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Fang's Story

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

An Introduction to This Page

Fang, 7 months after amputation

Fang, 7 months after amputation

This is the story of our cat, Fang, and his transition at 11 years old from having four legs to only three.

When Fang was diagnosed with either osteochondroma or osteosarcoma, of which we were not certain (one is benign and one is not), I was told that the only way we could save him was to amputate his front left leg. It ended up being chondrosarcoma instead but, really that’s just a different story with the same ending. I looked through many websites and videos searching for and imagining what Fang’s quality of life would be with three legs, and whether it was better to amputate or put him to sleep. Both were so difficult to imagine.

This adventure made me realize just how much it helps the decision making process to read other people’s stories about cat amputation (good or bad). I am putting this blog together so that maybe other people can learn from what we’re going through. There is a whole lot of soul searching involved in this whole endeavor, and I hope to make it easier for someone else in the future.

 

22 Comments

22 Comments so far ↓

  • Lori

    I am having my baby girl’s front leg do amputated tomorrow, and it is scaring me to death. The worst thing is my vet insists on keeping her over the weekend. Do you think I should throw a hissy fit and make them let me take her home? Or let them keep her? I am so worried something will happen while they’re gone. They say they’ll be checking in, but is that enough?

    • cldavis

      If the vet wants to keep her over the weekend, then I would let them do it. You want for her to be at the vet for at least one night after because if it ends up that there is some complication, they will be able to recognize it and respond to it right away. Also, you will be more than a little freaked out for the first couple days you are with her because it’s extremely strange to see your loved one short one leg. Your feelings of unease will rub off on kitty and make her scared or uneasy. Better to let her rest alone for the first day. I know it’s really, really hard to leave them in someone else’s care, but I truly believe it is for the best. Now that I’ve been through this, i realize that I am so happy that I did not get Fang back right away (though I was NOT happy at the time).

    • cldavis

      Please let me know if there is anything else you need – and also, read through Fang’s blogs! Hopefully you will see that there really is light at the end of the tunnel – and the tunnel isn’t even that long! It just seems that way right now, I know. 🙂 Chin up!

  • Ll

    Thank you for your blog, I have just had to make the decision to amputate my 15 week old kittens front leg due to a broken shoulder. I was happy with my decision to preserve her life until many of my cat loving friends (I’m more of a dog person but still believe every animal has rights) told me I was being selfish and the cat would live a horrible life. After that I began googling and came across your blog. THANKYOU you have given me the calmness I need knowing I have given this kitten an opportunity at a long happy life.

  • cldavis

    Hey there! I’m so glad that the page has given you a sense of hope – I remember being incredibly afraid that I was ruining Fang’s life. It’s a scary thing, and I’m so glad to help people see that there is absolutely light at the end of the tunnel!

    I’ve met quite a few cat pawrents now that had their cat’s legs amputated as kittens, and they do even better than adults. They are incredibly quick to get back on their springy little feet and have the advantage of growing up with three legs instead of losing one later – that means they build muscles that are more difficult for adults to grow later on, and they get the balance thing down immediately.

    Don’t worry! There are brighter times ahead! 🙂

  • Deva

    Hi there

    I have been trawling around the net over the last few days – looking for as much info as I could. My darling girl Deva is having her front right leg amputated next Wednesday. She is 11 and we have been together since she was 4. As a rescued cat, she has had a rough time in the past. It took a while, but she totally trusts me now and I just love her. I was shocked when the Vet told me that she had a big tumor, but now I am trying to be calm and prepare for her recovery period.

    It is surreal to imagine bringing Deva home with three legs instead of four, but it has been great to read through your posts and watch your videos and others on youtube.

    I am a bit worried about the cat next door. He is a big bully and has harrassed Deva nonstop in the last 2 years since we moved here. She is quite timid, and has become increasingly an indoor cat, whereas before she loved being outside. I guess I will just have to keep an eye on her, at least until she gets her confidence up!

    thanks again – I will let you know how we go.

    btw love the name of your cat – fangers is so cool

  • cldavis

    Hey – I’m glad you found Fang’s blog and it’s helped a bit. Wow, same age as Fang, and a front-legger too! Well, as you can see, 11 is a fine age to go through amputation. 🙂

    When you first pick Deva up, it will be absolutely surreal to see her for the first time with three legs. I’d say, for me, I was so glad to have Fang back in my arms that the feeling was more surreal than sad – in fact, I’d say generally I dealt with all the sad/guilty/depressed mostly before actually picking him up (what you’re going through now). When I got him, it was definitely surreal, but then “mommy” kicked in and I just wanted to help him get better. I really mean it when I say that YOU take it a lot harder and think a lot more about it than Deva will – even though that’s way hard to believe. But yes, it will be surreal for you for a bit. The stitches will likely bother you a lot more than the three-legs. That’s how it was for me anyway.

