We thought we’d share Eileen’s story – every year we take in three-legged cats. These cats are usually injured or sometimes as kittens they may have been born with a deformity in their leg which later is amputated. Little Eileen is approximately 6 months old, she was found with an injured leg by a kind cat-loving member of the public. She was taken to a vet, as a stray they tried to trace her owner, sadly her owner was not found. She came into care; sadly her leg had been injured for some time and needed to be amputated. Our vet thinks she may have been bitten by a dog. She needed cage rest to begin with, our pens are split level with a ladder. She had supervised exercise with our CCAs to help her get used to her walking on three legs. She needed to wear a buster collar for two weeks to stop her picking at her stitches and scabs. She had a course of antibiotics and pain relief during this time. After many weeks, she has now recovered from her ordeal. She has full access to her pen, she can use her ladder with no problems. She’s a smashing little cat, who is super friendly and playful. We know she will make a lovely member of the family for somebody.
We thought we'd share some information about three-legged cats.....
Some cats are born with only three limbs, but the majority of three-legged cats have suffered injury or disease, which has led to amputation of the affected limb. Cats adjust to a three-legged lifestyle remarkably well, although the initial adaptation process can be a little challenging. However, once adjusted, most three-legged cats are able to jump, climb, hunt and play albeit perhaps a little more slowly than in their fourlegged days. Young cats and males are more likely to become three-legged – amputation is often a result of traumatic injury, with males more likely to roam further than females, and younger exploring cats more likely to be involved in road accidents. Most three-legged cats have lost a hind limb, rather than a forelimb.
My cat has had its leg amputated, how can I help them adjust?
• confine your cat to the house at least, or take advice from your vet and follow any aftercare advice they provide. Be sure to speak to your vet about the subtle signs of pain in cats, as this may need managing in the post-operative period
• ensure there is easy access to a comfortable, easily accessible place to sleep, food, water, a litter tray and a scratching post. Although cats don’t like to eat near to their drinking or toileting area, immediately following surgery, your cat is likely to appreciate these facilities being nearby
• other pets in the household may recognise a change. Cats rely on scent to identify the members of their social group and a stay at the vets can mean cats are not recognised when they return. It is prudent to reintroduce cats to one another slowly and only once the patient has had a chance to recover.
• your cat may take some time to relearn how to balance with three limbs. Limit access to high surfaces and keep them indoors until they are more confident. Provide stools that can be used as steps to help your cat to access things like the sofa
• move furniture closer together so it isn’t so difficult to negotiate. As your cat’s confidence and ability increases, furniture can gradually be moved back to its normal location
• be aware of litter tray problems. Toileting is a vulnerable activity for a cat and if they don’t feel safe using their litter tray, they may choose to toilet elsewhere within the house. You may need to provide a step to improve access to the litter tray and be patient while they learn to cover, dig and clean themselves with three legs instead of four
• your cat may appreciate help in grooming areas they have problems reaching due to difficulty balancing. If your cat isn’t used to being groomed, start very slowly and be sure to make the experience positive by offering praise and rewards
• when they can go outside again, ensure they have sufficient access to their entry and exit points. If a cat feels under threat while trying to exit the house, they may become reluctant to go outside and this could lead to a behaviour problem. Maintain access to a litter tray for your cat. They may no longer feel confident enough to go to the toilet outside
Do three-legged cats think their leg is still there?
Some cats will feel that they can still use their missing limb – for example, many cats missing a hind leg, will continue to try to scratch their ear with the missing limb, for the rest of their lives. It is not absolutely known whether cats are affected by phantom limb sensation which affects a high proportion of human amputees, but they only rarely show signs suggestive of this.
Why is controlling weight so important in three-legged cats?
It is likely that the change in movement and load shared over the remaining limbs, may contribute to the development of arthritis later in life. The majority of elderly four-legged cats are already affected by arthritis, so it is possible that it may develop earlier in their three-legged counterparts. For this reason, it is especially important to control their weight carefully. Extra weight puts more strain on the remaining legs which can cause problems later in life. Cats which have lost a front leg may be particularly at risk of the consequences of excessive weight and arthritis, as the front legs carry more weight than the back legs. Some cats overeat when stressed and there is likely to be a reduction in exercise during recovery from amputation, so owners should be aware that their cat could be prone to becoming overweight. Discuss an optimum weight for your cat with your vet and ask them to help you in implementing an appropriate diet. (Source: Cats Protection)