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.

329 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

  • 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,


  • 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

    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

  • heather

    Hi everyone, my 9 momth old cat ‘weasley’ (guess what colour he is!!) Got attacked by a staffy while he was out (the staffy wasnt on a lead) the staffy lives in the block of flats opposite me (i only found out it was the dog from neighbours whom the dogs owner had told) my cat and his brother (dumbledore) have been going outside for the last few months because my nephew is allergic to them and had no problems until now, i live in a 3rd floor flat so i dont have a garden and im a bit worried about how weasley will cope being kept inside especially when dumbledore is still and outside cat, i dont want other people to be mean to him because of his appearance

    • Victoria walsh

      Firstly, I love the names. Secondly, I have a similar issue to you. I have two cats. Merlin and shadow. Merlin was attacked by the neighbours dog and he had to have his leg amputated. They were both indoor outdoor cats. I still need to let shadow out so I can’t lock the cat flap but merlin can’t go out on his own. I’m sure that’s my hang up not his. I’m too scared. He so desperately still wants to go out. I go out with him and he walks to heal with me like a dog. As soon as other people come along he runs back inside so I can’t let him out and shut the door. I really worry that he is unhappy because he can’t live his life like he used to.

  • Kate

    Thanks everyone for your inspirational stories. We tried hard to save Merlin’s back leg – it had broken and the vet suspected a tumour but all the tests came back negative. They put in a plate and he appeared to recover fine – he had a happy summer and fall as a quad. However, last week he started to limp on it and an x-ray showed that a tumour had formed. So I reluctantly had to agree to his leg being removed. My poor brave little boy has been through so much. He’s coped well but after 4 days at home he’s turned depressed and listless. I can’t wait for that damn buster collar to come off – next Saturday is going to be a big day for us both!

  • Alissa

    Hi everyone,
    My 4-5 month old kitten, Mowgli, was born with an umbilical cord wrapped around his back right leg, above the knee. His leg “shriveled and fell off,” as the family described it, and he know has
    3 legs. His stump is more like half a leg, though! The problem with this is that he attempts to use it. As a result, he injures it often. Currently, he has an open, hole-like wound on it… There was small amounts of pus oozing from it and i decided to irrigate it with a normal saline solution I mixed up. There is no more pus, but it is a small hole with no bleeding or anything. It is very tender and the poor baby was pacing around meowing and flickering it a bunch after it was gently irrigated- clearly in pain. He does not have a fever (ears are cool) and is definitely NOT lethargic! But I can’t help but be worried! I believe it is an abscess that ruptured. Had anyone else had this experience? If so, do I wait it out for a couple days (better or worse with time) or take him to the vet tomorrow? Thanks guys!


  • Heather Shosho

    Hi there,
    My name is Heather and I have a 9 year old three legged cat. He’s been missing his back left for 7 years now. I love him so much and want him to live forever! There aren’t many sites devoted to three legged cats, so I am grateful for this one. Did anyone notice back problems with their cat? If so, what did you do? Any recommendations? My cat twitches his lower back and since he is deaf and meows alot I can’t tell if he is in pain….
    Thank you!
    Heather 🙂

    • Lois Lindemann

      Hi Heather! My three-legged cat twitched a lot straight after his amputation, mainly his back, near the lost leg, and what was left of his tail. He obviously hurt at first, but once his amputation wound and his other injuries had healed he didn’t seem to be in pain. He twitched a lot to start with, but he did it less and less over the years. He still did it, but not as much. My cat also lost most of his tail, so balancing was a challenge to start with, I wondered whether some of the twitching was related to him getting used to being without his leg and tail. He was only a year old when he became a tripod, he grew into a very solid cat – he was noticeably muscular around his shoulders, especially when compared to his much slimmer brother. The twitching seemed to reduce as the muscle built up, but whether that was directly connected, or it was all part of his general recovery I honestly don’t know.

  • rosie cox

    Our 5 month old tabby Fionn had his left back leg amputated 3 weeks ago , over the past few days he’s developed a sever limp , the expense of the first Vets visit is still been paid so I’m reluctant to return as finances are limited at the moment but of course if it continues I will be forced to , is there a reason he’s limping , it seems to be a wobble in his hind hip , other times he seems to walk fine albeit on 3 legs , he’s in really good humour most of the time and is getting back to his usual loving and cheeky ways , is there anything I can do to help him or is the Vet the only option , as I said finances aren’t great at this time , please advise as best you can, thanks in advance ,just to add he doesn’t seem to be in pain but the limp or wobble is worrying.


