Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat
Tripawds is the place to learn how to care for a three legged dog or cat, with answers about dog leg amputation, and cat amputation recovery from many years of member experiences.
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Hello! I’m new here and I can’t find much information out there about cats born with 3 legs.
Some background information about my tripawd. I lost my “soul-cat” (named Cosmo) unexpectedly Christmas day of 2020. I have a hard time admitting just how completely torn up I was (and still am). I rescued a 12 week old male tabby kitten about two months later in February of 2021. He wasn’t exactly what I was looking for when I went to pick out a new friend (I was being rather shallow and artificial and wanted ONLY an all white cat, subconsciously trying to ‘replace’ Cosmo…which, obviously, I’m thankful that didn’t happen) This kitten actually “picked” me out… quite literally. He was lounging in a cat tree and kept tapping me on my shoulder! Needless to say, I wanted him to come home with me. It wasn’t until the facility employee was scanning him and getting him prepared to leave that I noticed he had an awkward walk and limp. Looking closer, his rear left leg is much shorter: about half of a limb. The vet tech at the rescue explained that he was born with this malformation and he should get along just fine considering he doesn’t know any different; ie. he didn’t have to undergo any sort of adjustment period.
I named him Ferguson (aka Fergs, Fergie).
A week later I took him to my personal vet to get their opinion and to be educated/informed of anything I would need to know as a new tripawd Mom. My vet said the same thing and added that it’s possible he might need the rest of his limb amputated but only if it seemed to cause problems.
As he grew, his limb stayed short giving him more and more of a limp. I took him to the vet again with concern for his hips. (I’m trying to be proactive as possible and will also admit that I’m sort of a Helicopter Mom and quite over protective as a result of the sudden loss of Cosmo.) But, again, my vet said everything was fine. He checked out great in all areas of health and the vet saw no need to amputate the remaining limb nor did he observe any other health concerns. (Disclaimer - I have a tremendous amount of faith and respect for my vet. He’s cared for all of my pets which includes 5 cats and 2 dogs over the past 11 years. Also, 6 years ago he performed a very difficult surgery on another kitty of mine, saving his life, that has lived a very healthy and happy life since then).
So here we are, about 8 months old, and he has started doing what I have found somewhat common in rear leg amputees known as a backward walk or wobble. He’ll raise his left rear “nub” in the air as he sort of hops or scoots or wobbles backwards. It lasts for just a few seconds and he doesn’t appear to be in any sort of pain. He actually seems quite normal and more annoyed than anything. It seems to happen more often when he’s trying to eat. So while he’s in a front resting position. Which explains the annoyance because he’s quite glutton and doesn’t appreciate the interruption of his eating lol
Long story short, I haven’t found any information at all on this behavior being observed in a cat that was born as a tripawd. Only in recent amputees. I’m taking him to the vet soon but was curious if anyone else has any experience with this behavior. Especially if it’s been with a non-amputee.
From what I’ve read, it sounds like phantom limb with gabapentin and massages for help.
I guess my concern though, is if he might have nerve damage from the birth defect or an underlying nerve issue that may have even caused the defect.
Does anyone else have a birth defected kitty with this behavior?
I appreciate your time and any advice or feedback!!
Thank you for allowing us to join such a great, helpful, beneficial and HOPEFUL community!!
Corina and Fergs
Corina and Fergs, welcome! I just answered your comment in the Cats Walking Backwards article and was totally hoping you would come here and post. Thank you! Your future posts won't need to wait for approval so post away. I'll expand on my comment...
First, I'm sorry about your loss of Cosmo. I can't even imagine. 2020 was such a hard year and then to lose him, on Christmas Day, oh my gosh, that hurts to even think about. It does seem like Fergs was waiting for you though, he knew you needed to be rescued! I'm glad you adopted him.
When it comes to a young animal with limb difference, no matter how they lost it, if they are hopping around on 3 and they are under 1 year old they have a lack of motor skills and coordination. As they grow and their bodies learn to balance and find one's awareness in space ("proprioception "), the body gets a real workout, even more than a 4 legger. It as far as I know, doesn't matter if they were born an amputee or not, they are still finding their way in the world with one less leg and it's a ton of work. Pain can happen as a consequence. Even when we don't think pain is happening.
