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Fang's Story

Cat Amputation – Our cat's transition to having three legs instead of four

The Difference Between Cats and Dogs (and Humans)

November 6th, 2013 · 17 Comments · Fang's Story

(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.

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17 Comments so far ↓

  • rica55

    Chantal,

    What a great post! I would say what you said is mostly true for MOST cats ….I’m a member of another group that has a lot of tripawd kittehs and most of them are DISTRAUGHT when their kitties come home and just want to be left ALONE. When Jill’s tumor first popped up, she went RIGHT under the bed and hid there for days. This was the first sign something was wrong.
    You need to take your lead from your cat, I do think some WILL want to be coddled, but I think that is not the norm, Jill is a weird cat in that way, but I have read the opposite about many many more and so many upset pawrents when their cats just want to be left alone after amputation…..

    Great post, bravo 🙂

  • cldavis

    Thankya maam. Yes, no one can escape a Jilly-hug (not that they’d want to!) 😛 But that’s exactly what I mean, take your lead from your kitty. If they want to hug you then enjoy the heck out of every moment of it, teehee.

  • benny55

    Good stuff you two! Good observations!

    Thanks for sharing and I hope all is well with Fang! He certainly is an indivdual cat and has a mi d of hisown! A very determined little fella and a great “subjet” for you to study!

    Look forward to more updates AND photos on Fang!

    Take care!

    Sally and Happy Hannah

  • chelleb78

    Same was true for Little Man initially. When he first came home, I prepared a quiet space for him with a low sided litter box and a cardboard box on it’s side with a blanket inside so he could “hide”. After just a few hours, I could tell that’s not where he wanted to be. I let him out on his own, carefully watching from a distance. He stayed in my bedroom, under my rocking chair (still in sight). I kept the litter box nearby, but by the next day he had ventured into the living room and (stubbornly) back to his old litter box. I had to change some priorities in those first few days. He wanted things to be the same as before, so that’s what we did for the most part. I followed his lead. I worried about him jumping too soon, but he never did more than he could handle. He always slept right next to me since he was a kitten, so I made a pallet on the floor to keep him from jumping in the middle of the night. It really amazed me that Little Man knew what he needed better than I did. lol

  • cldavis

    Thanks Sally! Yes, he is definitely independent and has taught me a lot about taking care of oneself and living life head-on. He is definitely worth my time studyin’ alright, hehe. 🙂

    Little Man! omgosh! It’s wonderful to hear from you! I just hopped over to your blog and am so happy that things are going so brilliantly. It’s really, really great. And yes, isn’t it funny how we are so used to running things that we forget that sometimes our little babies know what’s best and what they want. Teehee, I guess that’s part of being a pawrent.

  • jerry

    Chantal this is PAWESOME information to have, thank you so very much for taking time out of your busy day to reflect and offer such sage wisdom. This will definitely make it into the next round of our ebook, “Three Legs & a Spare.”

    You are so right, and even to a point you’re right about dogs too. We personally feel that a lot of people dote a little too much on their dogs after surgery, causing the situation to be more traumatic and scary than it needs to be. All animals want to be left alone to heal (or they go bonkers and pretend they don’t need it at all!).

    It’s up to humans to be more sensitive to their animal’s instinctual needs especially during recuperation. Like you said, being honest with ourselves about what they really want will go a long way toward an awesome recovery.

    Thank you so much.

  • cldavis

    Awww, sweet! Thankya Jerry! I’m always finding new things on here – I didn’t even realize there was a yearly e-book. 😛 That’s awesome.

    Yes, absolutely – it’s so important to separate what you’re doing for you versus what you’re doing for your furkid. I’m glad that others have seen similar behavior! – I guess I’m not imagining things after all! 😛

  • judy

    Reading your Fang posts following his amputation has helped me so much. I just got the pathology results last evening and the news was malignant fibrosarcoma. Pita is scheduled for amputation of his right front leg next Wednesday. Your day by day posts have relieved my stress anxiety tremendously.

    Thank you so much

  • cldavis

    Judy – I’m so glad that Fang’s posts have helped you feel better about the amputation process. Cats really do extremely well on three legs (as I’m sure you’ve seen now), but I know that it feels different (and scary) when it’s YOUR furkid. I hope that the recovery goes without a hitch and that Pita kick’s that cancer’s butt!

