(As a side note to this blog, I suggest reading up on cat behavior if you’re into that sort of thing. I honestly believe there is a reason that some people are “cat-people” and some are “dog-people”. I would also like to note that being in a happy mood around your cat does matter during a healing process. Dogs and cats notice and to some point mimic your emotions – so if you’re scared when they come home, they will be more stressed)
Hey guys –
I just wanted to pop in to talk about something that I’ve been noticing over and over again in both myself and other soon-to-be tripod kitty parents I’ve spoken to. And, let me say that this is my opinion and it might not be everyone’s favorite, but this is what I’ve come to realize -
Cats and dogs are very different creatures – but we often forget it. Cats and humans are also very different creatures, and we forget that just as often. So, when people like “past-me” are eagerly scratching across the internet looking desperately for information on what it’s like to go through an amputation with our pets we (1) imagine what it would be like for us to go through an amputation and (2) soak up any information we can get about pet amputation, even if it’s a different species.
And let’s be honest, there is a whole lot of similarity between a dog and cat having a leg amputated. I made the decision about Fang’s amputation pretty much entirely based on dog information, as there just wasn’t a whole lot of cat-amputation information out there, and there definitely were no other communities as willing to reach out, support our decision making process, and help us understand and cope like the Tripawds Community (which at the time had predominately dog-amputation members, though they now have considerably more kitty information, stories, and members). That information got us through the entire process, much more happily and readily than we ever would have, and I am extremely grateful. But there are also some differences worth noting.
One good thing is that it seems (to me) that cats have a faster recuperation time than dogs. That, and cats seem to “figure it out” on their own more readily.
But the difference that I wanted to talk about was this: the idea that your cat needs you to be with them 100% and help them through coping with the loss of their limb. Now, I know, this is difficult to grasp – I, too, read that your pet after amputation will need you to be brave for them, be with them, help them through, and provide them with emotional support. And what’s more, it just FEELS like you need to be there for them – after all, if it were you, you would want someone to be there for and comfort you.
But I circle back – Cats and dogs are very different creatures, and cats and humans are very different creatures. I am an absolute cat person, and have had and met many cats – they range from affectionate to the sort of “aloof” that only a cat can achieve. But one thing is almost always true about cats: they are amazingly good at hiding illness (it’s instinctual to stop them from looking like like prey), and if they are unable to pretend that nothing is ailing them, they will hide away so that no one will notice their illness. Anyone who’s had a sick cat knows, you find them under the bed, in a dark corner in the closet, or somewhere out of the way.
So, when you get home from amputation and you take your kitty out of the pet carrier, you want them to hang out with you, lay with you, cuddle with you – you want to tell them everything is okay. But your cat likely just wants to hide somewhere to heal up in peace. For example, Fang immediately ran under the bed and I spent hours trying to coax him out.
It is in our nature to want so much to give our cats that social interaction and comfort we would want in times like these. And for dogs, I think that that might honestly be necessary. For humans, this is also true.
But cats are different. Remember, dogs and humans are pack animals -We are social creatures by nature. Cats are not pack animals, no matter how much we want to look at them that way. They do form partnerships, they do appreciate the safety of your home, and you and your cat likely have a very special relationship – but they are not pack animals.
So, with Fang, eventually I realized that it was natural for him to want to hide – and that that’s what made him feel better. So instead of trying to force him to act the way I wanted him to act, I made places for him to hide that I could still get to him if I needed to (see Fang’s old blogs for pictures of the blanket-over-coffee-table-castle). Yes, I slept in the room with him, but I left him be. I let him come to me for affection. And you know, sometimes he did come to me – and I was so happy to give it. Honestly, he was definitely happier, and that made me happier (though it was hard not to follow him around constantly).
I just needed to take a step back, and look at things from a different perspective.
So, If you get home and you feel the need to coddle, think about
if you’re doing it because it makes yourself feel better ( after making that sort of decision you feel afraid that your cat is angry with you, and you want them to comfort you),
or if you’re doing it because you only think they need your comfort (like a more social creature might),
or if they legitimately need and want your comfort.
