Though limb amputation seems like a traumatic procedure for a feline to endure, most cats adjust surprisingly well to having a leg removed. Despite some pain and an adjustment period, cats instinctively learn to compensate for the loss of a back or front leg. Whether the reason for amputation is injury or disease, prompt veterinarian attention and loving care following the procedure are vital to help a cat with a newly-amputated leg heal and adapt.
Reasons for Amputation
The most common causes for limb amputation in cats are injuries. Some bone breakages are so bad that setting them with casts will not make them heal. In these cases, removal is the only way for such felines to heal and thrive. Other types of injuries, such as those caused by animal attacks or leg hold traps, result in irreparable damage that requires amputation. Diseases, such as malignant tumors, also may warrant removal of a cat's leg so the cancer does not spread.
Caring for the New Amputee
Once a veterinarian has made an evaluation he will determine the need for amputation. The procedure to be done is fairly straightforward. Anesthesia and pain medications are administered, and the leg is removed. Once the feline comes out of surgery and is sent home, her caregiver must follow up with pain medications as indicated. In addition, bandages must be changed and the wound cleaned based on instructions provided by the veterinarian. The cat's owner will be instructed to keep the animal as still as possible for the first few weeks until the wound has healed, and to use an Elizabethan collar to prevent the cat from licking the incision site or chewing her stitches. A follow-up veterinarian visit must be made to evaluate the area, and remove any stitches or staples that were used during the amputation.
Helping a Three-Legged Cat Adapt
Following leg amputation surgery, the feline patient will try to get up and walk around within days of the procedure. However, she may seem confused by the missing limb as she tries to walk, jump or scratch. The pet's owner can help by making sure the cat is kept in a safe area with soft surfaces. Keeping her away from items, such as furniture, will help keep her from jumping too soon following surgery. As the cat heals, keeping her groomed, well-nourished and stress-free will help her adapt to the loss of a leg.
Special Care Consideration
As a three-legged cat adjusts to her new life, her owner may need to make some adjustments for her comfort and well being. Using ramps will help the pet get into a window or up on allowed furniture. The owner may need to adjust the size of the litter box based on the cat's abilities. If the feline become less active and gains weight as a result, she may need specific dietary changes for weight maintenance. However, these changes may be temporary only until the cat adjusts to the loss of the leg. Continuing to follow up with veterinary care and keeping the three-legged cat indoors also are important to the well-being of the amputee feline.