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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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12 year old cat - too old for amputation?
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Member Since:
7 September 2017
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7 September 2017 - 7:29 am
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My 12 year old cat Tom was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his front leg 4 days ago. The cancer hasn't spread, but the infected bone is really close to his armpit, and apparently it can spread rapidly once it reaches the lymph nodes there. We consulted 2 vets - the initial vet (who diagnosed him) said he's far too old and the only thing to do is manage pain and PTS once it reaches an uncomfortable stage.. We sought a second opinion, and he says amputation is the most ideal thing to do - it'll almost certainly be curative and Tom's healthy enough to recover well from it.

My family and I really don't know what to do.. The cancer seems to be spreading alarmingly fast, and I feel like the longer we wait to decide, the sooner it won't be curable. On the other hand, taking his leg from him seems so cruel, and the recovery stories I've read made it seem like the animals are suffering.. crying He's also a little on the heavy side (a little over 6kg), I don't know if that will make it harder for him.

I would really appreciate hearing about any other tri-kitties, and whether amputation affected their quality of life in any way. Also, are his age and weight big factors to take into consideration? This is all so sudden and overwhelming, and we really want to make the best decision for him..

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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7 September 2017 - 9:24 am
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Hi Tom and family, welcome. We are sorry to hear that you're one of the few kitties to be diagnosed with osteosarcoma. But the good news is, you are in great company. We've had at least a half dozen TriKitties join us for the same reason, all of varying ages. You'll find their stories here in the "Osteosarcoma in Cats" topic. 

Congratulations on getting a second opinion. You did good! I'm not a vet, but I can tell you 12 isn't the oldest TriKitty we've ever had join us, and the vast majority of senior cats have done well on three legs. A vet who instantly dismisses your cat as ineligible for amputation solely because of her age probably hasn't had many patients like you. Specialists like vet oncologists see it all the time. So if I had to give more weight to one opinion than the other, it would be the specialist.


the recovery stories I've read made it seem like the animals are suffering.

Oh my gosh I'm not sure if you've had a chance to see our TriKitty blogs yet, but you'll find that after the first couple of weeks, these cats do GREAT on three legs. The suffering part is all a perception of our crazy human minds. The animals are always just grateful to get rid of that bad leg and be out of pain. 

Although Tom needs to lose weight, that part is totally in your control. There are many ways to do it. Just pop over to our latest Tripawds Nutrition blog post for tips.

The last thing I'd like to add is: only you know your cat better than anyone else. If you believe in your heart that Tom can bounce back and wants more time with his family, then there's no other reason to think he couldn't recover quickly and do well.

I hope this helps. Keep us posted and stay tuned for feedback from others.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
27 July 2014
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7 September 2017 - 8:14 pm
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Sorry to hear about the diagnosis. I know this is a stressful time and difficult to make a decision, particularly based on the first vet's response. Jerry gave you great feedback with links for more information.

My cat, Mona, had her leg and scapula amputated 3 years ago and she's doing great. She certainly did not suffer during recovery (I did). It's most important that they have the proper pain medications and that the incision does not become infected. Mona became a star at the vet clinic and she is very relaxed there after her amputation so obviously it wasn't traumatic for her. 

Recently a 16 year old cat had her/his front leg amputated. This cat has a bit of a challenge in that it's been losing weight recently. Although your cat is on the heavier side it is something the vet would consider, along with its overall health before doing an amputation.

Ultimately the decision comes down to what you and your family can cope with - financially, emotionally, time for taking care of the cat during recovery. 

Good with your research and decision.

Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona

Member Since:
7 September 2017
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8 September 2017 - 1:57 am
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The suffering part is all a perception of our crazy human minds. The animals are always just grateful to get rid of that bad leg and be out of pain.

Thank you so much Jerry, I went through the blogs and it really does feel like I'm amplifying the suffering in my head. Although the initial adjustment period seems a bit rough, it looks like it's well worth getting rid of the discomfort and disease.

And thank you Kerren and Mona! It's encouraging to hear that Mona is still doing well - may I ask how old she was during the procedure? She's a gorgeous kitty.

We have decided to go ahead with the amputation - he needs to have bloodwork done to make sure everything else is clear, the procedure should take place next week. It's encouraging to hear that so many senior kitties have adjusted so well, and Tom's a pretty resilient guy - I think he'll stay strong.

I was also wondering about his bathroom habits - all his life he's preferred to use the garden, digging holes and burying away, but off late he's been unable to dig, and I imagine it'll be as difficult without a leg if not more so. We will switch him over to a litter box, but is there anything else we can do to make his loo time easier post-amputation?

