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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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Second thoughts on amputating Tabby's leg
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Member Since:
19 March 2017
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19 March 2017 - 11:44 am
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Tabby, my handsome feline boy & I are new to this site. 

I found a lump on the inside of Tabby's rear left leg the day after Christmas (2016).  In the months since, he's had bloodwork, x-rays and a needle aspiration.  While the needle aspiration indicated the presence of a malignancy, it did not tell us specifically which type of cancer this is.

The oncologist believes it is most likely osteosarcoma.  

Early on, one of the first things I told my regular vet, was that I would not amputate Tabby's leg.  She agreed and told me about her own cat who had a leg amputation many years ago.   Though her cat lived another 10 months after the surgery, the vet felt her kitty no longer had a good quality of life.  The poor cat moved only when necessary.   It seemed the surgery was too tough on her.   My other (backup) vet advised against even doing a biopsy because it would cause Tabby pain.

But here I am, 3 months later, with amputation surgery scheduled for this Wednesday, 3/22.

Tabby's circumstances are different from most of the other kitties on the forum.  He started life as a feral kitten, living in an old abandoned carriage house with his 4 siblings.   I spay/neutered them and became the caretaker for the little family in 1999, caring for them ever since.   Tabby, estimated age about 18, is the last surviving member of that family.  

The carriage house was demolished in 2008 and my husband & I built an outdoor enclosure for Tabby in our backyard, surrounded on 3 sides with woods.   I was finally able to trap him and bring him to his new home in 2009.  He was diagnosed with osteomyelitis in his right front leg and borderline anemia at the time.

Tabby took to his new home immediately.   He has perches to climb and sunbathe on, an insulated house with a heated bed, and a feeding station with a heated mat and water dish in winter.   The woods draw lots of animals - deer especially.   He's been able to hunt chipmunks, even squirrels who chewed their way into the enclosure.   

Tabby's no longer a feral cat.  He loves headbutts, purrs when petted, enjoys combing and massages. I can pick him up.

But he sees very few people besides my husband, me and the infrequent cat sitter.    Visits to the vet, while stressful for most kitties, are even more so for him.  

The thought of having to bring him in early Wednesday morning, having to sit in a cage with the noise & bustle of a busy animal hospital ( a large 24/7 emergency care facility), undergoing more diagnostic tests, anesthesia and the surgery itself, then having to remain there at least 1 if not 2 nights...sometimes I feel I'm asking too much of him.

He's got mild kidney disease (creatinine 2.6; 2.4 is considered the high end of normal) which has been stable.  He's got a spot of arthritis in the right front leg which has responded to Cosequin. The anemia has resolved.  He possibly has the early stages of HCM, so I might have another echo done before the surgery - yet another thing for him to endure...

I've taken these things, along with his age, into consideration.  But if this lump had never appeared, I'd think that Tabby would easily have another 2, maybe more, years in him.  Even with this awful lump, which is right where the leg bends, adding to the misery, he still chased a bird 2 weeks ago, still eats like a champ, still wants attention and love.   He's hanging in there even though I know that despite the pain meds (buprenex and gabapentin, each 2x per day) he's at the least uncomfortable, if not in some degree of pain.   

I'm sorry this post is so long. For anyone reading this far, thank you.  This site has been a blessing to me - I found it about a week ago and have been lurking, reading of others experiences.  So here I am, wondering if I can go through with this surgery.   The alternatives aren't great - zoledronate once per month will control the pain but do nothing to shrink the tumor.   Palliative radiation won't shrink it either.

No crystal ball to tell me if Tabby will be ok with surgery.   He'll have to recuperate in my house, an alien environment to him, for at least 2 weeks.  The potential aftermath of surgery - depression, phantom limb pain, being able to balance in the litter box - scares the heck out of me. 

I've been struggling for over a month with what to do for my great little guy.  I hope I can go through with it.   I'm just so scared of making a mistake.

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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19 March 2017 - 1:30 pm
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Welcome and best wishes for Tabby! It's normal to feel scared and worried, but the vast majority of pets cope much better with amputation than their people do.

While you wait for feedback from others, be sure to check out all the tri-kitty blogs for lots of three legged cat recovery and care tips—and feel free to start your own free blog to share Tabby's progress and photos. There is also a forum dedicated to Three Legged Cats, which compiles many discussions specifically about feline amputees.

Please keep us posted, your future forum posts will not require moderation.

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
27 July 2014
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19 March 2017 - 10:10 pm
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I'm so sorry to hear about Tabby's pending amputation. At one time I had a feral mother cat dump off her 5 kittens at my house for me to raise and find homes. One stayed, his name was Tabby also. He was the sweetest guy and made sure all the other cats followed the house rules.

