Life with a Three Legged Cat

Three legged cats aren’t as unusual as you might think.

At first, a three legged cat will need a lot of care: but that’s true of any animal (or any person come to that) who is recovering from major surgery. Once the wounds have started to heal, the cat is ready to get back to normal, but owners aren’t always quite as ready as the cat…

1. Let them enjoy the great outdoors

Cats like space. Cats like to roam. People like to feel calm, so sometimes they want to keep their three legged cats indoors. But who does that benefit? Not the cat!

It took me ages to stop worrying every time my cat went outside, but he was happy and content to be exploring, hunting, failing to climb trees and generally patrolling his territory.

2. Eating

Three legged cats don’t need special diets. At first they might put on a little weight – hardly surprising after a few weeks of inactivity as they recover from major surgery.

My three legged cat was fed the same food as his brother and allowed to lead a normal, active life. He quickly got back in shape. (Although unlike Garfield, his shape wasn’t round)

3. Scratching

Scratching and pulling claws was a real problem. My cat lost a back leg, so he just couldn’t stand on one leg and attack the neighbour’s finest trees and fence posts any more. Good for the neighbours, not so good for the claws.

We bought a thick coir doormat and fixed scratching posts on the skirting boards which provided some help, but we learned to live with the fact that the carpet on the riser on the bottom stair started to wear out mysteriously fast.

4. Grooming

Losing a leg left our cat with an annoying, just-out-of-reach patch on the side of his head. A quick comb or a rub was all that was required to sort this out.

5. Health/lifespan

Lots of well meaning people assumed that having three legs meant that my cat’s days were numbered. In fact he was fit and healthy for most of his life and lived to be 14 years old.

It wasn’t the lack of a leg that finally did for him, but advancing years and failing health. His over-active thyroid and high blood pressure were nothing to do with an accident many years previously, he would have suffered from these anyway – his four legged brother developed the same conditions very shortly afterwards.

Three Legged Cat I

…and finally

Living with a three legged cat really isn’t all that different to living with a four legged one. My cat spent 13 years as a tripod: he was happy and contented and he lived a great life.

262 comments to Life with a Three Legged Cat

  • Bernadette

    Hi all I got the devistating phonecall this morning that all pet owners dread, my baby 1 year old cat ‘Zya’had been hit by a car…. Following X-rays it was revealed he has a straightforward break in is front right leg and a complicated 5 piece break in is back leg and a broken pelvis.. The vet recommends amputation of the back leg.. I have not stopped crying all day and feel consumed by grief, I found this thread whilst searching for inspiration as to what decision to make for the best. It does seem for most people who have shared thier stories that most cats cope well as tripods, but at the moment I just feel so sad for my lovely little boy. I am anxious how he will cope in the first few weeks following the surgery given he also has to have the front leg pinned has anyone had a similar experience ?
    Thanks Bernadette

  • mike christopher

    Lynda and I know about the crying and sorrow, but our Sophie is now 2 1/2 years since she lost her back leg. The best move we gave her was life….it was a traumatic couple weeks, but she is doing great. She may not do everything she done before, but she is Happy and that is the main thing. Cats seem to adapt better than humans.

    It’s a tough decision…but I think you and Zya will be okay. God bless

  • Bernadette

    Hello Mike
    Thank you for your reply I just wanted to give an update on Zya. He under went surgery on the 1st of July having his left rear leg amputated and right front leg pinned and plated. After almost a week in hospital he came home and seems to be doing well although the front leg seems to be his biggest problem. He is on 12 weeks cage rest ( for the front leg and broken pelvis) we are only 2 weeks in and he is already getting frustrated and is desperate to go outside. He gets clearly distressed crying, biting the cage, scratching at the litter tray. I have given him 2 drops of tramadol which does calm him down but I don’t want to have to dose him for three months. I wondered if you had any advice or suggestions on how to manage the cage rest? There is very little on the internet I have bought a feliway plug in but not sure if this is helping at all.
    On the upside I was really worried that the trauma of all this would change his personality but he is still the loving affectionate boy he was before the accident
    xx

  • mike christopher

    Well, Bernadette, Sophie only dealt with her back leg but done most of the things that Zya is doing. However, we broke down after only a week or two and let her out. Just couldn’t take her crying and actions in the cage.She was upsetting food, not using litter etc.

    When we let her out, that is when she went into the spasms/flopping as I call it for a few days maybe a week.But when that stopped, she returned to normal.

    I’m not sure with front and rear leg injury if that is the proper thing to do.

    It’s not easy and even the doctor wasn’t sure what to do, but we felt if she was going to learn that she only had 3 legs and we were sure she wouldn’t hurt herself, we let her out. Reminder, that she went through a terrible first few days (flopping etc….she just didn’t know yet that she only had 3 legs).

    Today she is happy, goes outside when she wants, eats well. But she does tire quickly and needs grooming and scratching on her left side a lot. By the way I don’t think she knows she only has 3 legs.

    Good luck and I bet Zya will do well…It was probably a good month before we realized how good Sophie was doing.But it was worth it.

  • Karen Watson

    Thank you my cat has just lost a back leg very happy to be home!can anybody got any good advice I’m listening to help me help my lovely cat.he wants to hide under the blanket is this normal it’s only been a week

    • mike christopher

      If you see by my comments to others, our Sophie had a leg amputated and was very spooky for a couple weeks. She came out of it and I am sure your cat will too.