Member Since:
27 July 2014
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8 September 2017 - 9:32 am
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Ah yes, bathroom habits... Mona, 8 years old at the time of the amputation, has never done well with litter boxes and prefers to use the great outdoors (except when it's raining or snow on the ground). Mona has no problem digging her little hole, then with slight front hops into the air she shoots the dirt to cover it up through her hind legs. It goes flying! Currently, she has a choice to go outside or use a litter box in the garage.

Here are some tips: http://tripawds.....pawd-cats/

Here is a posting with some comments and how to do a search: http://tripawds.....r-tripods/

Holly and Purrkins designed a great litter box. Here's a blog: http://tripawds.....d-kitties/

Since Tom is strong and resilient he will figure it out. Delicate Mona initially would balance on the edge of the litter box with her butt hanging over but realized that wasn't working so well so adapted her form.

My vet said that cats are resilient and I have to say that Mona really surprised me. It's like she got a huge boost in confidence like she can take on the world!

Please keep in touch.


Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona


Member Since:
11 July 2016
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8 September 2017 - 12:10 pm
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Hello and Welcome,
I am sorry you and Tom are dealing with Osteosarcoma! I am glad to see you got a second opinion !! I don't think Tom

is old OMC! He is mature on the cat chart;) I don't think 56 is old in human years either;) We have had older kitties 15 -16 years old have had amps. As the chart shows cats can live long lives!!

Screen-Shot-2017-09-08-at-8.53.49-AM.jpgImage Enlarger

Our cat Purrkins had his amp 13 months ago he was 6 at the time now 7 he had a soft tissue sarcoma on his front left leg. He gets about better then I could have ever hoped for!!! I think you will be amazed ! He can do everything he did on 4 legs on 3 and does! I wish he didn't but he does;) I have made some modifications to the house added steps to his favorite places now. Moved furniture to make going down easier etc. Trying to protect his remaining front leg.

Front leg kitties have NO Problem jumping up FYI Purrkins jumped in the window the first day home!! He couldn't walk but he jumped in the window fine! He did a lot of face planting the first day home ! The hospital kept him too long for his Personality . Purrkins started getting around well day 3 all kitties are different in recovery!

As far as the litter box Tom will be able to scratch do all things cats do even with the one front paw!

Litter box I would suggest a low lipped box, we actually cut our litter box out to make it easier for Purrkins to get in and out. I see Kerren gave you a link I will give you another link too.  We used a Dremel tool with a cutting wheel because the plastic is so tough, then filed it smooth.

If you don't have a tool you can use Rubbermaid totes they cut easy with box cutter etc.  Both ideas are in the post below!


I would keep Tom inside and going potty inside until after his stitches or staples are removed! You likely will have instructions from you Vet . We had instructions for restricted activity for 14 days. Which is not exactly easy with cats! Has he used a litter box or litter before?

If you can start ASAP & see if he will use it for you before the amp next week even better!!!
We set up a spare room for Purrkins to recover in and he chose the closet to recover in. Cats usually want to hide when they get home that is NORMAL cat instinct. Provide a safe place for him to recover in that you can get to him for his meds!! If there is a bed make sure it is not accessible they will go directly under the bed!! We took the bed off the frame ! If you can't do that stuff under the bed and I mean stuff so there is no way in!!

Have a supply of all of his favorite foods, some times they don't want to eat with the pain meds, be prepared have some favorite foods on hand. Wet food is great for recovery because then you don't have to worry so much about drinking too! I used smelly foods for Purrkins in recovery the smellier the better it gets past the not wanting to eat. Tuna & Salmon, Chicken and Herring etc. I got assorted foods . Not all cats have the same tastes & I knew fish for Purrkins was a pretty safe bet he would eat it. You can warm foods too. I also had baby food on hand just in case I needed it. Turkey & Gravy baby food . Kerrens Vet sent Mona home with kitten food and that is great too, higher in calories for recovery . Purkins was overweight going into his amp and this is just my opinion I think going in with some weight to lose is better then being too thin, they may lose weight in recovery and you can work on the weight loss after recovery!!

We are not pro amptation here just FYI it may appear that way, we are pro quality of life! Amputiaon was the last thing I wanted to do and couldn't even imagine taking Purrkins leg!

Take a look at his you tube videos I do believe that will help you see how Tom will get about & yes even thrive on 3 legs! Cats are simply amazing!

Let us know if you have any further questions!
Give Tom a chin scratch from us!
Holly & Purrkinsheart

Member Since:
7 September 2017
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8 September 2017 - 1:58 pm
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Hugs and chin scratches well received!heart

Both Mona and Purrkins have recovered so beautifully - it's giving me hope! Thank you for sharing your wonderful journeys with me. It's really reassuring to read that their quality of life post amp is so good - we were all so worried we'd be making his life worse..