  • Heather Shosho

    Hi Rosie,
    My cat also had the back left leg amputated and had 17 staples while recovering. He had a huge limp! It took him months to fully recover…. I remember thinking he was never going to be able to stand in the littler box by himself, but he does it fine now! It’s a large surgery for an animal and it takes time to heal and get their balance back. I wouldn’t feel strange about following up with your veterinarian about your concerns, I’m sure you paid a pretty penny for the surgery and this would be considered follow up questions, in my opinion. The worst they can do is offer no advice. As for the limp, my cat has a very pronounced limp and practically hops! He’s a wierdo but that’s how he manages. Life with a three legged cat is different than one with a four legged one…. It takes some getting adjusted to. I hope this was helpful! Xx

  • Jennifer

    Not sure how many of you are still on here monitoring the website but I wanted to say “THAANK YOU” for posting your stories. It has helped me a lot.

    Last Monday on the way to the airport, my husband straddled something in the road, so did the car in front of us but too close to really see what it was until we got right on it. My husband turned around as he thought it might be a cat. He went over to it, so tiny, wasn’t moving anything but her head. He picked her up and we took her to a local animal hospital a friend was telling me about last weekend. The receptionist said she was in shock and the vet would look at her when she got there. She asked if we wanted to keep her or send her to the shelter. She also said based on what she could tell that the front left leg would need to be removed, it just looked too damaged. We decided to just have them call us with an update when the vet did the full evaluation. We proceeded to breakfast and then the airport. My husband had a voicemail from the vet when we got to the airport about the kitten, she was six weeks old and would loose the front left leg and had a fractured jaw but with surgery she would be just fine. The amount left about cost was more than what we thought we could handle but I just started praying and my husband called a no-kill shelter while I was on my first flight. I had him ask about payment plans or doing the survey is stages if he wanted to keep her. I got on my second and final flight for the day and just kept praying for this kitten that she could find a loving and understanding home. When I turned on my phone the first text I saw was my husband telling me we are keeping the bitten and her name is Delta, after the airline I was flying on. On Thursday she was strong enough to have her jaw repaired and her leg amputated. We have adjusted to having a pet with our four human children. She fits right in since my dad is also an amputee. Your posts have helped me know things we might need to do or look out for. The vet believes she was feral so we are dealing with taming her at the same time as recovery.

    Thank you again for sharing your stories.

  • Tracie

    Three months ago my lovely 7 year old cat sustained a degloving injury to his rear right back leg and went through many weeks of treatment to save the leg. All was going well and despite the fact that my vet told me on 2 occasions that he would not lose the leg as the nerves and circulation were saved, I received a phone call whilst on holiday in Turkey to say that things had gone downhill and he had developed a massive abscess in his groin area which had become necrotic and he also had a temperature of 104 and the best thing would be to amputate! Like so many of you I was devastated and shocked but had to make a quick decision as he was sedated and they didn’t feel it fair to bring him round to have to then, possibly, sedate him yet again. I still don’t understand how it got to that stage, when we at the stage of just changing gel bandages (this is a conversation I need to have with the vet. When he came home after the amputation it was almost as if nothing had happened. He was able to walk, wanted to play and desperate to go outside. I kept him confined to the living room during the day and he slept in a dog cage overnight so that he was not tempted to do too much too soon. A day after the operation he had what I now refer to as an ‘episode’. This is where he seems unable to get up and then seems to walk backwards but keeps flopping down and seems to want to pull himself forward with his front legs but his back rear stump twitches and rears up. He seems very distressed and sometimes cries out. I have found that if I help him to lay down and reassure him that all is well, he will lie there and within about 30 seconds he is able to get up and move off as though nothing has happened. I spoke to the vet and showed her a video of him during an ‘episode’ but she said she had not experienced anything like this before and said we should increase his pain meds (metacam) for a week to see if it made a difference. I don’t feel it has made a huge difference (he seems to have one, sometimes two, of these a day. The vet has also said that these episodes could be behavioural, or some form of electronic signal to the brain or the start of epilepsy! I am just hoping that this is something he will learn to grow out of but worried as it is 6 weeks in now and I had hoped they would have stopped. If anyone has any advice regarding these episodes I would be very grateful as I just need to know how to help him and whether he will actually get better. He is also still wearing the e-collar as he kept licking the area and made it sore …more stress!

  • Heather

    Hi Tracie,
    I’m sorry to hear about your cat but at the same time, I love three legged cats! I have an 8 year old tripawd who is missing his back left leg. So, similar to your cat. Whats different is that he has been missing his leg for 5 years. When it was first amputated he couldn’t walk for what seemed like months (maybe three months), he could barely get into his litter box, couldn’t jump, would walk with a swagger, and twitch his nubbin and meow loud. I also called my vet regularly about it and she had many similar answers. From my experience it takes a long time for this injury to heal, so give it some time! If you think about it, the vet had to cut his femur bone (a very large bone) so there is probably a lot of sensitivity still going on there. My cat still twitches the nubbin, sometimes thinking he has a leg there… I wonder if they can get “phantom limb”?! We may never know since they can’t communicate what they are feeling. My cat still meows very loud, but he is also deaf so I can’t tell if it is because he is in pain or just doesn’t know how loud he is. Some things I like to do for my cat is itch his left ear back and forth like I was his back leg and he gets really into that. But, my best advice for you would be to give it more time…..the whole recovery could have up to 6 months.
    As for your vet, she/he should have let you know that amputation was a possibility. Since they didn’t that must mean they felt very strongly that they could save the leg. A vet who is performing a surgery like this has a lot of school and expertise (or they should!). I’m sure they are as bummed as you are that they couldn’t save the leg. Sometimes I think it is harder on the human than the cat…. I’m sure your cat is still in the healing process. Give him lots of love for me and good luck. I hope this helped.