      Read back on some comments there are a lot of caring people here to help

  • Tricia MacAulay

    Hi in December we adopted a two year old 3 legged cat from cat protection we had just lost our 17 year old who was the sweetest little girl but suffered with horrendous arthritis our new cat whilst missing a limb is a typical teenager and nothing holds him back my only concern is that am finding despite the fact he could eat you out of house and home he doesnt appear to put on any weight and is in fact quite thin you can feel his shoulder bones is this because of all the hopping he does to get about and should we be supplementing his meals or feeding him specific food for the calories he burns ?

  • Hi.
    We are collecting Sid this week, he is a two year old tabby who had a back leg amputated quite a few weeks ago. The rspca have given him a second chance of life and he has been staying with a foster carer but in a lovely cattery. Obviously very excited to get Sid but we think it will be strange for him as he has not had a chance to ‘explore’ the bigger area as been in a cattery environment for many weeks. Hoping he will think he is in seventh heaven as he will have a chalet bungalow to explore and eventually a nice size garden. We have a 9 year old Child who is hoping Sid is going to sleep on the end of her bed at night with all the soft toys!
    Fingers crossed he likes his new life

    • Lois Lindemann

      Hi Amanda, sorry for the slowness in replying, we have been in The Land of Virtually No Internet – also known as a very nice cottage in Scotland.

      How is Sid doing? I hope he is settling in and enjoying his new life with you.

      Best wishes,

      Lois

  • Kate

    Just some input on what life is like for our three legged cat. Our dear beloved siamese cat is the grand age of 12 years old and we hope he has many years ahead. He has had three legs for a year and a half. The missing leg is his right back hind. He arrived home one day and I knew immediately his leg was broken. We tried a few weeks recovery in a cage but the leg didn’t mend so we had it amputated. Having him in a cage for two weeks was stressful as he was in pain and not living the life he should so it was clear we had only one option. Once the legs was removed he heeled very quickly and I don’t think he knows why he feels a little awkward but walking has been an easy adaption.
    The most immediate sign of his disability is his inadequate attempts to scratch his right ear. I’ve no idea how many times he scratched his ear before the accident but it seems an on going turmoil on his behalf and watched with a sorrowful eye from us that he cannot relieve the itch.
    He never was as agile as our tabby even as a young cat but leaping from the floor to an upper ground proves difficult. This has resulted in a benefit on our behalf as I no longer need to sterilise the kitchen work tops every day. However I’d gladly give up that privilege if he could have four legs again.
    I guess we have noticed the lack of play in him but it’s hard to tell if that’s down to old age or his disability. I think a mixture of the two is worth noting.
    We recently purchased a new kitten. It really was a spur of the moment thing and as a result hadn’t thought of the consequences. The kitten is lively as you’d expect one to be and it seems she is the more domineering pet but I can’t help think if marley ( our three legged ) had all fours he would at least let her know when’s she’s too upbeat. The problem is that as she slides along our kitchen floor on her side with front legs in attack mode ( no claws I may add!) his only defence is to fall backwards and run off. This is due to his need to put all weight on his hind legs in order to raise his front legs in defence and as one leg is missing it’s simply not possible for him to do so. I feel terribly guilty for introducing such a lively and active family member and I feel so terribly sorry for our once well respected topcat.
    Having said that I remember how I felt when one of my ex customers had one of the most beautiful cats I had ever seen. He had been bitten on his hind leg and the owner was told the leg needed to be removed. I was so shocked and upset when she said she had him put down. He was a young cat, only two years old.
    In despite of everything Marley is alive and in very good health. He certainly leads a more quiet life but I have seen him chase off a young fox in the early hours. The kitten poses a problem to him but in time I imagine she’ll become less ‘in ya face’ and respect him a bit more. He’s already warming to her and in the winter months I’m sure they’ll cuddle up. It never crossed our minds not to have him but I just wanted to let you all know of the emotional turmoil but the benefits have always outweighed the problems.

    • Lois Lindemann

      Our three legged cat was exactly the same when I recklessly acquired a new kitten. The TLC’s four legged brother reacted similarly. The new kitten was driving us all mad with howling and fighting moves, but our cats always just retreated.

      Happily the cat from down the road (who regularly came in to the house to sit with our cats) had different ideas. He watched the new kitten pose, posture, mewl and growl at him for a while. Then the cat from down the road lost patience with the new kitten and cuffed him. That made the new kitten shut up, which was a big relief for us all.

      The other cats never apparently did anything, but eventually the pecking order somehow got sorted out. After weeks of thinking I had made a big mistake I ended up with three cats who were devoted to each other. I hope your kitten & TLC end up getting on as well as mine did.

  • Lynsey

    Hi,
    I stumbled across this thread today which has been a great help to me seeing other ‘tripod’ owners’ comments and advice! My baby, Lily who has just turned 3, recently went missing all day and night we were so worried! She eventually turned up early the next morning when we went searching for her again! Unfortunately she was badly injured on her back right leg and another small injury to her left back leg and a tiny injury under her tummy!
    We took her straight to the vets who advised that because of the severity of the injury the best thing would be to amputate her back right leg! We were heartbroken and I cried so much, also felt lots of guilt for what had happened!
    It is now 3 weeks since her op and as we expected our little fighter is back on track and getting about just fine! We are keeping her indoors but she just seems really down, she has been an outdoor cat for two years as for her first year we lived in a flat so she was an indoor cat for that time. I just feel so sad for her! I’m thinking of getting a harness for her, but I’m starting to wonder whether this would just be teasing her with her not having the freedom she was used to. I’m just scared to let her out on her own again as I would never forgive myself if she got into trouble again and she’s not as quick as she used to be now she has lost her leg! Would it be kinder to just let her get used to being indoors again or should I get a harness? Any advice or thoughts on this would be appreciated! Sorry for the long post, thanks! X

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