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Caring for a cat with an amputated leg

Caring for a cat with an amputated leg
by Dr Grant Hampson

Read time: 4 min

If we know anything about cats, it's that they're extraordinarily good at getting themselves into sticky situations. Jumping from a height can be fun and games if they aim it right, but can sometimes results in a serious injury. If there's severe trauma to any limb (and in some cases of limb cancer), this could mean an amputation for your cat.

The good news is that cats are extremely adaptable creatures and recover really well following limb amputation and after a short rest, they'll be back to their normal selves.

Do they cope well?

Most cats that need to have a limb amputation often do so due to severe pain or trauma. So as a matter of fact, they often feel much better once that pain has been relieved through the limb removal. Once they have recovered from their anaesthetics, many cats are up on their feet, albeit 3 of them, after a few hours.

How long does recovery take

Limb amputation sounds very complex, and it is, but you will be surprised how quickly your cat will recover once they have had their surgery. Some vets may request that they stay overnight for observations, but in most cases they will come home the same day!

They will need strict rest for 10-14 days whilst the wound heals, and for the first few days they may need restricted movement, but with sign off from your vet they may be allowed to potter around the house and garden with supervision for 5-10 minutes at a time.

It is really important that they are not allowed to lick their wound or get it dirty as this can result in an infection, which may require antibiotics or even another surgery. Use the buster collar or medical pet t-shirt provided and leave this on until told otherwise.

Your vet will likely ask you to return for a check up 3 and 10 days post operatively. This is to check that the wound is healing well and ensure your cat is recovering nicely.

Once the 10-14 day healing process is over, your cat can go back to their normal life.

Is it painful?

Surgery can be uncomfortable, but don’t worry, your cat will have been given nice strong pain relief, such as opioids, throughout and immediately following the surgery. As well as opioids they will have been given an anti-inflammatory medication which helps relieve pain. You will likely be given some pain medications which you can continue to use at home, typically they are given with food. Follow your vets guidance here and always follow the instructions.

Some people worry about phantom leg pain which happens in people when they have limb amputations. Luckily, there have been no reports of this in cats.

Do I need to make any changes?

The most important thing is to ensure that they can access all their essentials when they first come home. Move all their beds, litter boxes, cat food and water bowls onto the floor so they can access them easily. As they recover you might find they need a bit of help stepping over and into things. This is your chance to get a little inventive, some people use ramps and steps to help make their lives a little bit easier now they only have three legs.

If you come up with any unique ideas send them to us, we would love to share them with our fellow amputee cats!

Three-legged ginger cat going up the stairs

Will they have a normal life?

For the most part, yes, absolutely! After the first couple of weeks recovering most cats will be getting on really well, maybe the odd stumble going upstairs and trying to jump up onto something. However, they will adapt in their own unique way to their surroundings, they will learn which jumps they can make and which they can’t.

There is no reason why your 3 legged cat cannot go outside, but It’s best to go out and supervise them the first few times, just to make sure they are coping well.

The cats carrying extra weight may take a little longer to adapt as their weight puts more strain on the remaining legs. So if your cat is a bit on the chubby side, it is definitely a good idea to start a weight loss diet as this will do wonders for their long term recovery.

Cats with osteoarthritis may also struggle a little more, compared to a cat with healthy joints, as their remaining limbs now have extra strain on them, which can exacerbate the arthritis in these limbs. Joint supplements can be really helpful in these situations, have a chat with your vet if this is something you want to consider.

Your cat having their limb amputated certainly does not mean that the fun is going to end! Remember, by having their limb amputated you will have saved them from a lot of pain. It may take a little getting used to, but you and your cat will still have lots of fun adventures ahead.

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