Tripod Cats – Understanding Feline Amputees

Last Updated on March 22, 2020

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.

Age

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.

SIGNS OF DEPRESSION IN CATS

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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131 thoughts on “Tripod Cats – Understanding Feline Amputees”

  1. Hello, I have an almost 2 year old rescue cat (Bonnie), she had her front right leg amputated before we took her in and we helped her heel, she was 7 months old at the time. Due to the coronavirus we have been at home constantly and she has had our full attention, She healed and is now full of life and so playful. We then had to go back for a short time in the office and decided we would get her a friend! We rescued an 8 week old kitten (we named her Java) We did the introductions as stated online, let her sniff the carrier first and that’s when it went up in the air, she hissed and growled instantly which we expected as everywhere online says this is normal!! after that Java was in the kitchen for the 1st 2 weeks with me working in there with her all day whilst Bonnie (tripod) had run of the house and my partner who works upstairs was company for her, we did the slow introductions after 2 weeks and used the baby gates to separate them. Then we tested the waters and Bonnie (tripod) started growling and smacking her instantly. We separated them again, then we tried again, it seemed to work. Although Bonnie was growling she wasn’t attacking. But out of no where one a day later we heard Bonnie attack her (claws out, hissing, growling and backing her into a corner) We had the spray bottle on hand and it worked to some extent, she would still prowl and hunt the kitten at any chance she got. Our situation now is we have tried to reintroduce them after allowing them both freedom for about a month with many hiccups. Bonnie is content in the kitchen and never seems to want to leave. Java on the other hand wants into the kitchen but falls to the ground or becomes a wallflower as soon as she see’s bonnie. The cat tree is in the kitchen and this seems to be what causes some fights but not all (She will hunt her whilst she eats from behind a door and when she is finished eating she will run at her). We are going to purchase another cat tree this payday and maybe get some more toys to add to the 500 we already have. Im not sure what else we can do. Any advice is welcome.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment, Nicola. Yes, this is very common for cats who are new to each other. Unfortunately, it can take a long time before one cat is okay with another. Females tend to be more territorial as well and this has to do with their instincts which they should never be punished for. Java seems to be submitting to Bonnie which is good but for some reason, Bonnie is not accepting this behavior. Have you tried using toys to interact with them together? Feather wands are usually great for this. If they have a shared playtime together, both are more likely to relax around one another. I would start with two separate wands, you use one with Bonnie and your partner uses another with Java. Just make sure they are together in the same room while they are playing separately. Try this every day for 3 or 4 days and then start using one toy between the two. Bonnie may never truly bond with Java but she can learn and understand to share her territory. Make sure you have at least two litterboxes and they have separate food and water bowls as well. Cats don’t always like to share! You can also give Feliway spray a try. This tends to help with introductions as it helps calm cats down naturally and ease stress. If you don’t want to spend that much, you can try the cheaper option which is called Nature’s Miracle Just For Cats Calming Spray. Most pet stores seem to carry that but if you can’t find it, it is available on Chewy.com. I have used both and both work well.

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  2. We made friends with a cat who was owned by someone in a mobile home park. He is very sweet and friendly with our animal friendly dog. One morning I took the dog out. It was very early and dark..maybe 5am. The cat always greeted us at some point…he wandered…this particular morning my dog was greeting another dog and here comes the cat. I didn’t see him. He’s black. Suddenly the other dog goes after him (now I see him, lol) and got ahold of him for a few seconds. As the cat ran away I could see he was injured. After the other dog and owner left, I leashed up my dog and told him “find” and he did. It wasn’t good. Cat (Ebony) was dragging his hind leg. I’m more of a pitbull, large dog person, so cats aren’t my forte’ but this cat was otherwise healthy. I wanted to work with the owner to vet him, but she wanted to put him down. NO!! Animal control worked as a liason and got us possession so we took him to the vet. He, as I expected, had that leg amputated. He’s about 10. But very healthy. Anyway, I’m still trying to find his vet records, previous owner is not interested in cooperating..she’s not very nice, but at 85 she’s earned her buttons….anyway, I never thought of the things I see about the amputee stuff..good info…we do have accidents on hardwood floors with him…and “chosen” corners…pee mostly. We have two other cats maybe 6 and 12 years old and we are 60 and 70 years young, respectively…we are fit and active. We have a room where we keep the litter and food in general, but had to place a second litter box in another room because he seemed to pee there. I guess my question is, the other cats are whole and use the litter box fine, we don’t want to have boxes all over the place..Ebony doesn’t bury his waste…could that be because of the amputation? I never watched him eliminate outdoors..I don’t know if he ever learned and she (previous owner) won’t talk to me. Any suggestions.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment, Valerie. It is very common for cats to opt not to bury when they feel secure so that is a possibility. Cats who have a hind leg amputated will sometimes have balance issues when using the box and if they have fallen or stepped in their waste, it will discourage them from doing the action that led to this. Cats are very concerned with keeping clean. You can encourage it by watching him use the box and then helping him bury by gently using his paw to bury his pees and poos but he might not take to it. In my experience, other cats will sometimes pick up the slack and do the burying for other cats who don’t do it. I have an adult male who is not an amputee but will sometimes not bury his messes. One of the other cats will do it prior to using the box. This can also be down to age. You can also try offering a different brand of litter (some cats are very picky with litter) or a different type of litter entirely, just to see what he prefers. Litter box sizes and shapes can factor in as well. It can be a process but if you want to ensure he buries his waste, it might be worth giving a try. I hope things work out for you, your partner and Ebony!