  • Hi Heather,

    Thank you so much for replying to my post. You have certainly given me hope and now I know your story it has put things into perspective for me and helped reduce my anxiety about the whole process. I am still a little concerned about the wound site as his stitches are due out in 2 days and yet occasionally it still looks a bit sore. Am using a prescribed antibiotic cream (ISADERM) twice daily as requested so doing all the right things. I too feel it is maybe harder on the human than the cat as I feel so sorry for him that he can’t go out and I follow him everywhere in the house when he does not have his collar on and they do like their independence don’t they. Fingers crossed he will soon get better and in time back to normal. kindest Regards. Tracie

  • Bernadette

    Hi Tracie
    After Zya had his rear leg amputation he did exactly the same thing.. It was like his stump was pulling him backwards, he was very distressed during these episodes and it was awful to watch.. My vet too said he had never experienced anything like this ( which I now can’t believe as lots of people report the same thing ) the vet said it was probably Zya learning to balance again! I didn’t agree with this as sometimes it was almost like he was having a fit…it I think it must be the muscles and nerves adjusting as we have just past the 1 year mark of Zya’s injury and it doesn’t happen anymore. When it did happen I just used to keep him calm and reassure him like you are doing..
    Hope that helps

  • Heather

    Hi Tracie,
    My cats wound had 17 staples and had a discharge/puss coming out of the sides for a while. The wound looked a little bumpy too. It will be so much better once it is completely healed and his hair grows back. Once the vet looks at it, he/she will know if there is anything out of the ordinary with it. I was distraught for about three months and then it slowly got better. I notice that I am VERY over protective of him! Stay strong!

  • Hi Bernadette, Thank you so much for replying, that sounds exactly like what I feel is happening to Mr Darcey. The stump does look as if it is being pulled backwards and he tends to try to walk backwards to. I am so pleased to hear from someone who has experienced the same thing and that the outcome was good, albeit a long time to recover. I wonder if there is any way in which I could forward you a video of one Mr Darcey’s episode to see if it is what happened to Zya? I have felt as if he would never recover but you have given me hope and I’m very grateful to you.

    Heather, thank you once again for replying, have managed to have quite a good look at the area today and it seems very clean and am hopeful it is just the surface skin needing time to recover though glad he has a check up on Monday …I too am VERY protective of him, much to my partner’s dismay!

  • Bernadette

    Hi Tracie
    Of course feel free to forward the video my mobile number is 07788552487..when it was happening to Zya I was just beyond myself thinking he had suffered some sort of brain damage from the car accident and had developed epilepsy. Hopefully I can reassure you that’s it ok x

  • Donna Elmore

    I have a cat I have been feeding for 2 years at my apartment complex….About 5 weeks ago he showed up on my porch badly beat up and we took him to the vet, The vet checked him out and gave him antibiotics and some pain meds( for 3 days)….After about 2 weeks of antibiotics and fever the vet said in his front left leg joint has infection in it and was also was checked for FIV ( since he was a stray apartment cat ) …The results of the FIV test was Positive …SO We now have a 13 year old stray cat badly beat up and very skinny and weak and and has FIV and that is the reason he cant seem to fight the infection in his leg and its in the joint and was told its hard to fight an infection in the joint…SO the vet said the next step was amputation of his front leg….We went ahead and opted for that since I don’t think he would have gotten better other wise…Well the operation was 2 weeks ago and fever went down and seems to be getting a little better…But he wont drink water and does eat wet food we bought from the vets…We put extra water in his food thinks he is getting plenty of water since he pees and poops regular…My problem is is that he will not get up and even try to walk…He only will if he has to go potty but will not get into the cat box, he will go just outside of it…..We have been feeding him where he is sleeping but the vet said make him get up and eat his food BUT he wont…He will just lay wherever we try to get him to stand up….SO we still feed him where he is laying as I WANT him to eat and gain weight ( he needs weight so badly ) HOW do I go about teaching this cat how to walk again?? HE has no interest….I Need Help!

    • Hi Donna …just came across your post today and wondered if you have also been in touch with the website? The reason I mention it is that it seems to have a lot more owners who have experienced front leg amputation so might be of some help. My cat had rear leg amputation so possibly not recovering in the same way as yours but he is doing really well now. I do feel every cat recovers in different ways and maybe yours is just not feeling confident enough at the moment. I wish I could be of more help and hope that maybe he is feeling stronger now. My very best wishes to you both.

