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Fang's Story

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

The World is Getting A Little… Smaller? – 9 Months

July 28th, 2013 · 5 Comments · Fang's Story

Fang outside at about 9 months after amputation

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 😛 )

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Fang at Play

June 29th, 2013 · 5 Comments · Fang's Story

Fang Outside (nearly 8 mos post amputation)

Fang Outside (nearly 8 mos post amputation)

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…)

Fang outside, nearly 8 months post amputation

Fang outside, nearly 8 months post amputation

 

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Seven Months Later…

June 13th, 2013 · 7 Comments · Fang's Story

Fang outside at 7 months post-amputation

Fang outside at 7 months post-amputation

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.

A window fitting cat-door

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

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 :D. 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). 🙂

Fang napping and falling halfway off of the couch

Kitties always nap in the strangest ways…

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Fang’s Five Months on Three Legs

April 6th, 2013 · 7 Comments · Fang's Story

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.

Fang says:

Cheshire smile.

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

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

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. 😛

The Scratcher (A more clear view)

The Scratcher (A more clear view)

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Fang’s Four Months on Three Legs

February 28th, 2013 · 11 Comments · Fang's Story

Fang at four months after amputation

Fang at four months after amputation

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

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.

Fang, laying around outside – four months after amputation.

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The Cost of Amputation Surgery

January 22nd, 2013 · 13 Comments · Fang's Story

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.)

11-23-12Bill-RadiographandExam

Bill for 10/23/12 – First Exam and XRay

10-28-12Bill-Radiograph

Bill for 11/04/12 – Actual Amputation

11-04-12Bill-Amputation

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Fang’s Two Months on Three Legs

January 11th, 2013 · 7 Comments · Fang's Story

Fang with nearly all his hair back! Hurray!

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!!

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Fang’s One Month Ampuversary

December 6th, 2012 · 12 Comments · Fang's Story

Fang Lounging Outside

Fang lounging around outside

Alright, I’m a little late writing Fang’s one month update – I’ve been a busy girl! So, really this is a one month and 5 days update!

Fang the three-legger is still doing wonderfully. The weather has been a little rainy, so he’s been inside more often and is displeased about it, as usual. However, when it’s nice enough to go out he’s been spending his time stalking gophers in one of our fields. He is still amazingly fast, even on three legs – those little things don’t have a chance!

Mmmmmmm, Gopher!

“Mmmmmmm, Gopher!”

The loss of his leg has not slowed him down at all. He’s now figured out how to balance on his two back legs if he needs to lift of his front leg (to clean his paw, scratch at the door, etc) without problems. He still jumps up and down from things without issue, and does not choose the “easiest” route down like I thought he would. A lot of our furniture is close together (small house), but when he’s on something high up, he still just jumps straight to the floor rather than using lower furniture as steps. Clearly he feels pretty confident in himself. I’ve also seen him, on many occasions, easily walking along thin pieces of wood and still keeping his balance (which is amazing to me, since I can’t walk on a curb without falling over, lol). And, of course, he’s back to hopping the cow fences and going into whatever fields he wants to go into.

Fang Balances on Back Legs

Fang balances on his back legs when he needs his front paw

His hair is slow to grow back – though it is coming along! I think I remember reading that cats only grow hair during certain times of the year, so I’m glad that its growing back at all! His incision site, though, is completely healed. There is a teeny piece of scab hanging on to the tippity top of the ex-wound (the area that had scabbed first when he came home), but I think it’s there for no reason. Still, I’m letting it come off whenever it wants to.

Fang's Hair Slowly Grows Back

Fang’s hair is slowly growing back. The area where the incision used to be is now super flexible, malleable and “foldy” like normal kitty skin

Otherwise, life has really gone completely back to normal. I’m not worried about him at all – he does whatever he wants, like he always did, and I’m so confident in his abilities that I just don’t think about it. I am so grateful for his quick recovery, adaptability, and the support of the Tripawds community (I wouldn’t have made this decision without you!). I am extraordinarily glad that Fang’s blog has already had a few kitty pre-amputation readers, and that it has helped them feel more optimistic about their kitties’ impending surgeries! We are so thankful to help other people through this frightening event!

