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Life After Amputation

Cat Boy - by Catherine Sweet RVN

I thought I would write my account of Mr. Cat boy’s recovery process since his hind limb amputation so that it may help you to know and understand the recovery process that happens following amputation of a limb. I hope that this information may help you to feel prepared when your cat comes home.

‘Cat’ is a 5 year old male rescued cat who was hit by a car in December 2009 and received a fracture to his left femur bone. It was a very hard decision to go ahead with the procedure and my first thought was his quality of life and that he would not be the same playful cat.  

When he came home after the procedure he was very quiet and just wanted to hide under the bed so we kept him to one room with his food and litter tray and encouraged him to eat and stroked him but allowed him to rest. He seemed quite depressed and it was really hard for us to see the wound. Gradually after a week he began to move round the rest of the house and started to clamber onto the bed. He clambered up furniture and the stairs rather than jumped but he seemed desperate to do all his normal activities. If he knocked the stump he would cry out which was distressing to see so we tried to make sure there were not too many obstacles around.

When we were sure he was strong enough to move about freely he went out into the garden. This was after about 6 weeks. He was never a tree climber but he still managed to go next door and be out all day before coming home. 

Six months on he now can lie on his side that was amputated and he can roll from one side to another. He has only just gained the courage and strength to jump onto the kitchen chairs and my lap. His hair has fully grown over where the limb was and you can’t really notice that it’s missing. He fly’s round the house when he’s playing as fast as the other cat and he still tries to scratch his face sometimes with his phantom limb which is quite strange to watch.  I feel that I do need to look out for him but I don’t stop him from leading the life he did before, he s just even more special now!

The recovery process can vary depending on which limb is amputated, age, weight and temperament. 

When your cat comes home

  • Reduce confusing frustration by enriching the home environment with ‘Feliway’ in your house before your cat comes home to make them feel as relaxed as possible.
  • Adapt places they like to go to in the house such as the bed by making temporary levels for them to clamber up to, eventually they may have the strength to jump all the way!
  • Encourage your cat to recover in one room to begin with and then gradually let them around the rest of the house as they become more mobile.
  • Increase the amount of litter trays around the house.
  • Remember to leave a good gap for them to go through doors, after amputation they find it difficult to balance and prise them open.
  • Try not to let them jump up yet, gradually allow the strength in the opposing limbs to grow and compensate. 
  • Watch for signs of pain. Monitor their mood and if they are quiet and refuse to eat or drink contact your veterinary surgeon straight away for advice. 
  • Make sure they can urinate and pass faeces; if they are straining at all you should contact your veterinary surgeon.
  • If you have other pets introduce them gradually back together and keep an eye on how they behave together, especially when you re introduce them back into the neighbourhood with other cats. 

As they recover

  • Watch weight gain- change over to a low fat diet gradually and reduce feeding if necessary. Being less active can lead to weight gain which puts pressure on the remaining limbs and can lead to arthritis. 
  • Encourage to play gradually and retrieve food from obstacles to decrease boredom, depression and encourage movement.

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