  • Maria

    I am so glad I found this site. My 6year old baby suffered a cancerous tumour in her back leg at Christmas 2014 and had it all removed on new years eve. This weekend we found it had come back and will find out on Tuesday if she is going to lose her leg. My hubby thinks we should make her a house cat if she does but I disagree she loves being out and looking after her territory. Thank you everyone for posting your stories it really has helped me realise we can cope with this and get her through it xx

  • summer

    I have a tripod, 3 weeks post surgery. He use to be a strictly outdoor cat but since his injury we have kept indoors because we do not know what happened to him out there in the first place. The other day he was at the door meowing to go out. I just don’t think he needs to go back out. He loves it indoors 99 pecent of the time now, but just once in awhile he wants to go outside. What should I do? We live out where there is a lot of wildlife so I don’t know if he could fend off attackers quite like he use to. Let me know. Thank you.

    • Tracie


      Firstly i am very sorry to hear about your cat …I know from first hand experience how devastating having to make a decision to amputate is.

      My cat had his right rear leg amputated mid May and it hasn’t been an easy time because of the adjustment period and him having strange episodes where he just seemed to go backwards and had no strength to pick himself up ..usually these episodes were short but on a couple of occasions they have lasted 10 minutes.

      However here were are 3 months down the line and he is doing really well and we hardy see any of the ‘episodes’ at all now.

      He always liked to go outside and of course I was very worried that he would not be able to after the operation. We built a cat run on and put it on wheels so that we could push it up to the patio doors and he could sit outside but he was in a safe environment. The cat run was about 6 ft tall and 6ft wide. He used to sit in there and look at the garden and although I knew he wanted to do more we just did things in gradual stages.

      After a while I would move the cage away and he would dart across the back garden but I was never far away, making sure he could not jump up onto the fence or over the wall. It did help that he was wearing an e-collar at the time, so his movements were slightly restricted. When I was finally allowed to remove the dreaded e-collar I was very anxious about letting him out but I eventually did and he has been fine.

      He does wear a name collar with a locator tag on it so when I get worried about him I just press the button on the locator and after a few moments it bleeps to let me know he is not far away. Infact, he is never really far away now but enjoys sitting under the hedges at the front of and down the side of the house. I have noticed he doesn’t go outside of our close and for that I am thankful. He has got stronger and stronger over the weeks and can now bound along and even chase off other cats in his territory.

      It is a difficult choice to make as to whether to let them out again and it will always be a worry but I know my cat is much happier now that he is allowed out. I have sort of trained him to be out from 6am to 7.30am, then he is in all day and goes out again when I get in from work at 5:00pm and seems to come back in around 7:00pm, then I keep him in for the night. I live in a small close which is off a slightly busier road, where I assume he was run over, so this may be very different to your circumstances but I hope what I have written is of some help and that you can make a decision. The locator I use can be found on the internet and is called a Lo8ctor. I find it a great comfort. Really hope you find a happy solution. Best Wishes Tracie

    • Lois Lindemann

      Hi Summer, I’m so sorry to hear about your cat. My cat also loved the great outdoors, so once he had recovered from the operation, we let him go back out. I hated it and worried every single time that he went out of the cat flap, but he loved it and thrived. I live in an urban area in the UK, so wildlife isn’t a big problem – nothing bigger than foxes. However my cat didn’t seem to have a problem with other cats, local dogs or even chasing off the foxes. The more time he spent outdoors, the stronger he got. I never regretted letting him out – although I never stopped worrying about him either!

      Very best wishes,


  • mike christopher

    Summer, let him go. Our Sophie was an outdoor and like you we were afraid to let her go out.Absolutely no problems. About biggest out door animals we have are coons, other cats, and a few dogs but she handles herself real well. Like your cat it happened Chistmas eve, eve and we still don’t know what happened. Think she may have fell coming down tree or our roof. Yeah she used to go on our roof.

    She’s less than 5 pounds but runs the neighborhood and keeps the feral cats at bay and has a boyfriend next door she visits even though she’s fixed.

    My point she’s much happier doing what she done, so we let her go and it’s worked out well.

    Only problem is we have to groom her regularly on left side where she lost her rear leg.

  • Juliana Veenis

    Hi I just stumbled onto this site. I have a kitty who lost his back leg because of bullies. I can still remember him trying to drag himself up to my room because that’s his sanctuary. And realizing his back leg was broken. I remember his first day home and him escaping me and tearing down the stairs and almost outside. My heart was in my throat but he has adjusted really well. He also needs his right ear scratched as he never seems to get the itch:) I have found that getting him pet stairs for my bed allows easy access for him and his brother. And there were a couple of incidents were he would be chasing a feral cat out of the yard and get under the fence but then couldn’t get back. Of course it was always 2 am before we noticed him missing and would have to sneak into the neighbor’s yard to rescue him. The question I have is how to help him with his back nails. I’m guessing he uses the back paw more and the claws get torn or ripped out. He limps more sometimes because of it.

