Senior Cat Afraid of Handling

Sedation is Safer for Medical Care

I have a 15 year old cat who cannot stand to be touched by hands. He got extremely traumatized when he was neutered as a young boy and will only allow me to pet him with my feet. He is very long haired and has long claws. I had a groomer that he would allow to shave him but he started hyperventilating and slobbering and I was afraid he was going to have a heart attack. I am 80 years old and cannot handle him myself. I really hate to have him sedated because he is my baby and I do not want to lose him.

Dr. Nichol:
You two are lucky to have each other. Those hair mats are a legitimate concern-the health of your cat’s skin is important. His overgrown nails also need trimming so they don’t cause him pain by twisting his toes as he walks. Quality of life matters.

Cats are notorious for “one-event learning”. Your kitty’s history is significant. His overwhelming panic during restraint as a youngster has led to a lifetime of fear associations with being held. Now that he’s older, struggling against physical restraint would be potentially dangerous.

Safe management for your cat will require sedation. And now that he’s approaching retirement age it’s high time for a thorough exam of all body systems including his mouth. Tartar build-up leads to severe gum disease – a common reason for older cats to stop grooming.  A lab profile would open the door to caring for aging kidneys. Modern medicine does good things.

Your cat can have injectable sedation or he could breathe oxygen plus a gas anesthetic inside a clear induction chamber. The latter approach involves no real handling until the kitty relaxes enough for a haircut, nail trim, exam and blood draw. With IV fluid support dental cleaning could be carried out if needed.

I’m with you on taking special care of older pets. And you are right to be concerned about safety. With today’s anesthetic agents and monitoring equipment the standard of care is way ahead of past generations. I advise taking this bull by the horns so your fine kitty can share more good years with you.