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How to Help Amputee Cats Walking Backwards

If your amputee cat walks backwards after surgery and looks distressed while doing it, try not to panic. We’ve seen this happen with a few Tripawd cat members. Take a deep breath and read on. Here’s what you need to know to discuss this amputation side-effect with your veterinarian.

Is Your Amputee Cat Walking Backwards During Surgery Recovery?

Tripawd cats and dogs have similar recoveries. Most will get their sparkle back in about two weeks. But occasionally, a new Tripawds member will join us to ask why their amputee cat suddenly started walking backwards during recovery.

“ My concern is that just days after surgery Darwin would have these episodes of walking backwards. He’d lift his stump in the air, sometimes cry out and seemed disoriented for a moment or two. Then he’d recover and all was well. These episodes increased for a time then almost went away completely.” – Cat Post-Amputation Strange Behavior

The backwards walk is an unusual amputation side-effect that sets Tripawd cats apart from dogs. Suddenly from out of nowhere, a new Tripawd cat will literally start walking or scooching backwards. They often flop and squirm on the floor and appear distressed. This is what it looks like:

For some reason, we have only seen this amputation recovery problem happen with rear-leg amputee cats, and never with dogs. This behavior looks scary and can come on suddenly, but usually it starts right after coming home from surgery. 

“I’m so thankful to have found this thread. I’m feeling so stressed and scared for my cat Marcel. I really hope some of you like Tracie121 are still here to offer advice.

My Marcel is having these same episodes! His can be very violent. He had a rear amputation 6 weeks ago. About 3 weeks ago after a second surgery to remove infection he started this backwards jolting, walking. He actually flips up, falls all over the place and looks like he could break his neck sometimes. The vets have nothing to offer me! Nothing! I’m so frustrated and feel so alone.” – Cat Displaying Strange Behavior After Amputation

What Causes Tripawd Cats to Walk Like This?

We wish we knew! Unfortunately, even vets are at a loss about what causes backward walking in amputee cats. Members have reported that their vet believed that the cat’s hind muscles are having spasms, but no clear causes have been pinpointed. 

If this is happening to your new Tripawd, ask your vet to prescribe the nerve-calming drug Gabapentin to see if it helps. Usually it does, but you’ll need to take a ‘wait and see’ approach. All cats are different.

My kitty did the same and it does pass. It was like a panic attack for her and very scary for me. She’d flip and couldn’t seem to catch her balance. Be supportive and gentle words. Before you know it she will be back to herself. — Nylarose

Most Tripawds members report that their cat stops walking backwards after a week or two. 

The waiting is hard, but do your best to keep calm. Remember, other cats and their humans have experienced the backward walking phenomena too. 

Need More Tripawd Cat Recovery Help?

If you are not seeing progress and your vet doesn’t know what to do, get a second opinion from a good veterinary pain management expert.

The International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management Directory is a good place to locate a pain management expert. The website is clunky, but you should be able to locate a vet who can help.

Veterinary Cat Pain Experts
Click to find a cat pain specialist.

We also recommend working with a Cat Friendly Practice®. These vets take a special interest in cats, and know to reduce vet visit stress for them, their caregivers and their veterinary team. To learn more about these special vets, download this brochure, What to look for in a cat-friendly practice

Cat Friendly Practice Directory
Click to find vets who understand cat amputee pain better than most!

You can also look for an animal rehabilitation therapist to help assess your cat for the underlying issue. The Tripawds Foundation may even pay for your first rehab visit!

feline amputation rehabilitation therapy

 If your Tripawd cat had a similar experience, please tell us more in the comments below. Your story may bring peace of mind to a new member who is worried for their new kitty.

It was hard to watch but we started to realize certain things triggered them. A big stretch would almost always trigger it as he finished stretching. And anytime it would begin, we would repeat in a calm voice until it ended, “It’s ok, you’re ok, it’s, you’re ok” and then reassure and love on him after. We kept him in a bathroom most of the time so there was really nothing he could injury himself on during and episode. Today, he’s a totally different cat, no episodes, he runs, climbs to the top of a 6 foot cat tree, etc. — Lego’s Momma, Bryanna

Recommended Reading

Cool Tips for Tripawd Cats book
Learn how to help a new amputee cat.

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