    • Lois Lindemann

      That all sounds very familiar! I also struggled with the issue of claws. I tried various options, including putting a scratching board at floor level, hoping our tripod would lie down and do the claw pulling thing, but he was never that keen. He was very keen to do exactly that on the bottom stair, just not on the scratching board. In the end I just accepted that I would need to keep replacing the carpet on the bottom stair – not ideal, but we learned to live with it!

  • Juliana Veenis

    I also wanted to say that those self heating blankets really help him in the cold months. Before using one he would get spasms in his stump a lot more. Now he gets them occasionally but I can rub them out. I hide the blanket under his quilt bed and he’ll spend hours at a time in there. He only has had one bad episode where he went into full body spasm but what calmed him was being under the covers on my lap with his brother right next to him. It was a bad episode but I’m just glad that he trusts me now to take care of him. I think one of the cutest things he does is give me a stump bump in greeting. It’s where he hops up to me and bumps his stump up to my leg. It’s his way of saying hi. And as bad as it was to lose a leg it meant he finally opened up to me completely. I had rescued him off the streets and as much as he was grateful for that it took this accident to get him to love and trust me completely.

  • Pam Mitchell

    We have recently taken on a little cat called Lulu who had to have her back left leg amputated after being caught in some wire for over a week. She lived with other well cared for feral cats on the allotments behind our house. We got to know each other but then we moved house and she had to stay behind. Some months later an old neighbour told me what had happened so I visited her at the Vet’s and decided to give her a permanent home. A semi feral tripod is quite a challenge. I am the only one who can touch her and she has become very attached to me. We have a big safe garden where she is happy so long as I am out there. Regarding scratching posts, I bought a flat cardboard one from the vets which sits on the floor. She uses it regularly and sometimes even sleeps on it. I hope that in time she will feel safe enough to sit on my knee or let me pick her up. With her clockwork routines and cunning little ways she rules the house but we love her very much.

  • Susan

    Hi! I am so glad I stumbled upon this site – my 12 year-old cat, Baer, had a tumor removed from his front leg and was diagnosed with cancer. Some of the tumor was left and is regrowing rapidly, causing pain and swelling. I really have two options: pain management (there isn’t really anything effective), or amputation. It’s been almost impossible to find information about the success of front-leg amputation on an older cat, so I’m trying to make quality-of-life decisions with no information. Plus, he’s an indoor cat that doesn’t deal with change very well. Any advice would be greatly appreciated 🙂

    • Anna

      Hi Susan just saw your message about your cat and just wanted to let to know we decided to amputate our cats front left leg as she had a tumour in her paw that wasn’t allowing an open wound infection to heal so I was faced with either pain management for however long probably just some months because of the wound or put to sleep or amputate. She was 14 years old and the vet said there was no right or wrong decision. It was horrid. But all we knew was as she was still ok in herself and still purring and doing all the right things there was no way we could let her go so we decided to amputate and she copes incredibly well!! She was mainly an indoor cat but went outside a little no further than our garden. She did brilliantly and lived to another 2 years before she died. We don’t regret it at all as we weren’t ready to lose her as she was fine. Even the vet said afterwards we had made the right decision as he was surprised how well she coped for an older cat. Hope this helps. And good luck for whatever u decide to do. There really is no right or wrong just whatever is best for u and your cat xx

      • Susan

        Thank you so much for your note. I decided to go with amputation (my vet said the same thing, that there was no right or wrong answer – but said she would try amputation if he was her cat) and Baer has really come along and dealt so much better than I ever imagined. In fact, he was digging a hole and covering in his litter box the night he came home from the hospital! He’s been working through any adjustment issues as they came along (jumping, balancing, running!) and stubbornly refused to use any “helper” items (steps, ramps) that I had gotten him. It’s been such a relief that he’s done – and is doing – so well. I suppose it was just such a relief to not have the pain any more that he’s up for anything 🙂

        • Anna

          hi susan- thank you for your email! am so glad you decided to amputate and so so pleased to hear your cat has recovered and responded so well to life as a three legged cat! you definitely did the right thing! xx anna

  • Lori

    I am thinking of adopting a 20 month old female tripod. I already have a 15 year old male cat and an 18 year old female cat. I am concerned that my older cats may not accept her. I do not want to disrupt their lives, but I would really like to rescue the other cat. My male cat is a bit aggresive with my other cat. Any advice?

