also have a secure roof so that they cannot injure themselves by trying to jump out, and it must be sturdy enough so that they cannot force their way through the sides or door.
The Cage Location
If your pet likes lots of attention, the cage can be kept in a family area in the house so that they don’t feel left out and have plenty to look at. However, care should be taken that they do not become too excited and too active if family members are about, or if it is a chaotic environment which your cat can not choose to retreat from when they've had enough.
If your pet is shy or easily frightened the cage may need to be kept in a quiet spare room so they can relax and rest. Alternating the cage’s position throughout the day could keep your cat happiest. Being in a cage with no option to move away is stressful for cats regardless, so help keep them calm and safe from things that they find fearful; such as the vacuum cleaner, dogs, loud noises, cigarette smoke and excessive attention. Again, it all depends on the personality of the cat, but do try to read how your cat is in different environments, and honour what they prefer.
Full VS Part-Time Cage Rest
It all depends on what your vet has personally advised for your cat’s injuries, but sometimes they should be in the cage at all times. This means they will have to use the toilet in the cage. Cats are clean animals so try to keep a keen eye on the tray, and always clean it straight away.
Also, cats generally don't like their food/water by each other, or near litter trays. Sadly, there may be no option but to do this during cage rest and it is certainly the lesser of the two evils. Make sure the bowls are sturdy so as they can't easily be knocked over and always take out uneaten meat after mealtimes - especially wet smelly meat. A change in routine under some stress, and due to the fact they will be on medicines, may cause the cat to have 'accidents' so keep an eye on them, and help them out whilst recovering.
Some animals adjust quite quickly to the routine of being confined, but sometimes boredom can become an issue - particularly in cats. There are a variety of ‘boredom busters’ you can try if your pet needs enrichment during their time spent alone such as treats, and toys.
Admittedly, for some cats, they will soon get bored of this so try moving the cage so they have different views. Cats that are bored, scared or frustrated can harm themselves trying to escape the cage. These types of cats need stimulation that fits in with their recovery regime. If possible, place the cage near a door or window so they have a view, maybe secure the cage on a sturdy cabinet which is safe, sprinkle bird seed outside to encourage some activity for interest or create interest with wind-driven toys outside.
For cats that are active, puzzle feeders are a great source of both mental and physical stimulation. If your cat is more relaxed by a window, put a blanket over half the cage so they feel they have a 'retreat' area to sleep or to block sunlight.
Getting the Right Temperature
Always be wary of temperature also as the cat can no longer move itself to a more desired spot if too hot or too cold. Cooling or heat pads, such as snugglesafe, are a perfect safe way to make your pet comfortable in certain temperatures but always monitor, and never put heating pads in cages where an animal is in semi conscious/semi drugged state. Don't forget, many RTA victims have just had surgery and will have large patches of shaved fur so be conscious of the fact they may feel drafts a little more, or even may get sunburnt if placed in a hot sunny spot with no shade escape.
Keeping your cat relaxed and comfortable will help him to recover as best possible. It also helps owners to contribute to the recovery time, and to feel involved and supportive. All being well, they will be well when they emerge from the cage, and you will feel more like a friendly carer again than a prison warden.
Smell is an important form of communication for cats. Instead of, or as well as, a bed or blanket give them a piece of your clothing such as a t-shirt or socks. Bring a variety of items for them to smell such as a leaf, flower, feather, a stone, your shoes after a walk... different things for them to investigate. Remove them once they have finished with them. Give as much attention as possible, or as required by them. If they can be moved, and it is possible and practical, move the cage into a bedroom at night, as this is when they are most likely to be active and need attention.
Music can also be used to relax cats too, whatever their state and healing requirements. There are a number of CDs, albums on iTunes and YouTube downloads specifically for cats. Playing these softly can be relaxing for both cats and owners. Although there are DVDs for cats, these may not be a good idea as they may excite cats with the sight and sound of prey animals. They could be played with the sound off merely as visual stimulation, if appropriate. If the cat needs to be left alone for a while it can be useful to leave the radio or TV on softly to provide some human sound for comfort.
It is important that the carer also has a support system. When cats have to be confined for a long period of time, need constant assistance, or are challenging to confine, it is necessary to have a backup carer to allow the main carer to get a break. Maybe your cat likes a certain family member or friend? Let them take the reins now and again, see if they get a different response whilst also offering another bit of entertainment for your cat. Don't forget, cats react to our boy language and tones - if your panicked, chances are your cat will pick up on the stress, and it could cause them to panic also.
Case and Point
This beautiful little girl is Bear. She was tragically hit by a car and has had 3 operations on her back so far. Thankfully she is expected to make a full recovery and will be able to walk again in time. Unlike most CatsMatter hear of, Bear is a star pupil and seems to have been coping very well. We suspect some of this may be down to the fact, at present, Bear is unable to walk completely unaided, but also because of some of the clever tricks owner Cobby has used.
Now, this may not suit all cats, especially the would be escape artists who prefer to throw themselves at the bars in protest as opposed to waiting out their recovery, but a fabulous idea we love from Cobby is a puppy pen. They only cost around £15 from places like Amazon & Ebay, and Cobby has layered it with Carpet tiles to give that extra bit of sturdiness if Bear attempted to lift herself to her feet, but also it makes it much easier to transport the pen around the house or to the garden. This is also great because its change of scenery with new smells such as new blankets etc.
Bear sleeps on the bed in this of a night also which she seems to be more than happy with, and she is close to her owner in case there's an issue. Cobby admits this doesn't exactly leave much spare room on the bed though but Bear's worth it of course. Bear also currently has pins in her, and is unable to bend her leg to stand up completely at the moment. There was a worry she might get her leg caught in the bars so Cobby put cardboard on the inside of the cage which has the added benefit of helping with draughts. Bear is also unable to go to the toilet herself properly at the moment but Cobby highly rates the vet beds. They are thick and fleecy, and any urine goes straight through and absorbed underneath.
Bear is certainly on the right path to recovery, and vets are very pleased with her progress. She seems to be following vet’s orders well, and we're confident she will be up and about again very soon. There was a fear she may need her tail amputated, but she has been getting some feeling back to it lately so hopefully she will get to keep her tail, so it's expected she will make a full recovery which is just fantastic.
There is also a surprise waiting for Bear when she fully recovers, just in time for summer as well. Cobby has decided to securely enclose the garden so as this terrible incident does not occur ever again, not to Bear or her 2 siblings. The enclosure Cobby installed was one from ProtectaPet, whom CatsMatter work closely with. If you are considering garden enclosures for your own cats, do check out our site where you can find out more about ProtectaPet, plus find out how purchasing an enclosure via our site, also helps the CatsMatter campaign at the same time and enables us to continue helping RTA victims
Cats tend to survive cage rest much better than their human carers. They emerge fit and healthy again and tend to easily forgive and forget the trauma.
However, it’s us who carry the scars and nightmares, so we thought any advice we could offer will hopefully ease the pressure and be well received. If you have a story, or further advise on this issue, do share this on our social media channels to help others.