You have obviously put a lot of thought and time into the decision to amputate. Tabby has done amazingly well to reach 18 years as a once feral cat. At the very least the amputation will take the pain away and give him more time with you. As for recovery, first, Tabby will not be depressed. He'll sleep a lot after the surgery and needs a quiet, cozy space. My cat slept under a shelf in my closet. A crate with a blanket over it or even a coffee table with a blanket over are also great, cozy hiding places for cats. Just make sure you have easy access and that the room doesn't have hiding places where you can't reach him - under a bed is about the worst place to reach a cat.

Not all cats get phantom limb pain. My tripawd Mona, only screamed out once during her recovery. Then there's the litter box. Mona had no problems with balancing in the box - she just chose not to used it. Balance comes fairly quickly. There are some falls but they figure it out quite quickly.

The main concern is ensuring the cat does not bite at the stitches or get the incision infected. Mona didn't pay any attention to her incision and didn't wear a cone or clothing. That seems to be a bit unusual but your vet can advise you or you can get some ideas from the Three Legged Cat resources.

I'm sorry your vet's cat did not have a good quality of life after the amputation. I think that is highly unusual. My vet was very positive about Mona' ability to manage life with 3 legs. He says that cats are very resilient and manage very well.

I hope all goes well with Tabby's surgery and recovery. I know surgery can be harder on older cats. Please let us know how he's doing and make sure you take care of yourself too.

Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona


Member Since:
11 July 2016
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20 March 2017 - 4:19 am
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Hello and Welcome,

I am so sorry you have to join us and your dealing with ampuatiaion and cancer with Tabby and Tabby being 18 and his circumstances are really tough! We all totally understand your concerns and terror.
Kerren has given you some great advice.

It is so normal to be terrified right now! I also believe it is harder on us humans then our animals. I think we all have the same fears going into this. As far as the depression, luckily for our animals they do not think the way we do. Tabby will be happy to be pain free and alive. I think if you hold on to that, that will help you get thru this. Your doing this for Tabby and not to him!

I would be struggling with your decision as well. Tabby being 18 I would be more terrified. If Tabby is healthy enough for the surgery I believe, I would make the same choice you are making. You will give him a extended pain free life.

There are no crystal balls on this journey! We make the best informed decisions we can make. We pray and hope for the rest! We love our animals and want the best quality of life for them, with that in mind, we are never making the wrong choice, regardless of our outcomes. 

I can tell you ,we had a 16 year old kitty Garfield fall from our kitchen table and he broke his leg (compound fracture). He was not a candidate for amputation due to his health, we had no choice with Garfield and had to say goodbye . I would of been so grateful for a choice.

Our Purrkins is 6 years old he is 8 months post amputation of his front left leg due to soft tissue sarcoma, I could of never imagined Purrkins would of adjusted to 3 legs as well as he has! He has surpassed any and all of my expectations.

I would of been thrilled with him just getting along on 3 legs and having a pain free life. Purrkins is the same happy kitty on 3 legs loving life! We have been on this site for 8 months and I have not yet read where anyone has regretted their decision to amputate on there kitties. I agree with Kerren I think it is highly unusual for a kitty to not have a quality of life after amputation. I am really sorry and surprised your Vet had a different experience.

I am glad to hear you are already on pain meds and Gabapentin. You are already ahead of the game on phantom limb pain. Take that worry off your plate right now. Tabby should stay on the same meds after surgery and that should alleviate the potential for phantom limb pain. ( that was also one of my fears) Purrkins was on Gaba too.

Being a back leg. I do believe it would be easier to adjust.
Back leg kitties have a easier time getting down and a harder time getting up to places. It’s the opposite for front leg kitties.
Either way they still can go up and down! You can make adjustments to Tabbies enclosure to help if it has levels. A ramp or stairs would help Tabby in there. The litter box was a issue for Purrkins getting into it ,the first day home I helped him in and out of the box, I even held him up to go potty;) We cut the box out to help him get in and out and that did the trick for him. Providing a easier way in with a step up or cutting the box down. Lower lip box.

I will add some forum links that I think will help you below, Pepper was a feral kitty as well with infectious anemia. She is a a lot younger but I do believe you will relate with their posts, the other posts are on older kitties and all but one are rear leg amps. I hope these will ease some of your worries.

Pepper also was a feral cat, age 5-6 with acquired infectious anemia , with VAS (rear leg)

Lynx 15 year old (front leg) fibrosarcoma (2 separate forum links on Lynx)


Jimmi 14 year old with Osteosarcoma (rear leg)

Midnight 13 year old (rear leg) VAS

You can post in any of those forums or Private Message any of those members with questions. I do believe they will all get back to you! 