  • Esther

    Our 3yo cat got her front leg amputated 4 days ago, due to a fast-growing bone tumor. The second day was horrible as she was in terrible pain, ran a fever and was desperately trying to escape the dog crate we had set up for her. The following two days she was doing much better although the wound sutures came off (underneath the bandages) and therefore, the vet decided to let it heal without the sutures, underneath some special honey-ointment bandages. Since yesterday afternoon (d3), she refuses any food or water and seems to have no interest leaving her cushion. She’s alert, has a normal temperature and does not seem to be in pain, just very uninterested in anything. It’s heartbreaking. As we are already force-feeding her antibiotics and painkiller, I’m weary to also force her to drink and eat. Luckily, tomorrow we are visiting the vet to have her wound checked. I’m just so scared that her not drinking water will cause problems.
    Any advice? Force-feed her water and cat food nonetheless?

    • Susan

      Is there anything that she really loves? Cheese? Sardines? Chicken? Gravy? When my cats have gone on hunger strikes during recovery from anything (surgery, illness, etc.), I’ve given them what they can’t resist and that has tended to trigger their appetite. Water is tough – I’ve let the cat that wants to only drink out of a sink or tub faucet to do just that, but it’s tough if they just do not want to drink. You might could try broth (chicken broth) or give gravy-heavier food. I hope she gets her appetite back – maybe the vet will have some ideas.

  • Lois Sincovic

    I have a question about my 3 legged cat. He lost his leg several years ago after getting hit by a car. I noticed that he gradually wanted to scratch the side of his neck where his rear leg is missing. I used a comb on him a couple of times and found a flea; so naturally we took care of that problem. This past year, this cat is acting as if he has some kind of a more serious issue where he continuously wants to scratch his neck and it seems to be driving him up a wall where he wants to hide and stay away from our other cats. I think it might be a nerve issue, but next week we’ll be taking him back to the vet for his third trip. The first trip, he was given medication for ear mites, but that didn’t work and a couple of weeks ago, was given medication for arthritis, but that didn’t help. Just interested in hearing from anyone who has gone through this with one of their cats. By the way, we haven’t found a flea on him.

    • Juliana Veenis

      I have noticed that my cat, who is three legged, wants to scratch his side of the face that is missing the leg and his stump even gets going. When I notice that I just scratch that side of his face figuring he’s itchy but can’t do it for himself.

  • Vaughan Patrick

    3 month ago our lovely cat Pushka was hit by a car which resulted in her having her left rear leg amputated. I was not unduly concerned as many years ago I’d owned a tripod cat and she had no issues whatsoever. When Pushka first came home she was a little tentative but within a few days was managing very well. However, in the past few weeks she has struggled with getting up from the reclining position which results in her stumbling backwards and eventually flopping down. It’s very distressing to watch and we think that she is getting depressed. She used to be very active but now just wants to sleep on the bed. Once she is up and hopping along she is fine it’s just the getting up that she is struggling with. At first we took her to the vet but she could find nothing wrong with the remaining leg and suggested that it’d pass. We’re at a loss as to what to do to help her.

  • RE:Life with a Three Legged Cat « Three-Legged Cat Валок Kverneland Миасс

  • Juliana Veenis

    I have a three legged cat and for the most part we’ve had no problems but recently I noticed that when he gets an itch on the side of the face as the missing leg he’s gotten suddenly sensitive to the stump twitching in response. Its been six years since he lost the leg and its never been an issue. Now ever time the stump twitches he attacks it with licking. Any ideas, should I try putting clothing on him or try oils being massaged into the area (safe oils)? Any suggestions would be appreciated

    • Marakk

      Have you had any luck in resolving this issue? I’m having a similar problem with my tripod kitty. She licks and creates a wound on her stump. She was actually fine for a couple of months after amputation, but then this problem started. I vest her when she licks too much. Upon removing, the trend has been that she’s fine for a couple of days, but then sooner or later a small wound is there again. At a loss; vet doesn’t know why it’s happening either.

      • Lois Lindemann

        My cat twitched his stump for many years, he even sometimes appeared to be putting his weight onto the missing leg – although he did stop doing that once he had fallen over a few times! The twitching reduced over time but never really went away entirely. The thing that finally worked for us was simply distracting him, usually by rubbing his face and ears. I don’t think it did anything to counter whatever was causing the twitching, but it did stop him worrying at it.

      • Lynsey

        My cat still does that now 5 years on like they think the leg is still there and she’s trying to scratch with it!