You'll notice that the backward walking episodes happen suddenly when Fergs is moving forward and is mid-step, as if his body is saying "ouch! stop! don't proceed!" Maybe the leg movement pulls on a nerve somewhere. It's hard to say. The backward walking that happens with some cats does appear to be a pain signal of some sort, although most vets folks have talked to here say they just don't know what causes it. But as you read, things like massage, Gabapentin and even dry needling acupuncture can help. Our phantom leg pain articles have lots of the same information that can be applied to this situation.
Your vet sounds amazing! You are so lucky to have him. Here's the thing though: even the best vet is rarely 100% up to speed on every pet health condition. That's why specialists are here for us. I highly recommend getting Fergs to an animal rehabilitation therapist who can assess his condition and come up with a strategy to minimize and eliminate the backward walking. The best part is the Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit so you have nothing to lose! I hope you'll take advantage of the program.
We are so glad you found us! Oh and the video footage is GREAT. Would you mind if we uploaded it to the Tripwads YouTube channel so that we can add it to the article you commented on? It would be a huge help to readers.
Thank You so so so much Jerry!!
Of course you can use the videos! I have quite a few if you need any more.
I’m absolutely going to take advantage of the Tripawds Foundation assistance with rehab therapy. I will definitely look into this today. I think this is more along the lines of what I was looking for originally when I took him to my vet the first time. He didn’t even mention a specialist so I wasn’t sure if “rehab” was something for Fergie or not since he’s not an amputee. So I’m very grateful and glad that you explained how Fergie still needs to get accustomed to life on three legs. That alone answered so many questions I had.
I’m also glad you pointed out the work out that he gets making his way around on one less leg, because his “good” rear leg resembles a bunny’s foot! 😂 All of his paws are actually quite muscular! And I love how goofy that looks while he’s still young and little.
Thank you for such a quick response! I already feel so much relief having found this community. Up until now, everyone I spoke to basically advised to treat him like a normal 4 legged cat. But that didn’t really sit right with me. I at least wanted to be more informed. And I think this community will do just that!! And more.
22 February 2013
Great backstory on how Ferguson tapped uou on your shoulder to let you know he was yours.....and you were his💖 I do think yoir beloved Cosmos had his paw in orchestrating giving this kitty such a loving home.
Fergs is adorable BTW. You did a great job of capturing his "episodes" on video. I think the Rehab Specialist will be able to figure things out.
And yes, this community is such a great resource for tripawd kitties. You are doing a great job of caring for Fergs. Check out Cool Tips for Tripawd Cats
Keep us posted, okay?
Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!
Happy Hannah had a glorious additional bonus time of over one yr & two months after amp for osteo! She made me laugh everyday! Joined April's Angels after send off meal of steak, ice cream, M&Ms & deer poop!
1 October 2017
Oh my goodness how adorable! And what a lucky (and smart) kitty to pick you as his pawrent! It never ceases to amaze me at how they know when they find their human
I am glad you are taking him for an evaluation. The way he jumps back really does seem like something is bugging him. Maybe he tweaked a muscle somehow? Either way they should be able to help you. I have no doubt about that.
He does not appear to have a limb long enough to drag or get caught up on things, am I seeing this correctly? When I first saw your post it reminded me of one kitty that acquired a wound on their little stump and did end up needing a full amputation, but what I saw in your video does not seem to be that.
I look forward to watching your progress, welcome to the Tripawds family I am so very sorry for the loss of your other furbaby. It appears that your Angel Cosmos found a special little one in need of a good pawrent and whispered in his ear to tag you
Jackie and Huck
Jackie, David, Bo, Andy, Oscar, Phoebe, and the coolest feral tripawd kitty Huckleberry
Corina you made my day, thanks for sharing your enthusiasm!
I was going to ask what Jackie asked, does he have a longer than usual remaining stump? I didn't notice one either.
Thanks for the OK to post the videos to YouTube. Yes I would loooooove more videos to put into a longer clip if you don't mind. That would be super helpful since unfortunately we see this situation more than we'd like. Thank you so much.
It's not unusual that your vet and those around you didn't know about the benefits of rehab, or the effects of walking on 3. Rehab is a relatively new field in the animal world and until recently, the general thinking even in the vet community was that 3-leggers get along just fine and don't need any extra help. That's true, but only to a point. Now that animals are living longer and getting better vet care, we see that yes, there are some consequences.
Once rehab came along, therapists started understanding the effects of moving about on 3 legs (an earlier than usual predisposition to osteoarthritis, for example), and now the rehab field has ways to mitigate those effects. Pet parents and vets are gradually hearing this message, and it's part of our mission to get it out to a wider audience. I'm so glad you're open to investigating it for Fergs.