    Please keep us updated on Pita’s progress! And also, please do read up on Jill’s blog – She is a hind-leg tripawd who has been kicking cancer in the rear for more than a year now!

  • treacyb

    hello! I just wanted to say how much your blog helped me prepare for Deva’s amputation. Fang’s Story was how I found the tripawds site. I literally stumbled on it in my search for info. We are now 4 days post surgery and it is a learning curve for us both. I have also read the other stories – thanks to you having such a cool blog. It is so great to be able to read about other peoples (and cats) experiences.
    Fangers is just beautiful and your videos and posts are very inspiring. Deva now has a blog – deva the wondercat. Early days, but we will keep posting now we have it up and running. THANK YOU!!
    btw – I prepared a little catcave – a large crate with devas fave comforter and pillow. She has been so happy to rest in there in peace – I put some quilts over the top so she felt safe (like being under furniture). After two days, she wanted to be on the couch, hanging out with me. She is a super smoochy girl, so loves cuddles. But when she has had enough, she gets up and hangs out somewhere else. The hopping and jumping is no problem at all. Eating is our big hurdle, but we are getting there.
    Treacy and Deva xx

  • cldavis

    Hey Deva and Mommy! Soooo glad that Fang’s story helped you prepare, and even more glad that you’ve decided to share your story with others! As you might have noticed, there just isn’t enough information about kitty amputation out there, and I’m glad that you want to help alleviate that. It’s scary for future-tripod kitty pawrents who just want to do what’s best for their babies! So, thank you, thank you, thank you, for helping! 😀 I’ve linked Deva’s story to Fang’s blog now too 😀

    And I saw the picture of Deva in her cat-cave! so cute! 😀 I’m sure she loves it! So glad that things are going well, and I hope they continue to go smoothly (and I hope she finds her appetite soon!).

    We’ll be reading! Hugs and love to you both!

  • treacyb

    this community of pet lovers is soooo amazing. The support has helped in so many ways! Wow look at those beautiful ears in your profile pic. There is something very special about a black cat 🙂
    Your blog is OUTSTANDING!!! Thanks for adding deva to your blog – she is enjoying the celebrity 🙂 When I work out the techie stuff, I want to link other stories to Deva’s blog as well. It is so helpful to have a good look around. I don’t know what I would have done without this group…sharing this experience with others who totally get it is just priceless.
    Hugs and love back to you xo

  • VinnyBoy

    Your posts have made me so happy. My boy Vinny is coming home tomorrow from his amputation and this has helped tremendously. I feel extremely encouraged. This post especially has really touched a nerve and is definitely something I will keep in mind once he gets home.

    Thanks so much!

  • sapphirekitten

    Thank you SO much for this post! My Little One had his amputation surgery yesterday. When he was a kitten, he broke his leg at the hip and it never completely healed. He always had a little hitch in his giddy up, but xrays showed it didn’t bother him. Now, 7 years later, he had a bone tumor on the same leg. When they did the amputation, there was a complication with his old injury and the vet had to reopen him and dissect out the remaining part of the femur. Because my vet is awesome, they have post op visiting hours. Little One is in a lot of pain and is extremely angry: hissing, growling, trying to swat – which then causes more pain because of the movement. 🙁 It was difficult to see him that way, but I know the pain will subside in a few days.

    After reading your post, I feel so much better about bringing him home. I’ve been so worried with how I was going to make him comfortable and how I was going to keep him safe and accessible. I will definitely keep your wise words close to my heart and let Little One tell me where he needs to be and what he needs. Thanks again – this is EXACTLY what I needed right now. 🙂

    • cldavis

      I’m so glad that Fang’s experience helped you a bit to prepare for Little One’s recovery and I hope that things are continuing to go well!! =) I’m so glad to see pet parents taking so much care to ensure the happiness, comfort and health of their babies!!!

  • michelle

    Thanks for this. I had my 12 year old cat’s tail amputated 3 days ago. She had been purring and laying with me first 2 days but today she has been under bed for last 12 hours from morning until night. Ive been upset and worried. Thanks for reminding me this is one of ways cats cope.

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