That's a pretty ingenious litter box design! Tom has never used litter before.. I tried a makeshift cardboard litter box today that I cut low in the front, but he isn't interested.. I'm not sure how to make him understand that it's for pooping - he just rubbed against it and went away. Is there any way I can teach him to use it before the procedure? I'll stay on the lookout for a low-front litter box (or cutting tools), and make it as large as possible. Thank you so much for the advice and the design!

Also thank you Holly and Purrkins for the bed-stuffing and food tips! And Purrkins you are adorablebig-blinksuch an active and graceful cat. I'm trying to get him used to his recovery room, and I'll be sure to fill up any inaccessible nooks and crannies with stuff. And arrange the furniture in a more friendly way. 

Another potential issue is our other cat Leo. We got him 2 years ago as an abandoned week-old kitty, but he and Tom have never gotten along despite multiple attempts to socialise them. Leo is very energetic and playful, but Tom is quite sedate, so he ends up being chased and attacked often. It's quite stressful for him generally, I'm sure it's the last thing he needs post op.. Is there any way to make them coexist on such short notice, or should I just try to keep them seperate until Tom regains health?

Again, thank you all for your encouragement and advice, it's deeply appreciated!


Member Since:
11 July 2016
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8 September 2017 - 3:17 pm
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OH Please have hope!!You have every reason to have hope Tom will do great on 3!

Last thing I wanted was for Purrkins to lose his leg but the choice came down to longterm the life or the leg! We picked Purrkins life! Just like your doing for Tom! We do this for our animals not to them, that takes a bit to get used to but really your are getting rid of the pain and hopefully the cancer. Either way you are giving Tom a extended quality of life he wouldn't have otherwise. Tom will amaze you!!

Was there litter in the box you made him?
I have read some people actually put some soil in the litter box with litter to get the cat the idea and then gradually less soil more litter. Is Tom inside 100% now?  I would be keeping Tom inside now and used to the idea before surgery! 

They make all kinds of litter designed to help get kitty using the box Cat Attract litter from Dr Elsey’s comes to my mind they make a additive too if you already have cat litter and don't want to buy more. The also make one called a Touch of outdoors. We use one made out of grass called Smart Cat clumps like clay but is not clay. Any litter should be unscented .

As for his brother Leo. Yep I agree the last thing Tom will need post op! I would keep them separated for sure!! If you can have a room with a door for Tom to recover in that will help! 

If they haven't gotten along for 2 years no there is no quick fix now, sorry wish there was! 

There are things you can work on after Tom is recovered. Here is a link on the how to's for later.

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We have Purrkins brother and they had issues when Purrkins had his cancer we used a multi cat diffuser. I kept them separated and allowed supervised visits but they were brothers and did get along before if Leo & Tom don't get along now I would not stress Tom with visits! Work on that later. You can try some things before surgery sure see how it goes but I wouldn't bank on it right now!!

When is surgery next week? 


Holly & Purrkinsheart


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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8 September 2017 - 10:38 pm
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One thing for certain, you could not jave any better advice  than what our Kitty Esperts Kerran and Holly have given you!!

They have covered everything brilliantly!!

As Holly said, "it's not that werew pro amputation here, it's that we are pro quality of life"!  The amputation may not completely eliminate thisnpiece of crap disease, but it definitely gives extended quality pain free time!

We're all cheering for Tom!  He's a very special boy!


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!

Member Since:
7 September 2017
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10 September 2017 - 1:53 am
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You are all incredible big-blink Tom and I are so grateful for the encouragement and support.

Soil with litter is a great idea - I've mixed some in and crossing fingers it works! I live in Kenya, so the choices of litter are a bit limited.. Optimistic about the soil working though!

I went to speak to the vet yesterday - he needs to do some bloodwork on Monday morning just to make sure all is clear, and the surgery will happen on Tuesday morning. The vet suggests keeping him in-patient for the first few days to make sure he's recovering decently and not gnawing out his stitches, for up to 10 days. In case he doesn't eat and is especially moody, he'll come home to recuperate here. It's going to be so difficult not being able to support Tom immediately post-op, but I think with Leo in the house it might be best for him.. I'll send one of his soft blankets with in case the smell helps at all. The vet also outlined the risks as part of protocol, and that left me bawling for the rest of the day crying

I think with the ~10 day gap, it will be easy to implement the 'introducing cats' protocol.

This is all happening so quickly, but like you all said, this is between his leg and the length + quality of his life, and we really are making the best decision. I think whichever way it goes, we will be okay knowing we did our absolute best.

Tom's having a cosy day today, snuggled up in a warm blanket. He sends big purrs and face-rubs to all of you heart


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11 July 2016
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10 September 2017 - 6:59 am
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We are keeping our hands and paws crossed Tom uses the box today/tomorroow before surgery! You can always pick Tom up & put him in the litter box/box move around the liter/dirt like he would etc. I would really try to get him using it if at all possible today . I would ask the vet about the soil after surgery in recovery, I do not think its a good idea, I was thinking we had more time. Please ask them what they think.