I’m not saying ignore them – I mean, that would be impossible, they’re your fur-babies – but I am saying to pay attention and be above the situation enough to realize when they want to be ignored. Because for a while, it’s incredibly possible that they really, genuinely want you to leave them be.
Today is Fang’s one year ampuversary! I plan to spend the day with him, give him loads of treats, and lots of play! (I will likely update this post later with pictures).
In the meantime, though, I just wanted to say that one year ago today we made the frightening decision to go through with Fang’s amputation, and we made that decision largely because of the information and support we received from the Tripawds community. I am so grateful that you guys showed Fang and I how to “be more dog.” We are thankful every day, for Fang’s life and his happiness, for the support of the community, and for all the Tripawd heroes that have come before us to show us the way.
Have a great day guys.
First I got a kitty cake with some treats stuck in the top….
Which I was enjoying happily….
Until my little brother decided to eat some too! Rotten brother. But it’s okay I already got all the juice!
So, I let him eat the rest and groomed for a bit. Ahhh the good life.
And then we played (which mommy couldn’t take a picture of since she was playing with me, DUH). And now I’m a happy kitty. ^^
Hey there everybody! It’s been a while since our last post – I miss everyone! I just had some dental surgery that took a whole lot longer to recover from than I ever imagined, and, as I mentioned in my last post, Fang’s grandparents and I have been in the long and arduous process of moving! My parents and I now live about a 5 minute drive away from each other in a residential neighborhood, and yes, Fang went to live with his grandparents (as they have a large empty field behind their back fence due to an infrequently used rail line and a creek).
That’s right, there’s no more rural areas, cows, horses, and fields for the kitties to romp around anymore – but that’s okay. The initial split-up of the pack was, I think, a little hard for the kitties at first. Two came to live with me (Feral and Mamma) and three went to live with their grandparents (Wikka, Duffy, and my beloved Fang), but I think it went better because none of the babies are alone. They’ve got companion kitties they know and love, and of course, they’ve got us door-opening-slaves if they sink down low enough to need us.
As always, we were far more worried about Fang being able to handle the change in environment than we should have been, and as always, he proved to us that cats just keep going on being cats, no matter where they are or if they lose a limb . It’s only been a week in his new place, but he’s already taken to sleeping between his grandparents all sprawled out taking up as much space as only a kitty can. And of course, I visit every day to cuddle with him. And no, he’s not mad at me — he runs down the stairs and hops on my lap, purring in his Fangy way.
We’ll see what happens when he goes out into the yard for the first time! But, I am sure he will be just fine. He’s a wise boy, and I am done underestimating him time and time again. He’s got a very Jill-inspired “Keep calm and hop on” mentality that I am growing to trust more and more!
It’s been nearly nine months since Fang’s amputation, and we’ve come to another big crossroads in our lives as pawrent and fur-baby.
As you might know from previous entries, Fang is an outdoor kitty. Well, he can come inside if he wants (but he hates it), but when left to his own accord he spends all of his time outside, hopping cattle fences, meandering around with the horses, chasing furry critters, hiding in the grass, and sunbathing on various benches around the property. He was a feral kitten to begin with and that outdoor-loving, independent streak never left him. In fact, he refuses to use the litter box – he just goes outside like a dog. He is a country cat, and he has never lived near a street, or cars, or residential area in his life.
Well, all things come to an end. Unfortunately, it has come time to sell this property – too big, the mortgage is too high, and the land is difficult to maintain. So, where do we go from here? My parents have a home in a nearby residential neighborhood, and I am moving to an even more compact (and lower income) residential neighborhood than they are.
Fang could stay with me, but what is he going to do when there are cars and streets everywhere? Is he going to freak out and run away trying to find “home”? Are kids/teenagers going to do mean things to him (I have some awful stories regarding this from friends, neighbors and my own experiences – pellet guns, etc)? Not to mention, my place will have no outdoor space at all (15 feet of grass, tops). Fang would be horrified.