Blogs on rear leg kitty amputees

We will be here to help in anyway we can, my heart goes out to you, your circumstances are different then most here. If we can answer any more questions please do not hesitate to ask. We also here just for support too! Please keep us posted! Your never alone in this!
Sending the biggest of hugs!
Chin and ear Scratches to Tabby

Holly & Purrkinsheart


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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20 March 2017 - 3:16 pm
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I just want to send my love and support. You've gotten good insight from everyone.

Yes without questions, you have hurdles because of his age, as well as his own unique personality traits specific to your sweet Tabby.

This horrid piece of crap disease FORCES us to make really, really hard choices sometimes. "Choices" where the only RIGHT decision is one made out of love.

You are making a decision out of love, whichever path you take. Sometimes in tough situations like this, it boils down to what would you second guess the least...trying the option of amputation with the hope of extended quality time, regardless of the outcome.....or not trying at all.

Just know we are all right here by your side. You are not alone, okay?

Hugs and love

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:
2 December 2016
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20 March 2017 - 7:00 pm
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You are right to worry but... I promise you Tabby is a SURVIVOR!!! And as he now knows, he is safe, loved beyond words, and taken care of. Yes, the journey will be different. And due to age and stress more difficult. But without trying, you would always guess...did I do EVERYTHING? Mainly, take away the immense a privileged caretaker of many, many ferals it is always hard to balance care...I have one with a facial/ nasal neoplasia which will slowly take him away from me. He is too feral to go to the vet. So that decision is hard for me but, truly, in his best independent best interest. Tabby may have been feral but now?!?! Completely loved and a head butting puddy cat. Keep a towel over his carrier, be zen, and stay with him until the pre-aneasthesia takes effect...I promise you Tabby will be okay. Who cares if he slowly recovers? He will no longer be in pain and that is the greatest loving gift you could ever give him. Tabby is a ROCKSTAR! As are you. You know that and Tabby does, too. The love you share is because he, and you, went out on a limb and trusted each other. That, indeed, is extremely special among ferals. We will be thinking of you tomorrow. Best wishes, hugs, and PyrPaws all around! 

Member Since:
16 October 2016
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20 March 2017 - 7:41 pm
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I can't add anything to the excellent advice already given here, so I will just say that you're not alone!  We stress and worry because we love our furry family members - remember you are making decisions out of love for Tabby. 

We will be thinking of you and Tabby; sending positive thoughts your way for a successful surgery.  Tabby will recover in his own time, at his his own pace. 

Tracey & Tai

Member Since:
19 March 2017
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20 March 2017 - 10:50 pm
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Sunday night I cried myself to sleep with worry for Tabby.   

Now it's early Tuesday morning and I'm reading the replies to my post and all I can say, I'm just blown away with all the wonderful comments, great advice and loving thoughts sent to my boy & me!

Thank you to the admin for your initial welcome to this wonderful site.   And many thanks to Kerren, Holly, Sally, Charliebear & Tracey for taking the time to respond.   I was sinking fast in a sea of doubt, but you all just lifted me up and are keeping me afloat!!!

The reality that this is the last full day that Tabby will be 4-legged is very difficult.   His leg is handsome with its white "sock" and tiger stripes.  It has served him well for most of his life.   I'm beyond angry at the awful, large lump that is causing so much pain for Tabby, so much heartache for me.  

But you've given me a good dose of courage...just in time.    Thank you all for the amazing support!!!  heart

Sue & Tabby


Member Since:
22 February 2013
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21 March 2017 - 9:26 am
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Oh gosh! You just reminded me you were "floating in the sea of doubt"! We have a special lifeline made specifically for floating out to sea! We're gonna toss it to you right now. Get ready to cstch it so we can pull you back safely to shore. Here we go!!

One.....two.....three......GOOD CATCH!! Now you are secured to us and safely planted on firm ground!

That bum leg is no longer serving him. Besides, his cuteness will multiply when you see how adorable a tripawd kitty can be.

STAY CONNECTED! You have come to your decision out of love. Always hang onto that. Tabby knows you love him.

Update us when you can.

Hugs and love

Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

PS. Stock up on CHOCOLATE, lots and lots of CHOCOLATE!! It helps!

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:
11 July 2016
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21 March 2017 - 9:33 am
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Enjoy today with Tabby!

Yes the leg has served him well for most of his life, now it is diseased and painful!
Being angry is normal ! Be angry at the stupid cancer and tomorrow get rid of three, anger cancer and the leg! You will have Tabby!

A couple things I would suggest are food, if Tabby has some special foods or treats he loves, stock up. I got smelly fishy foods, not what I normally feed Purrkins, I wanted to be prepared for him not eating, The smelly foods get past that not wanting to eat, at least it did with us. I got Tuna & Salmon , Chicken & Herring etc. I got assorted canned foods. You kinda want to be prepared for him to be fussy eating. Wet food would be ideal for recovery. Even if Tabby does not eat wet food, it cant hurt to have it on hand.