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  3. 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.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Luke. She is still very young and will likely need time to adjust to using the box. Invest in some baby whipes and wipe her butt after she uses the litter box to prevent infections. Because litter and feces is getting stuck to her, it can lead to a UTI which female cats are more prone to. You can also opt to use pellet litter instead of standard clay litter which is less likely to get stuck to her and generally more hygenic for cats. Making use of pee pads is also an option. Instead of filling the box with litter, put a pee pad in the bottom and only a small amount of cat litter. This will give her more room to sit if she has to and will make it less likely she will have bits of litter stuck to her.

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  4. 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, Fibrosarcoma, as we are unsure until we receive the biopsy results. Feeling very proud and hopeful for his future!

    Reply
  5. 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 helped when this happens. Any advice?? He is able to jump up on things – beds, tables, lounges etc, although is cautious.

    Reply
  6. 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

    Reply
    • Sorry for the late reply, Tammie. Keeping him separated from her entirely will make it worse. If you have an area where both cats can at the very least smell one another that is ideal. How long does she have to remain in the cage for? He may be sensing her distress as well and he is becoming upset over it. Cats don’t like being in cages very long. When you are able to let her out, do it a smaller room with both of them together and the door closed. Monitor his behavior. I can’t see him attacking her once he knows who she is again.

      Reply
  7. 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

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment tete1965. Cats recognize us and fellow housemates (other pets) by scent, not sight. What is going on here is likely down to you and the other cat smelling like various other animals from the veterinarian clinic. He should calm down and go back to his normal self in a few days. Try placing a blanket or towel that smells like your home in the cage with the female to help hinder the other smells on her. You can also get cat wipes to clean her backside off. Most pet stores carry them.

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  8. 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 has is cleaning his left eye which he loves me doing as he can’t,
    If anyone is considering adopting a tripod, go for it , you will be rewarded with love ( and the cuteness when he sits on his hind legs to clean or look about is the extra icing on the cake ?)

    Reply
  9. 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 to cats or dogs

    Reply
  10. 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.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Poornima. Are you concerned that you will have to give her up for adoption after the surgery and no one will adopt her? There are a lot of very loving people out there, if it comes down to this, work with a no-kill shelter. They should be able to help you.

      Reply
  11. 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 from the body a bit more than normal at times. Sometimes he runs and seems fine, others he seems like he’s got an overworked bunch of muscles or joints and I can’t tell exactly which groups or what to do or if that’s even the problem. Prosthetics are ridiculously expensive apparently, I’m not sure what to do here to relieve him of some of his muscular and joint burden. Any help would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Dane. Have you brought up these issues with his vet? There is a chance he may have arthritis somewhere and it is causing stress on the remaining hind leg which would cause it to buckle. He may also have an issue with his gait. The only thing I can recommend is getting some different opinions from vets and focusing on his diet to improve his mobility. You can add MSM (sulfur) to his diet as well as bone broth (so long as his kidneys are healthy) which should help with pain and inflammation.

      Reply
  12. 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.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Mari. I never heard of a mother chewing off her own kitten’s leg. I am not sure why the vet would only do a partial amputation either. You would have to speak with a vet for the best advice. If it keeps bleeding, that is a risk for an infection.

      Reply

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