He could stay with his grandpawrents instead – while still residential, their new house has a large yard and the back and side open onto big fields and a creek. Unfortunately kids and teenagers play out there on dirt bikes, smoke pot, light fireworks, start fires and generally cause havoc as they always do in unfenced “public” fields, but at least there are fields. He would likely be a happier kitty, but I would miss him terribly.
Well, I’ve got about 1 month to decide. Whatever we do, I’m sure we’ll be okay. He’s gone through worse than a property change. When he was going to get his arm off I thought he would freak out, run away and never forgive me. And here he is living life, kicking butt, and taking names like always. Clearly, he’s pretty adaptable.
An outside Fangers is a happy Fangers (not that he’d lower himself to telling anyone about it )
Fangers was rolling around playing on his scratcher yesterday as he often does – even though its 106 degrees and far too hot to play, as far as I’m concerned. Anyhow, I thought I might take a little video of him, since it’s been so long since his hop video! (Lets see if I can embed it properly…)
Hey everybody! It’s been more than 7 months since Fang’s amputation and really, there’s just nothing new to report. Which is great, of course! He’s still doing wonderfully – He runs, plays, catches rodents, and chases Mamma-Kitty around the fields. Because it’s summer, He pretty much doesn’t spend a second more than he has to inside. Instead, he just disappears for the day, like he always has. And the normalcy continues…
Which reminds me, I have to go on business trips sometimes, and during those times the kitties have to pretty much look after themselves – which they’re good at (and also why I don’t have dogs, which seem significantly more dependent ). Well, if you’ve read through Fang’s previous blogs, you’ll know that he does not use the litter box – he goes outside. Andddd when I’m not home, that becomes a problem as, due to a recent life-change, when I leave on a trip there isn’t anyone here to let the kitties in and out of the house for me.
So, I found what I have decided is the (new) coolest house-product ever – the window cat door! Hurray! It fits into the window without messing it up (you can remove it and take it with you later) and you don’t have to cut a hole in your door. It’s really genius. You can check one out here if you like.
What — a cat foor for windows?! Sign me up!
But of course I was worried that Fang, having only 1 front leg, would have a hard time getting in and out of a cat-door in a window… After all, there’s a long drop down from that window to the ground outside, and he has to push the door open and steady himself on the edge of the sill for the jump, allll with just one leg, and a cat door pressing down on his back. And, I was partially right – he used it once, successfully, and decided it just wasn’t worth it. The other cats loved it though, and I was determined to get Fang to love it too! After all, it was really mostly for him anyway – the other kitties can just use the litter box.
The fix was actually incredibly simple. I just put a shelf below the window outside. It was a snap, took all of four screws, and when I bother to paint it and hang some potted plants on the hooks at the end of the brackets, it will look like it was meant to be there! And, Fang LOVES it. He took to it immediately and now goes in and out all day (and night) long at his leisure. And I am a happy mommy because I don’t have to worry when I’m on trips.
Fang hanging out on his window shelf outside
So, that’s the second thing that I’ve had to modify for Fang (the first was to get a cat scratcher that he can scratch without hitting himself in the face with it ). Frankly, for losing a front leg, I’d say these are quick, simple things to do and actually we’re doing really well! And, realistically, he would have been perfectly fine without the modifications – I’m just one of those mommies . Because, let me tell you, this kitty can do everything he ever could with four legs, no problem.
And man, is he pleased with himself (like every other cat on Earth).
Hey guys. It’s been five months since Fang lost his front leg! He is still doing wonderfully – running, playing, tormenting furry critters in the yard (what’s left of them anyway), and just generally being a cat.
I’d like to impart a few things I’ve learned from watching him these past months.