Can you bring Tabbies outside bed inside. I think that will help him having a familiar smell inside. Maybe bring him in today just to let him explore , so when he comes home it will not be so foreign .

A pheromone diffuser would be helpful in the room you will have Tabby recover in. It will provide some comfort.

As Kerren mentioned provide a safe secure room for his recovery. Purrkins chose the closet in a spare room to recover in. Most cats will want to hide, thats normal instinct in our cats. Let him decide where he feels secure in a room. Somewhere you can get to him at med time. If the room he will recover in has a bed block it off, stuff pillows or comforters, blankets under it. If you can put the mattress on the floor even better. 99.9% odds are kitty will go under the bed if they can.

Looks at cone alternatives for Tabby a soft cone possibly , they make soft ones, inflatable ones. We used baby t-shirts and onesies, those wont work for a back leg amp. Ask your surgeon of course. Here are some ideas.


We will be thinking of you both tomorrow and sending pawsitive energy. 
We are here if you need anything or have questions.
Please keep us updated.
Hang in there, we are all here for you and Tabby.
Sending you extra strength! And huge hugs! 
Snuggle Tabby and spoil him rotten!
Holly & Purrkins

Los Angeles, CA
Member Since:
13 June 2013
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21 March 2017 - 10:10 am
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Sending you lots of love and strength (and Tabby too)... I have not had a kitty so I don't know as much about them but I see others have given you great advice - especially Holly and Purrkins!!! 

But I can't wait to see some photos of Tabby ... 

keep us posted ... we're all thinking of you today! 

alison with spirit shelby in her heart (and little jasper too) 

Shelby Lynne; Jack Russell/Shiba Inu mix. Proud member of the April Angels of 2014.

October 15, 2000 to April 8, 2014

Our story: Broke rear leg in June 2013 - non-conclusive results for cancer so leg was plated and pinned. Enlarged spleen in September 2013 and had it removed and was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma and started chemotherapy. Became a Tripawd January 8th, 2014 and definitive Hemangiosarcoma diagnosis. Three major surgeries in 7 months and Shelby took them all like a champ only to lose her battle to cancer in her brain. We had 8 amazing extra months together and no regrets. #shelbystrong #loveofmylife

On The Road

Member Since:
24 September 2009
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21 March 2017 - 10:19 am
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Sue, I'm so glad that you were able to feel better after coming back to read replies. As you can see we understand your worry. The bond you have built with Tabby is so strong, it's not easy to carry the weight of this huge decision on your shoulders. This isn't an easy choice to make but yeah, I agree that Tabby is a fighter and has the spunk to make a complete, speedy recovery and go on living life.

If this is osteosarcoma (I assume your vet will do the biopsy after the amputation?), rest assured we've had a number of cats with osteosarcoma join us over the years and they went on living life and enjoying it to the fullest. Cats tend to do very, very well even with osteosarcoma diagnosis and once that bad leg is gone they go on enjoying the things they love best. Tabby can do the same once he's healed.

We are thinking of you today and sending lots of love your way. Keep us posted OK? 

Tripawds Founders Jim and Rene | | |

Member Since:
14 February 2016
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21 March 2017 - 5:49 pm
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Thinking of you and Tabby!

Otis - 106 pound lab/Dane mix, lost his right front leg to osteosarcoma on Febuary 9, 2016.  Four rounds of carboplatin completed in April, 2016.  Lung mets August 25, 2016.  Said goodbye too soon on September 4, 2016.   Lost his adopted sister, Tess, suddenly on October 9, 2016. likely due to hemangiosarcoma.  

Wherever they are, they are together.

Member Since:
19 March 2017
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22 March 2017 - 9:48 pm
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He made it!!!   My boy got through surgery "wonderfully" this afternoon according to the oncologist who sounded genuinely delighted.

I kept it together for Tabby at drop off this a.m. at the hospital, but of course lost it the second I walked through the door on the way back to the car.

A major hurdle cleared today - I know there'll be more to come.   But right now just so relieved that my boy is doing well.  Very, very proud of my tough little tigerheart

Thank you, Jerry, for your thoughtful post - yes, the weight of this decision was indeed heavy - for awhile it seemed I'd never be able to reach a conclusion.  

Thanks Alison and otisandtess, too, for adding your good wishes for Tabby & me.

To everyone who took the time to comment or just read my post, my heartfelt thanks.  You all helped more than you knowheart

Exhausting day - I'm off to bed before I fall down.  Thanks, everyone!



Member Since:
22 February 2013
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22 March 2017 - 9:55 pm
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Soooooo relieved to see this update!!!! 🙂 Way to rock that surgery Tabby!! 🙂 🙂

Tabby will be seeing a few pink elephants tonight and feeling no pain. So you get a goooood night's sleep!

Good job Tabby! And Mom too!!


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!

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