Tripod Cats – Understanding Feline Amputees

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 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 as comfortable as possible and keep the injury risk as 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.


You may be worried that an amputee cat is depressed, here are some signs to look for:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Not drinking
  • 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

If you are concerned about feline depression, read about the most common signs here: 6 Signs of Feline Depression so you will know what to do next.

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.

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WARNING!!! SOMEWHAT GROSS! We recently adopted a two month old hind leg amputee female kitten. She has adjusted well to running and playing, however she has been sitting down after she poops, which is leaving bits of feces and litter in the area near her anus, and she occasionally leaves marks in certain areas of the house. Any suggestions.


My 8 yr old cat had his front right shoulder removed this past Friday. It is Monday, three days after, and he is purring, drinking, and eating. His right shoulder had grown very swollen within a 2-3 week period, making me extremely concerned with the rate of growth. I am so happy with how recovery is going so far. He is getting in and out of the litter box himself (yesterday he managed to cover it up himself too!). He is being very good taking his medications (Buprenex & Onsoir). I believe he was diagnosed with the soft tissue tumor,… Read more »


We just adopted a 4 year old hind leg amputee from the animal rescue this past weekend. He has recently had his leg amputated as the fur is growing back, and he had his stitches out a couple weeks back. i would estimate he lost his lef approx a month to two. I’m finding he has trouble standing up after sitting or sleeping. He can’t quite seem to get his grip and will reverse up and go in circles as he tries to find his balance. i’m hoping this will improve in time, as he does not like to be… Read more »

tammie wheeler

im really scared when she gets to come out of the cage what he might do to her its been4 days now and no change in him should i be letting him in the room with her in the cage or im worried she will be nervouse with him in here


my kitty just had her hind leg removed shes in a cage with a cone my other cat is hissing and biting at me i have had to shut him out but someone is always with him but hes been showing aggresiveness please someone help me with advise hes 10 months old and i know right now our worlds been turn upside down please help

Katy aird

I have an awesome tripod guy ( missing front leg) he turned up on our street nearly 7 years ago missing his leg( no idea how it happened or where he came from, he’s about 9 and was semi feral so had a hell of a job catching him) and all in all he has a great life, is faster and more agile than I could ever expect and far more affectionate than I ever thought possiable for a cat that’s had such a hard life, he runs rigs around two dogs and another 2 rescue cats. Only issue he… Read more »

Sondis Gurman

Hello I have adopted 4 months start kitten was amputated from right front leg due to car accident in the first was difficult to deal with him but now he playing and eating well the only problem is the letter box he can not keep his balance and stand well always staind with it’s poop I have to keep eye on him and clean him like a baby. I love him so much from first sight his eye looked to me so I felt that he need me since he has also deformity in his right leg too. Be kind… Read more »


We resuced a previously injured stray cat and are providing her medical care the vet says one forelimb cannot be saved . Worried about her rehabilitation thereafter.we already have a dog who is old and doesn’t really fancy cats..We are on a transferable job and might move soon. He has been a stray all his life and will he adjust to living in a house and would anyone adopt a 3 legged cat? Anxious and worried.


Hi there. We’ve been searching for some advice; there are pretty scant resources online, oddly. We have a 12 year old male cat who had a left hind leg amputation last year. Emotionally, he’s pretty okay. In the last few months we’ve noticed him curving his back toward the side where his hind leg was removed when he walks. It appears sometimes that he’s in some discomfort. Imagine a human with a crick in his or her neck, that’s sort of the position. He has recently begun stumbling sideways a bit when walking and his right leg is splayed out… Read more »


Hi! I adopted a Bengal kitten whose right rear foot was chewed off by its mother. She is active and fun of life, hasn’t any problems getting around, but jumping is difficult. The little stump is continually whacking the floor, getting litter stuck, bleeding and I bet the nerves endings scream when she bumps it. Would it be a good idea to have the rest of the leg removed or just adopt a wait and se attitude? And advice would be appreciated. She’s nine months old.