Cats are known for their agility, grace, and playful nature. However, like other animals, they can suffer from injuries, undergo surgeries, or develop chronic conditions like arthritis. Cat physical therapy becomes an invaluable tool to help our feline friends regain mobility, reduce pain, and enhance their overall quality of life. In this blog post, our vets in Vancouver discuss various rehabilitation techniques and the benefits they offer.

The Importance of Cat Physical Therapy

Cat physical therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery and well-being of cats, especially post-surgery or when managing chronic conditions like arthritis. Like humans, cats can benefit immensely from tailored rehabilitation programs to improve their physical function and comfort. The main goals of cat physical therapy are:

  • Pain Relief: Chronic pain from conditions like arthritis or acute pain from injuries and surgeries can significantly affect a cat's quality of life. Physical therapy helps alleviate pain through various techniques, promoting a quicker and more comfortable recovery.
  • Improved Mobility: Physical therapy can help restore and enhance a cat's mobility, enabling them to move more freely and engage in their natural behaviors. This is particularly important for older cats or those recovering from surgery.
  • Strength Building: After an injury or surgery, muscles can weaken. Rehabilitation exercises are designed to rebuild strength, ensuring that cats regain their ability to move and play without restrictions.
  • Enhanced Overall Health: Regular physical therapy can improve a cat's cardiovascular health, flexibility, and coordination, contributing to overall well-being and longevity.

How can physical therapy and rehab help my cat?

Physical therapy and rehabilitation can help your cat recover from surgery, illness, or injury. They can also help strengthen muscles and support cats with painful conditions such as arthritis.

Do I need to find a physical therapist, or can my veterinarian rehabilitate my cat?

Your veterinarian may be able to provide rehabilitation for your cat. However, depending on the issue, such as after orthopedic surgery or for a chronic condition like arthritis, your vet might refer you to a rehabilitation specialist. These specialists have access to modalities that may not be available at a regular vet clinic and can provide specialized training for specific injuries or illnesses.

How is the need for physical therapy in cats diagnosed?

A physical examination is used to diagnose cats' need for physical therapy. The veterinarian looks for any painful conditions causing mobility issues. The physical exam is important in finding the right treatment place and diagnosing the correct symptoms.

Are physical therapy and rehab painful for my cat?

Most of the time, physical therapy and rehab procedures are not painful for the cat. However, some treatments, like acupuncture, involve fine needles, which some cats might not tolerate. If your cat is generally anxious at the vet, you might need to pre-medicate it before it comes in for physical therapy. Hence, it has fewer painful experiences during the procedure.

Rehabilitation Techniques for Cats

Several rehabilitation techniques are commonly used in cat physical therapy, each offering unique benefits in improving mobility and reducing pain. Here are some of the most effective methods:


Hydrotherapy, or water therapy, reduces pain and increases mobility without stressing the joints. The buoyancy of water supports the cat's body, allowing for easier and more comfortable movement.

Cold Laser Therapy

Laser therapy uses light energy to reduce inflammation and promote tissue healing. It is particularly beneficial for managing arthritis and accelerating post-surgical recovery.

Massage Therapy

Therapeutic massage helps reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and alleviate pain. It can be especially soothing for cats with chronic pain or stiffness.

Therapeutic Exercises

Customized exercises are designed to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion. These exercises are crucial for recovery post-surgery or injury and for maintaining mobility in older cats.

Electrical Stimulation

This technique uses electrical impulses to stimulate muscles, relieving pain and strengthening muscles. It is often used in rehabilitation programs for cats with severe muscle atrophy or nerve damage.

Shock Wave 

Shock wave therapy is a non-surgical procedure that involves applying a series of low-energy acoustic wave pulsations directly to an injured area of a cat or dog. This helps to initiate the body's natural healing response, reducing pain and improving mobility.

Physical Therapy Services We Offer at Mountain View Veterinary Hospital

At Mountain View Veterinary Hospital, we offer a range of rehabilitation services to help dogs and cats feel great and live healthier, happier lives. Our veterinarians can also provide guidance on performing exercises and strength training at home to aid in your pet's recovery.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.