Elmo had his hip broken when he was just a kitten. Now, at 7-years-old,
Elmo is struggling with the long-term results of the injury. His weight
rose to 24 pounds. He could barely walk. Another cat in the house took
over the duty of grooming him. Much as his owners tried, diet alone was
not helping the feline lose those excess pounds. That's when
veterinarians at the University of Tennessee made a surprising
The Canine Arthritis Rehabilitation Sports Medicine (CARES) program at the university also works with other pets if they qualify. Once Elmo qualified he became one of just a few cats receiving water therapy at the school.
Twice a week since mid-January, Elmo, a chocolate Siamese, comes to the school escorted by one or both of his owners, Marvin and Elizabeth Warsow. He starts with ten minutes on the underwater treadmill, walking in two-minute stretches. Surprisingly he doesn't seem to mind the water much and sits quietly while the tank fills around him. With the water taking the weight off of his painful hip he takes off.
Once the treadmill work is finished, he moves on to the lap pool. Since the pool is three and a half feet deep, the vets would like Elmo to wear a life vest as he swims. Elmo had other ideas. During his first swim he wriggled his way out of the vest. Now he does a few laps around the pool each time with one of the vets hanging on to his collar and lead to make sure he is safe.
The part of the whole day that Elmo really finds objectionable is the blow-dry afterwards, even though he is rewarded with a finger-full of salmon paste. He then goes straight for the safety of his carrier. By the time he gets home he is one tired feline.
Elmo's goal weight is 12 pounds, half of his starting weight. The CARES vets estimate that it will take a year for Elmo to make his goal. With the regular exercise and small, controlled meals, Elmo has already lost more than a pound in the first month. The Warsows say that his mobility shows definite improvement and his asthma is making him cough less than before.
To keep Elmo out of the food for the other three cats the Warsow's feed them on elevated surfaces. They are looking forward to the happy day when Elmo will be able to jump again and they will have to find a new solution to that problem.