The Occasionally Challenging Life of a Three-legged Cat
Having only three legs presents a few challenges for Sammi but it doesn't prevent her from being a happy, healthy cat.There are a few things she has difficulty doing but we’ve tried to make her life as a three-legged kitty easier and safe.
Sammi was surrendered to the SPCA and had her left front leg amputated by
U.C. Davis veterinarians in November 2008. We adopted her about one month after her amputation with very little information about what had happened to her. We believe her paw was injured and was not affected by some type of disease. We were amazed at how active and capable she was just one month after the amputation. She was on one of the tallest perches in the adoption room, came down, ran across the floor, and hopped up to the back of a couch. She has certainly demonstrated how resilient cats are.
Jumping & Climbing
Sammi is a long, lean, jumping machine.
Her hind legs are strong so she has no difficulty jumping up or leaping forward.
She's just a little less agile than a 4-legged cat because she has only one front leg for pulling up or balancing, but that doesn’t affect her too much.
Here are several more photos of the things we've done throughout the house to make Sammi's life easier and safer.
Walking & Running
Sammi’s walking is awkward and a bit slow as she uses her single front paw to balance and move forward. She gets around just fine, it just appears to take a lot of effort.
Sammi doesn’t run long distances chasing toys, but she plays in-place just like a 4-legged cat. She grabs toy mice with her teeth, tosses them in the air, then pounces on them with her front paw. Of course it’s always fun to bite the little tails off and eat them. She rolls on her back, swats for toys, and pounces on things just like any other cat.
She loves to pounce on her wand toy with mylar strips on the end. We wiggle it beneath tissue paper to make it extra enticing. She’ll chase/pounce on it about up to about 3 feet away, but not much farther. 1+ year update: Sammi chases her toys farther now. The wand toy is still a favorite, but she'll run back and forth about 6-8 feet during the chasing game.
Since Sammi has only one front leg she can balance better if the cat litter isn’t too deep. I think she balances a bit better if the litter is only 1-2 inches deep, but then when she scrapes the litter when preparing to go potty, she'll find the bottom of the box and pee on exposed plastic and make a bit of a mess. A box filled 2-3 inches deep works well. It gives her something to scrape in without being too deep to balance or too shallow to hit bottom.
Grooming presents some challenges
Like all cats, Sammi is meticulous about grooming, but there are a few things she has difficulty doing. It’s a little harder for her to groom her legs because she has only one front leg to balance on while she’s cleaning a leg or twisting backwards. She grooms the right side of her head with her right front paw, but since there’s no left paw she can’t groom the left side of her head. She’s devised her own ingenious method of grooming her head using a perch. She licks the edge of her carpeted perch, then rubs her head on it! What a creative thinker! Sometimes I help her out by wiping her face and head with a damp washcloth, but for the most part she’s figured out how to give herself a thorough grooming.
Where to get supplies
Most of the items we've purchased to help Sammi can be found at a local variety store (Target, WalMart), or the hardware store. We got some inexpensive ottomans from Target that we use as steps for her. They're nice because you can find some different heights or shapes (round, square, rectangle) and they are very stable. We have a sturdy wicker basket with a wooden bottom that we turned upside down for her to use as a step. It's the size that could hold your newspapers for recycling so it's a good step size for her. Of course, the cinder blocks we used to elevate one of the perches came from the hardware store. And we bought "feet" from the hardware store to screw onto the bottom of another perch to make it about 3 inches taller. Just that 3 inches made it a lot easier for her to get down from one perch to the next. You get them in the furniture-making department where they also have table legs and ready-made table tops. Grippy shelf-liner works well to prevent slips on smooth surfaces where she jumps up.