Firstly, cats on three legs find new ways to do things that they can no longer do in the fashion to which they had previously become accustomed. For example, for spots that Fang would have had to groom by leaning on his now-non-existent front leg, he might use other objects to do so. As you can see in this picture, Fang is fond of using the outside chairs to grab onto while he turns himself over to groom his side. Smart Kitty.
Fang grabs the chair with his claws to reach back to groom difficult areas
Secondly, there is the issue of clawing (which is fundamental to claw health for all cats). After his front leg amputation, Fang could no longer do the “push with one arm while pulling with the other” motion that cats usually do when clawing things. This meant that when he clawed anything, that thing would just come back at his head when he pulled his claws back toward him. Clearly this upset him, because cats need to claw, and cats don’t like to be hit in the head with random objects. That’s just part of being a cat.
So… he moved to things that are heavy or rooted enough that he can’t accidentally pull back and hit him in the face. Outside this means trees and things (which is perfectly fine) but inside, it meant furniture. I am not a fan of that. But I understood why!
We went on a hunt and found what has been for us a wonderful new scratching-toy for Fang as a front leg amputee. As you can see, it has a wavy shape. This allows Fang to sit with his back legs in the lower part of the wave and claw the upper part. In other words, his own body weight keeps the scratcher from smacking him in the face (because he’s also sitting on it at the same time).
Fang’s new Scratcher
This was a great solution for us, because we could not fit any more large furniture (such as a cat tree) into the house. I set this next to the couch where he had been clawing and voila, no more clawing the couch. Instantly. He is a happier cat, and I am a happier mommy.
I don’t know if it will work for all kitty front-leg-amputees, but you might want to give it a try!
Note: The first time Fang approached this he did so from the front (without sitting on it) and attempted to claw it and naturally dragged it over to himself (which he didn’t like). We had to set him inside it and then play with a feather on the top part that we wanted him to scratch – and then when he attacked the feather and got his claws into the scratcher he realized that the thing didn’t come back to hit him in the face, and he was clearly pleased. He’s used it that way ever since. And he doesn’t let any other cat come near it.
Well, it’s now been four months since Fang had his front left leg amputated.
I am happy to say that there’s pretty much nothing to report. The warmer months are coming and Fang is happily running around outside, enjoying the sun, the birds and the rodents in the fields. He continues to hop cattle fences and hunt in the neighbor fields, just like he has since he was a kitten.
In fact, he has now taken to chasing little Mamma Kitty around the yard. Half of me wants to grab the camera and get a video of him “booking it” across the field, as quick as he always was, while the other half wants to run and save Mammas from the terror chasing her down!
Fang lounging around outside four months after amputation
His hair is all pretty much grown back – though some of it grew back a lighter brown than the rest of his black fur. I think it’s cute.
My last post mentioned that he seemed to be itching so hard that he was knocking his fur out – but, he’s got that all figured out now. He’s no longer missing patches of fur, and I don’t have to wince every time I see him scratching the heck out of his neck! The flea treatment helped with that, I’m sure, but I also just think he found a less awkward position to scratch himself at.
Now that I’ve gone through this with Fang, and I know it’s just not a big deal for him to have three legs, I’ve started to have a sense of humor about his three-leggedness that some people find “mean” or “insensitive”. Firstly, I now call my fat cat, Feral (who has become increasingly more annoying with the lack of attention I showed him while doting on Fang), “Fatty-Four-Legs.” I think it’s a particularly awesome nick-name. I’m keeping it forever.
In addition, I often play with Fang – though he is dangerous to play with as he is very fast and will really get is claws into you – and will stop suddenly and say things like “Oh my God! Fang! What happened to your arm!?”, or I tell people that he lost it in “the war.” My visiting family members who often want to be “boo-hoo” about the ordeal or feel bad for him generally do not get my sense of humor! But hey, it’s an inside joke, I suppose, haha.
So, life is normal, Fang is happy, and the world keeps on turning. And on we go to another month on three legs!