A lot of kitties stay overnight or 2 Purrkins stayed a Total of 3 nights 4 days he was in great care but for Purrkins personality I wish they would of sent him home sooner. He didn’t eat but a taste of food in the hosipital. He did eat when he came home. When he got home the healing began.

Most importantly when Tom gets to come home make sure they are sending home pain medication. I can't imagine keeping him 10 days?! I sent a blanket with Purrkins too. Not sure it helped but yes send it along!

There is always a risk anytime our animals get put under Tom is healthy he should do fine! We are all sending pawsitve thoughts, prayers & good ju ju across the sea to Kenya for Tom!

We used baby onesies instead of a cone, Purrkins did great in his and he couldn't get to his incision to gnaw at it;) Ask your surgeon if he would allow that! We did and it was great NO CONE! I still checked the incision and daily & changed his onesies.

DIY Baby Onesie/T-shirts Cone of Shame Alternative

Enjoy today we feel the purrs and face rubs Tom you got this buddy!
I know its terrifying we remember!! Your not alone you have us and know you are absolutely doing what is best for Tom! Tom will hop on!

Keep us posted and please let us know when surgery is done & Tom is recovering!! 

Sending pawsitve thoughts across the sea for blood work, surgery & a smooth recovery!!
Holly & Purrkinsheart

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27 July 2014
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10 September 2017 - 9:16 am
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Cats learn the purpose for a litter box very quickly. Since you are keeping Tom inside now, just place him in the box every few hours and scratch at the litter like you are making a hole and he might get the idea. I understand Holly's concern about having soil in the box because soil contains a lot of bacteria that can get into the incision. Perhaps you can transition quickly by adding more litter so you are reduce the soil/litter ratio. Besides, he will learn by staying at the vet clinic.

It sounds like you have a good vet who outlines the risks. And tears are okay, they are a release of stress which I'm sure is high right now. 

As for Leo. Did Holly mention that the diffusers are synthetic cat pheromones? I haven't used them myself but here's an example: https://www.fel.....ay-Friends

The vet may have some ideas on how to deal with Leo. 

I hope the bloodwork goes well. Make sure you take care of yourself.

Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona

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7 September 2017
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11 September 2017 - 2:14 am
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Victory for Tom - he peed in soil-free litter this morning!superstar It's also the same litter used at the vet, so I think he'll be just fine.

I know, 10 days feels like a lifetime.. I'll be able to visit pretty often, but I also think it's very likely he'll be home sooner - he's very attached to home, and really sensitive. Like Purrkins, I think his healing will likely only begin at home.. You guys are so creative - you've come up with such novel solutions for all aspects of this. I'm so glad this website exists! I'll ask the vet about onesies and get stitching when I get the go-ahead.

Also, I had no idea the diffusers used synthetic pheromones - I thought they just combined the cats' smells somehow. Will definitely look into those, they seem really effective. I hope I can find them on this side of the world!

Blood tests are today, will update as soon as the results are back. Surgery will most likely happen tomorrow morning. Feeling nervous, but very assured that this is the best decision for our baby.

Have a lovely daybig-blink


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11 July 2016
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11 September 2017 - 8:15 am
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YAAAAAAY Tom!!!clapMost excellent news! 

We use the diffuser I didn't mention more,  thinking you would not have access? Check them out yes we use Feliway Multi-cat. If you have choices we personally have found that one more helpful!

It helps its not a magic bullet but it helps! Still do the steps to reintroduce with diffuser. I used diffuser and a calming spray in recovery!

You will be nervous NORMAL I am so glad to hear you are assured yes you are making the best decision for sweet Tom!

Hugs & Lets get some good news on bloodwork today! 

Chin scratches & extra treats for Tom & Leo! Leo be nice please!

Holly & Purrkinsheart

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7 September 2017
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12 September 2017 - 3:28 am
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Bad news.. Tom's bloodwork came back and there are complications - they are retaking blood on Friday to see if anything changes for the better, but his liver and red blood cell count aren't safe to continue with surgery at this stage..

He developed a fever this morning, and his leg is swelling at an alarming rate. Waiting is so risky, but so is moving forward wit surgery. This is really scary.. He's on painkillers and an antibiotic now, I have to keep going to the vet to get the pain shot administered, and he absolutely hates vet visits and the car. And I can hear him licking and shifting around in the night when the painkillers wear off. This is so difficult.. I hate to see him suffer like this and I don't know what to do to make it better for him. I don't even know how to cope with the uncertainty myself.. I feel so helpless 

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