One of my co-workers is blessed to have in her family a much loved three-legged cat named Max. If the loss of one of his legs wasn’t obvious, you’d never know that he has this handicap.
Out of curiosity I asked my co-worker if Max had been born with only three legs. He seemed so at ease in his way of life. She told me that his leg had been amputated only eleven months earlier. This cat is living proof that animals can adapt to many circumstances they are forced to live with.
Adapting to a condition you were born with might be a little easier — it would be the only way of life you’ve known. But when you are born with all your limbs and suddenly find yourself minus one, how much strength, courage and willpower it must take to overcome the change!
At least people have two arms to help us maneuver and hold things as well as two legs for walking. Cats have four limbs also, but they are all used for walking. Whenever a limb is missing, they have to strengthen the remaining limbs to compensate for the loss.
An Emotional Time for Pet Owners
As a cat owner, it’s important to give your pet moral, mental and physical support.
According to Laci Schaible, DVM, amputation of a cat’s leg is a common, simple surgery. She finds it is probably harder and more stressful on the pet parents than the pet. The pet owners usually get quite stressed upon seeing their cat right after the surgery.
“They cry and break down, so saddened to see [their pet] without all limbs,” Dr. Schaible says.
That’s a perfectly natural reaction, she says, but she wants pet owners to know that these stories “usually have a happy ending.”
Watch the video below to learn the story of Eby the kitten:
How to Help a Three-Legged Cat
The loss of a limb affects normal feline behaviors such as running, walking, jumping and climbing. Their hunting abilities are also affected. Everyday activities like grooming and digging will require more effort.
Yes, cats do usually find ways to adapt, but it’s a difficult transition. Angst and anxiety may make them feel insecure. They must learn different ways to perform certain tasks.
There are things you can do to help your three-legged cat adjust to life after amputation:
- Provide a small ramp to help your cat get to higher ground — perhaps his favorite spot is a window sill or a table by the window. He will need help getting up there.
- Give him a comfortable space in which to recuperate and come to terms with his new body.
- Move furniture close together to help him get from point A to point B. Once his confidence builds up, you can place the furniture back in its original location.
- Make sure the litter box is easy to get to. Place it close to his resting area. Some retraining may be necessary, as often post-operative depression will result in refusal to use the litter box.
- Keep a close watch on your cat’s eating habits. Aside from becoming less active after surgery, he may seek to comfort himself with food. Weight gain can become a real problem, since he has fewer limbs on which to spread out his weight.
- Exercise is a must. Begin with light exercises, then move on to to a more active form to strengthen his limbs. Buy cat toys to facilitate play and exercise.
- Grooming help will probably be required for a while, as your cat may not be able to clean himself properly at first. If he can’t reach one side of his face, for example, wipe it with a wet cloth now and then.
- Don’t let yourself become over-protective and feel you must carry your cat around. It might be hard for you to watch, but he has to work things out on his own and learn for himself how to make up for his missing leg.
Don’t expect too much of your pet. It may take him a while to bounce back to his old self — but chances are, he will.
As for Max, kudos to him! It is plain to see that he is “king” of his castle. I am willing to bet he’ll live an enjoyable, full life now — hardly noticing his missing leg.
- Laci Schaible, DVM: Tripods: Does it hurt you more than it hurts them?
- Feline Advisory Bureau: Adapting to life on three legs
- Messy Beast: Living with a disabled cat
- Our Happy Cat: Owning a three-legged cat