        My late grandad had to have both his legs removed and he always said he had sensations that his legs were still there! Must be common with limb amputations! Hope everyone’s tripod cats are doing well! Mine has coped brilliantly with 3 legs ( back right leg amputated)

        Lynsey's three legged cat sitting on a windowsill

  • claire

    We have a 17yr old 3 legged beauty called Jakey, or Jakey boy to the kids. He is a pre loved boy and has been with us for 9yrs. He is slowing down and looking a little bit sad of late but until recently he has been the boss in our garden, seeing off bigger and better cats daily! He is currently sat on my knee having out nightly cuddle and its great. He might not be around too much longer but he has truely left his mark. My 7yr old daughter worships him. He has loved and been loved and its been our pleasure x

  • Snowqueen

    I adopted a cat who has always had only three useful legs – the fourth, vestigial, one was amputated shortly before he came to us. We also adopted his four-legged brother. Neither had been able to get out at their previous home. We have only let them out a couple of times – the last time we did the three legged boy was a bit freaked out and found it hard to get home. He is missing a front leg and was able to jump up on to our quite high garden walls and by means of the layout of neighbouring gardens get down into those gardens. He couldn’t jump back down into our garden, however – he is lacking a front shock absorber though his back legs are as strong as any other cat’s. I do want to let them out and think the other cat is stir crazy. Any advice or measures you have taken to help a theee legged cat get down from
    heights outdoors?

  • Hazel

    Would like to get support but see no activity on this site for a year. Recently had to have my cats rear leg amputated and have some queries.

    • Lois Lindemann

      I’m happy to help Hazel. I’ve sent you an email, so feel free to ask here or reply to the email if you prefer.

      Best wishes,

    • mike christopher

      There are a few of my posts from 2012-2014 and our Sophie is still doing great , she’s on 12 years old now. Unfortunately my gf of 23 years, Lynda, passed a couple years ago but Sophie and I are doing good, probably her better than me LOL

  • Dav

    My two year-old cat was hit by a car yesterday. His left rear leg must have taken the brunt, as the x-ray shows that the bone was completely sheared in half. He’s booked in tomorrow morning for an amputation. I’ve been a fool and didn’t have him insured, so the bill for all his treatment and the op is just shy of two grand. Scrabbled everything we can and we can just manage to pay it, because I can’t have him lose his whole life because of a stupid mistake that I’ve made. We love him too much, and we’ve been encouraged by sites like this one, that suggest that he can go on to have a great future life, despite missing a leg.
    He’s definitely an outdoor cat – although it took him a while to venture outside of our flat, since the first time he did it, he’s probably spent more time out than in. He runs down three flights of stairs, patrols in and around the backyard, jumps on the wall, argues with a neighbourhood cat that comes into “his” territory etc…. he loves being outside.
    Thing is, he was obviously going further than I realised, and crossing roads. I feel like an idiot for not realising earlier.
    Seeing as how he was hit when he had all four legs, logic would suggest he’s going to be MORE likely to be hit again when he has three. So my inclination now is to ban him from going out (at least on his own, we’re mulling the idea of going with him, wiht a lead/harness setup).
    But we’re worried how this might affect him. Specifically, as he loves the outside so much, we’re thinking if we stop him, he’s going to get depressed. As horrid as it might sound, I’m kind of hoping that the accident has scared him into not wanting to go outside, because if it hasn’t, and we stop him, surely he’s going to get depressed and bored, as so much of his routine was being outdoors? I don’t see how we can risk him going outside on his own, without a harness and supervision, because if it’s happened once, the same kind of accident could happen again.
    I don’t want to save his life but also ruin it at the same time by turning him into a prisoner, yet I’m not sure what else we can do, because we’re not in a financial position to move house in the near future.
    Any thoughts, opinions? Any comments would be appreciated. Do you think he’ll get depressed, sad?

    • Lois Lindemann

      I had to keep my cat in for a while. It was February, freezing cold and he had masses of fur shaved off for his surgery. He spent weeks trying to get out, he obviously wasn’t happy cooped up indoors. Once the weather warmed up and his fur started to grow back, I took a deep breath and let a very frustrated tripod outside. I went out with him the first few times, but then I had to let him go wandering. He loved the outdoors and coped just fine. I worried, but the cat was fine!

      Good luck – hope all goes well for you and your cat.

  • michael christopher

    It took awhile but I let Sophie start going out again, fortunately she only travels my immediate neighborhood but still crosses a local street. I don’t know what happened to her ( car, fell off roof) just not sure, but I decided that going outside was her life and I’ve let fate decide it. I just hoped that she learned a hard valuable lesson and it’s been going on over 7 years now and she’s doing wonderful. It’ll be a hard adjustment for you and her but whatever your decision, it will be the right one, I’m sure.Good luck to you.