    With the cat next door – cats mostly fight with their back legs. So if she really gets into it with the neighbor boy, she can still kick his butt (however well she could previously). Kitties on three legs can also run as fast as they could before – so if she typically is flighty instead of fighty, she can still get away from him. For a while, these bursts of speed will be much more tiring for her than before while she builds up her muscle, so she may run from him into the house and need to rest a while. But, yeah, I’ve seen Fang jam after and catch voles at top speeds on three legs. They’re walk seems to be a bit slower, but when they actually feel like going fast, they can definitely do it. So, with the neighbor cat, I’d say, don’t worry about it more than you already do, except for when she’s still healing up and figuring things out – you wouldn’t want her to pull a stitch or reopen the wound.

    Please do let me know how it goes! And if you need to talk to someone, post on the forums at Tripawds.com. People are always happy to answer questions or even just talk you through anxiety. And I’m so glad that you’re keeping it calm.

    Sending all our love and well wishes to you and Deva!

  • lucci

    Hi Fang’s Mom, you have been an inspiration to me as I have traveled this dark road for my sweet, little Holly girl. I have started a very primitive blog, compared to yours, but I have been amazed by the outpouring of love from this Tripawd community.

    Holly undergoes the big surgery on Monday, so the weekend will be spent preparing for the day. I won’t meet the surgeon til the day of surgery. To date, I have worked with the oncologist as she has myxosarcome, a soft tissue sarcoma. Anyways, I just wanted to officially THANK YOU, for this blog!! It has been the only refuge I have had during my dark journey. I used to think that I was strong, but now I am simply scared and vulnerable, waiting for Monday to arrive. I actually wish each moment would last forever, as I wait, anxiously. I have printed many pages of your blog in preparation and have a list for the surgeon on Monday. Thanks for sharing your Fang’s recovery with all of us!

    Warmly,
    Karen

  • Eva

    Thank you so much for writing about your cat. I googled “amputation front leg” and yours was the first one to come up. It was great reading about your cat and your reflections to help me prepare for my cats homecoming. My cat Fancy, went in on Friday to have his front right leg amputated. He is home now in his “recovery room”. I made hiding spots and laid out blankets. I was surprised how willing he was to jump up on things almost immediately- Obviously he would not be able to get down, so I moved all the furniture out- what is left is a little matt in there for me to sleep on. He definitely wants out of the recovery room, and my other cat wants in! I feel like he needs more time to heal before I let him out. I plan to bring in a few platforms for him to start building strength. There are too many high spots he loves to jump on and I feel like he doesn’t know his own limits yet. I worry about my stairs. They are spiral with 11 inch drop.

    Thanks for your story….Eva

  • Dareth

    Hello,

    I just wanted you to know that I have read your blog and been following it since. On Halloween I discovered a growth on my 12-year-old cat Misty’s front right leg. She had a heart arrhythmia whose cause we could not discover even after test, and the vets were very nervous about doing surgery on her because of that and her age. They were gung-ho about doing the amputation at first and then called it off twice because of her heart. I went to an oncologist and went over everything with her and basically what I learned was that chemo/radiation were just not likely to be useful options based on the cytology. So Misty had her amputation finally yesterday. She just came home and is doing great, she has been very determined to do all her usual things, plus a lot of sleeping.

    Thank you so much for writing this blog, it helped me a lot to see how another older cat went through the process, and made it easier for me to go through with it even though my vets were kind of pushing to maybe give up.

    Chances are that she will have to do some chemo since we waited so long, but I have heard cats do well with that compared to humans and dogs. I will get the biopsy info back next week. I am thinking of doing a similar blog or photo journal to yours, thank you so much for the inspiration!

    Dareth (dd)

  • Lilly

    my cat bum bum is 11 and has been diagnosed with bone cancer on his front right leg, if the cancer has not spread (vets doing extensive tests..) then on friday he has a front leg amputation.. this website is helping me soo much, it really is. thank you so much, I pray the cancer has not spread, I am hopeful the amputation will add a few years onto his life. thanks so much for such an informative website..

  • ddmckenna

    Oh your poor Bum Bum kitty, and poor you! I will think good thoughts for you both on Friday. Hopefully it hasn’t spread. Please let us know how it goes.