PS: There is another Tripawd kitty in our midst!! Check out Little Man’s Story, and leave a note! We are so lucky that there are Tripawd kitties out there willing to share their experiences for those kitties and kitty parents about to make the leap! (Remember, there are other Tripawd kitty stories in the “Tripawd Kitty Stories” section on the upper right column of this page!)
Fang, laying around outside – four months after amputation.
Alright, it took me a long time to find these, and for that I apologize. I hope that they are still useful to those of you that asked!
Here are the bills for the whole amputation process. There are three. The first was the exam where they checked out Fang’s lump, and took an X-Ray of it to see what it was (10/23/12). The next was a second X-Ray of Fang’s lungs to make sure that cancer had not spread, did a urine test, and also gave me the Gabapentin to administer before surgery (10/28/12). Finally, the last bill was for the actual amputation, medications, overnight stay, etc (11/03/12). All together I paid about $2,200. It was a bit expensive but actually much less than I expected to pay for a major surgery. Hope that helps! (Click on the small images for full sized ones.. there’s a breakdown of the cost.)
Bill for 10/23/12 – First Exam and XRay
Bill for 10/28/12 – XRay of Lungs, Urine Test, and Gabapentin
Well, its Fang’s two month mark as a cat with three legs, and he’s doing as well as ever! He continues to get stronger and stronger in his remaining front leg, go outside, hunt, play and generally just be himself. I couldn’t be prouder!
Really, I don’t even notice that he’s on three legs except for when other people come over not expecting him to have three legs, notice it, and then “awwwwwwwww” about it for a while. But he gets around as always, has lovely posture, and people tend to be pretty amazed at how versatile cats can be.
One thing I’ve noticed is that when he wants to itch his front side, rather than using the hind leg he would normally use (the one on the same side of his body as the itch), he will yoga-turn his body wayyy around and use the opposite back leg. This is perfectly fine, as it must be more comfortable for him to do so – I believe that he would usually use his front left leg to brace himself when using his hind right foot to scratch and now he can’t do so, so he’s switched legs – however, he scratches too hard with his other leg. I presume that he will figure out how to lessen the viciousness with which he is scratching himself, however, for the meantime he’s taken off a few patches of fur in his pursuit to stop the itchiness.
Fang has patches where he itches too hard
I did find, by the way, that all the kitties had fleas so I’ve treated them all and he is scratching much less, and his hair is coming back… That’s what happens when you’ve got outdoor/indoor kitties, don’t ya know.
Otherwise, the only difference is that I help Fang get the “sleepies” out of his left eye – though he can do this himself using furniture or the floor (he is quite ingenious ) I like to help him anyway, as he’s my baby.
I’ve found that now I worry more about all of the cats’ health more than I used to. I mean, I always CARED but, you know how when you feel you’re going to lose something you realize all the things you should have been doing that you weren’t? Well, as I’ve said previously they are now all on powdered joint supplements. I am also switching their dry food to a better brand (with more meat rather than corn). The brand I was using was rather pricey so I thought it was good for them – I should have read the bag… All corn. And of course, I continue to give them wet food in the evenings (as cat’s don’t drink enough water themselves, so it’s important to include wet foods in their diet, unless they often kill and eat small animals, which provide a good bit of water). Anywho – I feel like if Fang went through so much to continue to live and thrive… why wouldn’t I offer him things that will keep him healthy?
Oh, I’ve received a few questions about how much the process cost (for Fang’s amputation, etc). I am searching for my bills and will post the total as soon as I can.
Finally, I wanted to thank Freya and her mommy for starting a blog on Freya’s journey to becoming a tripawd! I’m following your story every single post, and we are SO happy that things are going well, from the day she came home to the day she hopped her little butt up the stairs!! And of course, Jill, we are rooting for you while you’re kicking cancer’s butt! Thanks guys – for joining the community, and for sharing your invaluable experiences to others out there. You rock!! Really, it’s something special.
On to another Tripawd month! Thanks to the whole Tripawds community for your continued experiences, well wishes, and support!! And as always, I’m here if anyone has any questions about the process!!