Owning a disabled animal can be difficult at times. Every loss comes with different challenges you and your feline must face. When it comes to three-legged cats, however, these challenges depend very greatly on which leg it is they are missing. The age of the cat affects the emotional standpoint more than anything. You are reading this for one of three reasons… You are curious, you are considering adopting a three-legged cat, or your cat has recently become an amputee. Let’s look at the differences between age, front leg, and hind leg amputee cats.
Depending on the age the cat had its leg removed will change how the cat initially reacts emotionally. The younger the cat, the less likely it will become depressed or show signs of depression. A kitten less than 4 months of age will have the quickest recovery mentally, emotionally, and physically. When a kitten is younger than 4 months, they are still learning all it takes to be a cat and they are young enough to not be invested in daily activity most cats enjoy, such as jumping high, scratching, and using the litter box normally. For a kitten over 4 months to 1 year in age, adapting to newer ways of doing things will be more of a challenge but rarely do they suffer emotional stress long-term. Then we have young adult cats, ages 2 to 5 years. These cats will have a hard time adjusting and will likely suffer from some kind of depression. Depending on your care and love will be the final outcome of how long they are depressed. Now for adult cats, ages 6 to 9 years, it is the same as the young adults, but with a greater chance of the cat losing interest in many things they used to enjoy. Elderly cats, 10 years and over, have the hardest time with coping both mentally and physically. They spent many years knowing their body and what it does and does not do. More than half of the elderly felines who lose a leg become depressed and some do become severely depressed to the point of not eating. It is the owner’s responsibility as their feline family to help them any way they can through this process.
Front Leg Amputee
When a cat is missing either front leg, they typically get on really well with basic life. Problems that can arise are covering their messes in the litter box, scratching their front nails, and general climbing. As stated above, everything varies greatly on the age. You will need to make sure their front nails are clipped on a regular basis to keep them from snagging items in the house. You will have to watch what kind of toys you allow them to play with for that same reason. To keep them comfortable, you may have to assist them with burying their pee and poop in the litter box. This may not sound appealing to some, so the self-cleaning litter pans are always an option. As for climbing and general playing, they will adjust to getting around. They did not lose their ability to jump, run, or even attempt to climb things. You would be surprised to know, the fastest cat in my home is the three-legged one missing her front left leg. She is also great at jumping and general playing. To her, life with three legs is normal.
Back Leg Amputee
When a cat is missing either back leg, they will struggle with basic day-to-day activity and will need added assistance. Problems that can arise are using the litter box, jumping, and back pain. When a cat has a hind leg taken off, they tend to have the hardest time emotionally. A huge part of a cat’s life is running and jumping, both abilities will be hindered greatly. Though they will be able to run, the ability to jump is something they have to get used to not doing. This is where the importance of steps and reachable areas they enjoy, such as windows, are very important. Areas such as beds, sofas, and windows will have to have pet stairs by them to keep the cat from harming itself. Back issues usually come into play from the cat still attempting to jump. All of a cat’s power to jump is in the hind legs, most cats never learn how to jump with only one back leg. They often become depressed from this and hind leg amputees have the worst cases of depression.
If you are considering adopting an amputee cat...
They will likely already have a system down and you will have to learn to adjust to it. Depending on the leg that is missing, you may need to consider the furniture in your home. You will want them to be comfortable as possible and keep the injury risk low as possible. Don’t worry about other cats or even dogs treating a three-legged cat any differently. They aren’t as shallow as us humans! They likely won’t even notice the difference.
If your cat has recently become an amputee cat...
You have to be there for them and love them. That is the most important thing. Second to that comes adjusting through the process with them. Assisting them when they need it, and using your best judgment of their overall emotional state.
Signs of Depression in Cats
Lack of appetite
Using the litter box less or not at all
Not cleaning themselves
Hair loss, hair pulling
Lack of interest in things they once loved
No interest in playing with you
Change in vocal behavior (no purring/meowing)
Staying in one place for very long periods
Don’t let a person hinder your thoughts of adopting an amputee cat. I heard quite a number of nasty comments such as “Why would you want that?” as if the cat was just a non-living thing to them. Amputee cats are still cats, they just need extra love from the people around them. I would actually find it beneficial for a family with children to adopt an amputee cat. Teaching them differences on the outside don’t change what is on the inside. Four legs, three legs, even two legs… A cat is a cat all the same. Compassion, love, and understanding is what they need and something we all need a little more of in this world.