    My vet didn’t offer me any tests except the aspirate, and wouldn’t do a biopsy once they found out she had a heart arrhythmia. What tests is your vet doing? The first aspirate didn’t twice us any information, and I would like to have known what other things I might have been able to ask for. They wouldn’t have done a second one if I hadn’t asked for it.

  • Lilly

    thank you soo very much for replying and for your good wishes, it means alot to me.. I had no idea what to expect for this Friday, Well, Bum bum is 11 or 12 years old.. we had him since he was 1. He is a long hair main coon cat, he looks very much like Aslan….we went away for five weeks on may 30, we came back and noticed that he was limping, he is an outdoor and indoor cat, so we thought it might have been from jumping, but no, two weeks later, the vet did a radiograph, last week in fact, and found a massive lump, they say it is osteocarcoma…they did a biopsy, and he does have cancer on his front right upper leg. this week he is having a full CT scan, full blood, ultrasound, to determine if the cancer has spread, they will also do a cardiology on him, to determine if he is okay for surgery, then he will have the amputation, I will be utterly and truly devastated if the cancer has spread.. oh my, he is my little boy,he will stay three days in the vet hospital, and they have asked me to take a few days of work to nurse him, which I will gladly do…did your darling kitty have surgery

  • Lilly

    Dear friends, please could someone recommended a good site to get supplements for my cat…just to boost him up during when he has his op on Friday… are there any around that you could recommend. thank you Lilly

  • ddmckenna

    Yes, my kitty Misty had surgery in March. She’s s bit older than yours. Her diagnosis was sarcoma too, and it did go into (or come out of?) the bone. It turned out not to have spread, and she is doing great and cancer-free now.

    You can read her whole story and see photos here: http://ddmckenna.tripawds.com/

    My vet refused to do the surgery until I spoke to an oncologist. They were worried because she had a heart arrhythmia and because she is older. The oncologist told me that with a sarcoma, there was zero chance that she could be cured using chemo/radiation, but that they could extend her life by months or a year. Surgery, on the other hand, had the potential to be curative. With those odds, and since Misty hates traveling and the vet (and the oncologist was over an hour away), and knowing she was in pain, I went back to the vet and told them the oncologist had made up my mind and I still wanted to go forward with the surgery. They did, reluctantly, and she did great.

  • Caitlin Croudace

    Sitting here in bed, I gaze lovingly over to Elli, my 4 year old baby girl. This cat is not just a cat, she is my child! My world revolved around her, my love knows no boundaries. In a little over 12 hours, Elli’s front left paw will be removed to the shoulder.

    In January this year, she was shot with a high powered air rifle containing a lead pellet. It shattered the elbow as well as the pellet. I have spent a near fortune trying to save her leg and have dealt with every conceivable problem from damaged blood vessels, to nerve damage, and now finally, reabsorption of the bone leading to her specialist surgeon making the call to amputate.

    I have been living a world of rage that my cat who is so young has had to endure so much pain the last 4 months. This wasn’t a natural development like cancer, this was an intentional act of cruelty. For weeks I have known in my heart this was coming, and when the news was sprung on me today, a part of me felt like it died. I know I still have her, and for that, I am eternally grateful. But… knowing that she comes home 1/5th less of herself tomorrow is scaring the hell out of me. I have visions of her leg being placed on top of a medical waste bin and I feel physically all the time because of it. I cannot begin to imagine the pain she is going to feel and the uselessness I feel is all consuming. I felt extreme guilt cause when those big watery brown eyes look into my soul, she has no idea what’s coming.

    I know in the long run what I am doing is right for her, but I cannot face waking up and having to put her through anymore than she has already endured. I have it in my head that Elli is doomed to a life in doors, cause she can no longer run fast enough to avoid dogs. I have come to realize that while her pain is physical, the emotional journey I have gone through with her is even more intense. Its not a rare occasion, but all the time, that I look at her and know that in some way, she understands me. She knows me better than anyone. I would climb to the top of the world for my baby girl, and that although the next week weeks/ months are going to be totally awful, I still have my kitty with a beating heart and a purr of gold!

    • cldavis

      It’s harder on us than it is on them, believe it or not. Elli will go on with her life like she always has – just stay positive for her! You’ll be surprised how well she’ll do. And she’ll probably do even better because she’s already probably been figuring out the business of walking about without her hurt leg. It will be okay. 🙂 Stay strong!

    • Emily

      I would love to know how Elli is getting on. Do you have a blog for her?