And we are even MORE thankful that we’ve had a couple of other kitty amputees feel inspired to create Tripawds blogs of their own! I truly believe that more information and stories about real life cat amputations will so help others facing such a difficult decision. I remember how difficult it was to THINK of Fang with three legs, and how relieving it was to talk to other three-legged pet owners. But, there just aren’t very many three-legged CAT stories out there to look at, even though there are tons of three legged cats! If you’d like to see Xerox’s and Jill’s stories, check out my links (to the upper right on this page). I will try to add more links as other cat amputees join the Tripawd community, and of course, you can always search for more pet amputation stories and advice on the Tripawds website.

On to another three-legged month!!

Fang Standing Around

Realized I had no pictures of Fang standing anywhere

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Fang’s Hop Video – 3 Weeks

November 25th, 2012 · 14 Comments · Fang's Story

I wanted to show Fang’s “hop” at 21 days after amputation surgery. He gets around very well, and as you can see, still stops to scratch/stretch on various wooden objects like he always did. Please excuse my messy porch – been cleaning out the house. 🙂

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3 Weeks after Amputation

November 23rd, 2012 · 3 Comments · Fang's Story

Scar on Day 10 v. Day 20

Scar on Day 10 v. Day 20. No more staples, and everything is closing up nicely. A few scabs remain. I can run my hand across the whole area to pet him normally without any discomfort.

We are now at three weeks after Fang’s leg amputation, and he is one happy three legged cat! As I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t and don’t really feel like there’s too much more recovering to do. Fang spends a lot of time outside in all of his regular places, and gets around beautifully.

One thing I have noticed is that last week, while he was getting around very well, by the end of the day he was quite tired and his “hop” became more pronounced. Throughout this week he has gotten stronger in the sense that he’s simply not as tired at the end of the day. Of course, like every other cat on Earth he sleeps a whole lot (13 to 16 hours a day is a normal amount of sleep for a cat, as a random bit of useless information), but when he’s up he’s active and I’m thankful for that.

Day 15 - Fang Sleeps Along with the Best of Them

Day 15 – Fang sleeping 2/3 of his life away in the sun along with the best of them 🙂

We’ve had no issues with comfort-eating, as some cats do when they become stressed. In fact, Fang just doesn’t seem stressed. I haven’t seen him try to use his missing arm or forget it’s not there when he makes a landing – nope, he’s pretty much got it down pat.

He does have a difficult time cleaning the left side of his face without his left arm, so I help him out with that and he *loves* it. I don’t know if I mentioned that he came down with a cold right after the antibiotic shot ran out (1 week after amputation) – I suspect he got it from the vet, as that is extremely common. Anyhow, the cold has made his eyes a bit runny so for the second week and about half of this third week I had to help clean around his left eye for him a bit often. But now that his cold is going away he doesn’t seem to need the grooming help as much anymore.

He also cuddles with me more often now. I think perhaps he got used to me sleeping with him during the first two weeks so he is seeking out and soaking up the attention. He always comes into the office to sit on my lap whilst I’m on the computer now, or on the couch, or really anywhere. That’s a bit of a personality change for him – he always liked to cuddle, but it’s occurring more frequently now.

I’m confident that things will continue to go as smoothly as they have been, and I am so thankful for making the right decision (that is, to amputate rather than euthanize), that my vet listened to and cared about my wishes for Fang’s surgery, that I found the Tripawds community and other three-legged kitty owners, and that Fang has adapted and is doing so amazingly well. This Thanksgiving I felt a whole lot more thankful than usual. 🙂

Side note: I’m going to try to post a short video of his walk and run but he’s a hard one to record. When he’s out he tends to disappear and when he’s in he sleeps!

Day 20 - The Incision Site Heals Up Beautifully

Day 20 – The incision site is healing up beautifully

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