Amputation in cats

Unfortunately, due to disease or complications after an accident, it is sometimes necessary to remove a cat’s tail or limb. It may seem dramatic but it’s never without reason. Whilst this is often upsetting to owners, cats are extremely adaptable, and usually function incredibly well without a tail or a leg. After a period of adjustment a cat will often live a completely normal life.

Tail Amputation in Cats

Cats’ tails are long and highly mobile and therefore are very prone to accidental injury as well as fractures, dislocations, abscesses, and bites. Tail amputation is a relatively simple procedure, and is unlikely to have a long term impact on your cat.

Limb Amputation in Cats

Limb amputation may be performed if your cat’s leg has been severely injured in an accident or if her leg is affected by a serious condition such as a large tumour or birth defect. Although this might seem a drastic measure, most cats continue their lives on three legs without any problems.

There will be a period of readjustment as your cat learns to move and be without the limb. Over time your cat will gain more confidence and certainty, and should eventually learn to walk and even run and jump again. It’s important around this time to be supportive and gentle with your cat, so don’t challenge it to climb or jump, but instead take things slowly. Following an initial 4 weeks recovery period there are usually no recommended limitations to their lifestyle. Rear limb amputees tend to return to near normal mobility but forelimb amputees need to adjust their gait more significantly. This is because forelimbs of 4- legged animals carry a greater proportion of bodyweight. For older cats, learning how to move post operatively may take longer than for younger cats.

Helping your Cat Adapt

Your vet will be the first port of call after the operation, and he or she will issue with clear guidelines on how to help your cat make a full recovery. Your vet will likely suggest confining your cat to the house immediately after the operation, and possibly to one room, to restrict exercise and jumping initially. Your cat may initially struggle getting into the litter tray, so you may need to consider an amputee friendly alternative or even cut a hole in the low part of the tray for ease of access.

For the rest of her life you must keep a close eye on your cat's weight, as weight gain places more strain on the other legs leading to increased wear and tear and a higher likelihood of arthritis developing. This is very important, as cats may gain weight after a reduction in exercise.

A loss of limbs may have an impact on your cat’s interactions with other cats. She may not be able to run from danger as quickly so it is important to reintroduce the patient slowly and keep an eye on things to ensure a safe and harmonious existence.


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