  • leilaandme

    I just found your blog through your original post on Back Yard Chickens and I read the whole thing. My 5-year old cat Leila had a fall from a 4-story balcony just over 4 months ago and shattered the upper bone in her front right leg. We were living in Thailand at the time and the break was so bad that the local vet could not help her, so we traveled 9 hours to Bangkok where they put an external fix (pins which fix on the outside of her leg) on. With this, her and my other cat traveled with me to Canada where we are now living. We registered with the vet here as soon as we arrived and they continued her treatment. Unfortunately the x-rays earlier this week show almost no healing of the bone, despite laser treatment, special diet, continuous cage rest, etc. I am waiting to hear from a second opinion vet but I think the only other option may be a bone graft, which I don’t think I can afford.
    It was great to read your blog, even more so the original question as I am feeling so many of the worries that you were back then. I’m so happy that Fang is doing well and has adapted. Leila is actually an indoor cat. She made that choice herself a few years ago and is currently sleeping in my lap. I’m glad that is one thing that I don’t need to worry about.
    She can move her leg and she will use it a little if she is walking on a soft, uneven surface (like a lap). She will use it in the litter tray and when she is playing, although she does not put weight on it then, and never puts full weight on it. The problem is that the vets believe that when they remove the pins, the bone will collapse. I can’t leave her like this forever and they say that if it hasn’t healed after 4 months then it probably won’t. The difficulty for me is that the leg is there, it is alive and looks ok. She is happy and not in pain. Also, her life is not in any danger as she is. The vet tells me that she is basically a three legged cat already because she isn’t using it and I know she can adapt to one leg for those last few things that she does use it for. I don’t know if I’m being selfish by keeping her leg, or by amputating when there may be a chance. I wish there was an easy or obvious answer. We have sent the x-ray to a specialist for a second opinion and should hear by Monday if they can help, if they can’t then the choice is made for me, but if they can try something which may or may not work, then I’m not sure whether I am doing the right thing by putting her through a long journey (which she will hate) and another surgery. I’m dreading Monday.

    • cldavis

      I apologize for the long wait in reply, and I hope that you and Leila have been well waiting for that second opinion. A four-story fall is quite the fall – I’m so glad that you were there to take her to emergency care and get her taken care of.

      Leila is obviously family – you’ve traveled far and done your best to ensure that she has had the very best care that she can have. Be assured that you will make the best choice for her, as you are clearly taking her happiness and comfort into careful consideration, and absolutely no one can know better what is right for her than you can.

      Cats are extremely adaptive, and this time of mostly only using three legs will surely have helped her prepare for three-legged life. It’s wonderful that she’s an indoor kitty, and it will be so much easier to watch over her and make sure all is well during her recovery should you choose to amputate. Should you choose not to amputate, then she seems to be quite happy and adapted as she is.

      The blessing is that whatever you choose, Leila should be able to expect a long and healthy life as this is a break instead of something that requires further potentially difficult treatment, like cancer. That said, I know it certainly doesn’t feel like a blessing, and the decision is extremely difficult especially when Leila isn’t hurting at the moment (that’s how Fang was… he didn’t know he had a tumor). Only you know what’s best for her. Know in your heart that you will make the right decision, whatever you choose. And the choosing is, by far, the hardest part. After this you’ll know the job you have to do and you’ll be able to do whatever it is to the best or your ability.

      I hope the specialist has something good to add today – but in any event, everything will be okay.

  • Brittany

    My 11 year old cat has been diagnosed with sarcoma in his left front leg and I had been questioning if my choice (amputation) was the right choice for him. I really appreciate you putting this together and especially the movies! I’m so glad your cat is doing well. His surgery is scheduled for May 2nd when our regular vet gets back from vacation.

  • Laura

    Hi,

    A month ago my 17 year old cat TeeTee starting limping. We didn’t think much of it because we were dealing with my other 16 year old cat’s battle with lymphoma (who passed a week after she was diagnosed).

    I started noticing a more noticeable limp. We brought him to the vet and they did x-rays. They were convinced it was some type of bone cancer in his front left leg (near the shoulder). I got a second opinion from an oncologist who also said, although rare, this is likely the diagnosis. They discouraged any biopsies as this is very invasive and whatever is causing his pain and limping will likely need to be amputated anyways.

    So here I am today. I have a consult with the surgeon today regarding amputation. My cat is in a great deal of discomfort and i’m giving him pain killers twice a day. We couldn’t amputate him right away because we had to ween him off the prednisone that he’s been on for his inflammatory bowel disease.

    My concern is that he’s so old (but otherwise pretty healthy). How will he manage to walk around without a front leg. He is not an agile cat at all. It seems that all these stories are about younger cats. He is my heart and I want to do everything I can to help him feel better. Anyone come across any stories about elderly cats and amputations? If so please let me know.

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