  • Zara ward

    My beautiful 8 month tortie started limping last night, still managing to get on to her favourite chair and use the litter. No verbal sign of any pain or discomfort, apart from the slight limp. She seemed unhappy this morning and wouldn’t even eat a piece of ham so I took her to the vets. Vet examined her and wasn’t overly concerned, said it’s likely it’s a sprain from landing awkwardly as she’s a lively thing, always climbing and hunting. They said to leave her there for an x-ray, just so they just double check. I had a phonecall 1 hour later that her back leg is completely shattered, twisted and dislocated and can’t be saved. Hence me searching Google and finding this thread. My biggest concern is that we go ahead with the op but she won’t be happy with the restricted movement. I’m having to put myself into debt to be able to afford the surgery as the only other option is putting her to sleep and there’s no way, in a million years that I’m prepared to loose her. I don’t even know the point of this post, I’m still in shock and absolutely heartbroken. Will my baby still be herself just restricted? I’ve her brother here, who’s pining for her and is quite distressed that she isn’t snuggled up on the chair with him. The emotional battering I’ve had today has led me to say no more pets after these have had their lives. I can’t deal with the heartache of when things go wrong or you loose them. I lost my 19 year old ginge to old age last year, my 4 year old tabby the year before after being hit by a car and my 15 year old black fluffball to cancer the year before that. Apologies for rambling without knowing what I’m wanting to know. I’m glad your fur babies have adapted to life as a 3. It’s a strange and quite harsh question, but I’d appreciate all honest answers. If you could turn back time or it happened again, would you still opt for the amputation. I’m so scared my lively girl will have a drastically reduced quality of life 😩

    • Lois Lindemann

      I didn’t have much of a choice, because my cat came home with part of hone back leg missing. I remember that when the vet arrived, he sedated the cat (who was amazingly calm) before taking him for emergency surgery. My housemate suggested that the vet should have offered me the sedatives, becuase I was losing it.

      In the first few days, I had doubts, my cat was struggling and I was thinking ‘Why have I done this?’ but within a handful of weeks, the doubts disappeared and I never regretted it. My tripod adapted amazingly well. It happened in February and the weather was brutally cold, so the worst bit turned out not to be the operation, but kepping him indoors until enough fur grew back post-surgery that I could let him out. I never considered keeping him indoors long term, he loved it outside and would have hated being an indoor cat.

      Once he was able to get back outside, he was amazingly happy. He changed a bit: after some undiginifed failures he gave up climbing trees and he had to learn to rely on sneakiness rather than speed to when hunting. In fact the only time I was delighted to see him bring home a dead bird was about 3 months after his op when he dragged a blackbird through the cat flap – I couldn’t believe he had managed it. We pretty quickly got back to normal, i.e. me shouting “Argh!” and chasing him back outside with whatever poor beast he had grabbed. My cat even got into fights with other cats – and won! He did have to settle for being co-king of the street with his brother though, rather than undisputed top cat.

      As a tripod, he was a local celebrity and loved all the intention – which is how our pub quiz team and later this blog came to be named after him.

      My cat lived 14 happy years as a tripod and it’s now hard to imagine he ever had 4 legs. I never regretted it, I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat. I’ve met other three-legged cats since, I would say that they adapt to a missing back leg much more easily than losing a front leg, so don’t panic, go for it. Hang on in there for those first few weeks post-surgery when you will have doubts and then be amazed at how quickly your cat adapts.

      Good luck!


    • Tracie Osman

      Hello Zara, I’m so very sad to hear about your little cat and know only to well.the turmoil you are going through. My cat had 3 months of treatment trying to save his leg but I later found out it was a painful process for him. Whilst he was being treated I received a phone call to say he had developed a massive abscess and the leg had become necrotic. I therefore had to make an instant decision to amputate, otherwise I would have lost him. Broke my heart at the time and the recovery process was difficult at times but he made a full recovery and seems not to notice he has lost a leg. In fact he is more loving now than before and a very happy and contented cat. So in answer to your question whether I would do the same thing again, the answer is yes. Please read all the posts on this subject as I hope they will give you some comfort at this traumatic time and an understanding of what to expect. It’s not an easy decision to make but they really can adapt quite quickly and still remain happy. Wishing you all the best. Kindest regards Tracie

    • Lynsey

      Hi so sorry you’re going through this it’s heart breaking isn’t it, agonising whether you are making the right decision!
      About 4 years back one of our cats came home after being missing for a couple of days and her leg was in a mess! The vet couldn’t save it and it had to be amputated! I think it was lucky it was one of her back legs as I am aware it is easier for them to jump and land etc with one back leg than with one front!
      I can honestly say our cat recovered so quick and it hasn’t stopped her from jumping and climbing and very much happy! I think it’s affected us more than her! Good luck with everything ,i’m sure your cat will be fine!
      If it’s any help, I found watching videos of tripod cat’s and saw that they went about their days very easily which was very comforting to see knowing that my fur baby’s quality of life wouldn’t be compromised too much! xx

  • Gail Davies

    My cat was trapped in a snare for 6 days and was not expected to survive. She was near death when found. A front leg was amputated and she made a remarkable recovery. This was in October 2020 and she’s doing well.
    Love this site.
    Wondered if anyone knew where I can get her a nice tri paw harness ?

    • Lois Lindemann

      Hi Gail. Lovely to hear your cat has made a good recovery. It is amazing how quickly cats adapt to being tripods.

      I don’t know where you can get a tri paw harness. Is your cat missing a front leg or a back one? My cat lost a back leg, so he was fine in a normal harness, but I gave up on it and just used a cat carrier for vet trips, because he hated the harness so much!